Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cities turn to streetcars to spur economic development

Written by USA Today

Tucson has built four-mile-long streetcar tracks that will run between the University of Arizona campus and downtown. Only two of the eight cars that will be used to ferry passengers every 10 minutes have arrived, and operations will not start until next year.

But local business leaders say the streetcar has already revived the center of this sprawling, artsy city of 524,000. Roughly 150 businesses have opened their doors along the route in the last five years, and the once-dormant area is in the middle of a $230 million construction boom, according to the Downtown Tucson Partnership. The group estimates that 2,000 jobs have been created or relocated to the area.

"The fact that Tucson could reinvent itself in the middle of the worst recession to hit the state since 1928 is astonishing," said Michael Keith, CEO of the downtown group.

It is a common theme among city planners from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Seattle, as younger workers flock to areas where cars are not needed for daily living. Cities as big as Los Angeles and as small as Norfolk, Va., are turning to streetcars and light rail lines to tie together neighborhoods, attract businesses and lure residents.

"They help drive development. They help create a sense of place. They help shape your community… and bring a vitality to your community. It's a combination of all of those factors," said Art Guzzetti, vice president for policy for the nonprofit American Public Transportation Association, which advocates for public transportation. More here.

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