The streetcar was once a mainstay of local transportation. Electric streetcar networks used to span the United States, with many thousands of miles of track. We discuss this history, the decline of streetcars, and wonder what life would be like if we'd kept these systems (like Toronto did). But don't distress—streetcars are back! Starting with the Portland streetcar, the U.S. has been fraught by a streetcar-building fervor. Is this a good thing? Are we building sensible transit? What benefits do streetcars bring to the table? Listen in to find out.
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- 00:00 Welcome! Alex is talking streetcars
- 00:37 Theme song
- 01:09 What is a streetcar?
- 02:11 History of streetcars
- 02:50 Horse-drawn vehicle on rails
- 03:35 Spread of the streetcar idea
- 04:49 Electrification 
- 05:51 LA's streetcar network 
- 06:46 Salt Lake City's streetcars  
- 08:45 Streetcar vs. interurban
- 09:40 Rebuilding on old right-of-way
- 10:48 How did the streetcars die?
- 11:55 Declining ridership
- 12:59 What if we'd held on to our streetcars?
- 14:06 The car was the future
- 15:28 Hindsight's 20/20
- 16:32 Streetcars are back, baby!
    
- 16:54 Heritage streetcars
- 17:42 The Great Falls Historic Trolley 
- 18:40 The Portland streetcar
  
- 19:41 Mostly downtown
- 20:16 Local vs. long-range service
- 20:57 Generating development
- 21:54 Other cities: Salt Lake City
- 23:15 Streetcars to along busy bus routes 
- 23:51 Are the new streetcars any good?
- 24:43 Some are abysmal failures
- 25:30 Don't build only to attract development
- 26:52 Washington, D.C. plans 
- 16:54 Heritage streetcars
- 28:00 People like riding trains (bus stigma)
- 31:30 Buses are expensive to operate 
- 32:35 Streetcars are the future?
- 33:15 Outro
References & notes
-  The Great Falls Historic Trolley
-  The Bus 21 does have higher ridership than the S-Line; it's also much longer. 2019 data; 2021 data. (To my surprise, the S-Line actually covers the same distance as the Bus 21 in less time. I would love to see an extension—either as streetcar or LRT—along the rest of the Bus 21 route.)
-  Figures from 2019 summary data for UTA
-  Related, UTA is doing a lot to revamp their bus (and rail, too) stop signage, making them more useful and more attractive to potential riders.
-  Wikipedia: DC Streetcar
-  Vox: Everything you need to know about the streetcar craze
-  Travel Portland: Portland Streetcar
-  Railway Age: Rebirth of the Streetcar
-  streets.mn: When is a Modern Streetcar not a Modern Streetcar?
-  Curbed: 10 new streetcar lines taking shape across the U.S.
-  Wikipedia: Streetcars in Lost Angeles § Electric streetcar systems (1887–1969)
-  Los Angeles Streetcar: Streetcar History
-  If Trolley Cars Could Talk
-  Wikipedia: Salt Lake City § Public transportation
-  nycsubway.org: Portland Streetcar
-  Wikipedia: List of United States light rail systems by ridership
-  Wikipedia: Portland Streetcar
-  Wikipedia: Toronto streetcar system
-  Wikipedia: Streetcars in North America