A Streetcar Named Doable

portandstreetcar.JPGA trolley can work in downtown. It may take 10 years to get here.

That’s the latest word from City Hall after asking a San Francisco-based consultant to study the feasibility of returning the real vehicles — rather than the retrofitted bus substitutes — to the nine squares.

The consultant’s report identified potential engineering and planning roadblocks to instituting the plan.

The next step is to get the public involved, forming a steering committee to help guide the process, which could take as long as 10 years, said Michael Piscitelli, the city’s director of transportation, traffic and parking.

The move comes about a year after a report by Kansas City-based TranSystems to the South Central Connecticut Regional Council of Governments concluded that trolley service is not only possible but could serve as a catalyst for economic development. That report, which cost $150,000, was part of a regional transit survey by the COG. The city’s portion was $20,000 Piscitelli said.

Electric trolleys did clang along New Haven streets from 1892 to 1948.

On Feb. 19, San Francisco-based URS Corp., the engineering and planning consultant, presented a half-day workshop. URS presented its take on what the next steps should be in planning, engineering and financing a trolley system. The city’s contingent then presented a long list of questions to URS. A report addressing those questions and concerns is due to the city any day, Piscitelli said.

(Read previous stories on the trolley comeback plan here and here.)

“This was a workshop to present a broad overview” of the trolley project, said Stuart B. Popper, a principal planner in URS’ satellite Rocky Hill office. “Ours was a workshop on steps you would have to take, looking at issues you have to address.” The workshop also included participants from the state Department of Transportation and Yale.

“Even if you decide exactly where you want it to go,” there are questions that must be answered, Popper said.

Among some of those: Is the road wide enough? Are there utilities in the road? Are the utilities adequate? Is your route feasible?

Among the issues addressed was financing, including the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts program.

Piscitelli said inclusion in the Small Starts program depends of the city proving that trolleys would have a better cost benefit than added buses. The early read is that trolleys would have a better ridership than buses on their routes, he said. The city is paying URS $10,000 for its work, he said.

“These guys are very good and the early read is positive,” Piscitelli said of the trolley project’s potential. The URS workshop presented feasible implementation strategies and engineering challenges for the project and implementation in terms of routing and financing.

URS worked with officials in Portland, Ore., to get its trolley system up and running. It was looking at some photos of the Portland project that brought some of the problems home to New Haven’s contingent.

portlandtrench.JPGIn the book was a photo (pictured) of a trench a couple of feet wide and about a foot deep, in which the track bed would be constructed in Portland.

“We just stood and stared at that for a very long time. We were thinking of how we could accomplish that along streets like College Street,” he said.

Piscitelli called the TranSystems report a good first step. “We might use them” when the time comes to actually build the system. The TranSystems report was presented to a group last year.

Piscitelli said about 20 people at last year’s meeting were enthusiastic and could form the base of the steering committee. He asked interested New Haveners to begin calling him at 946-8067 to serve on the committee.

There was some discussion last year on whether the trolley should run one way on a continuous loop or two ways on a straight track, with the trolley car reaching the terminus and reversing the way Metro-North trains do now. The steering committee could discuss those and other issues such as routing.

The committee may have to wait to begin its work, however. Due to budget constraints, funding for the committee may have to wait until the next fiscal year, Piscitelli said.

The city received the final TranSystems report about a month after the presentation on trolleys last March.

The report recommendations included running two cars on each loop track, so a rider who just misses a car would only have to wait 15 minutes. If there are three cars running, the wait would be only 10 minutes.

The car will look a lot like the ones that are in the Trolley Museum in East Haven, called heritage or historic replication, but will have all the modern bells and whistles, so to speak.

The system would cost around $30 million to build — some $21 million to prepare the streets and install the tracks and wiring and another $9.3 million for the trolleys themselves and the car barn where they would be repaired and maintained. The car barn would be 20,000 square feet, which would include some space for the Trolley Museum to display some of its collection.

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posted by: robn on April 10, 2009  10:17am

Why the heck would they be made to look like the old trolleys in the museum? When those were made they were state of the art and high tech. We should do the same now and build modern cars that reflect contemporary technology and engineering.

posted by: Election Year Again on April 10, 2009  10:54am

The route will be from the heated bus shelters downtown to Tweed airport.

It looks good taxpayer, but remember we are the ones that will be digging deeper in our pockets.

posted by: DingDong on April 10, 2009  2:14pm

So I don’t really understand: has the City decided to pursue federal funds for a streetcar?  Doesn’t the Board of Aldermen have to get involved?  What does the “ten year” time frame mean.  I support this project (of course want more details) but I rather confused about where the City is with it.

posted by: norton street on April 10, 2009  3:04pm

this is not new news. it was already proven that street cars work in new haven because they used to be here, they used to be used frequently and the only reason they were taken away was because of automotive companies wanting to make tons of money off of stupid americans.

over the last 50 years we, as a country, have proven that individual automobiles do not work in old cities. as evident by new haven’s deplorable condition, horrific urban design, massive surface parking lots, gigantic garages, loss of curb appeal on many corners, congested avenues(you know, the roads that are supposed to carry a lot of traffic), and so on and so on and so on.

the automobile was a great invention but it is no longer practical for everyday use based on economic needs of the country, environmental issues in the world, the conditions of our public spaces, and so on and so on and so on.

posted by: lance on April 10, 2009  3:25pm

re: the comment above…. is there enough demand to justify running it all the way to tweed, or is it just to cater to the yalies?

posted by: William Kurtz on April 10, 2009  3:35pm

Fair question, Lance, but I think there could be a lot of demand for running it out to Tweed.  It would make it worth the extra fare to fly from Tweed for a week long trip if you could avoid paying $90-100 in parking and spending an hour each way driving to Bradley, or more to go to one of the New York airports.

posted by: Walt on April 10, 2009  3:41pm

Does anyone who was alive   when these traffic -jam causing behemoths clogged the city streets believe their return would be good for anyone but tourists?

What a waste.

If you like trolleys, go to the Trolley Museum.  It is fun. 

Keep trolleys where   they belong far from central areas.

posted by: Edward_H on April 10, 2009  3:57pm


I think Election Year Again was joking. you can find the proposed route here.

http://www.newhavenindependent.org/archives/upload/2008/03/New Haven Streetcar a Catalyst.pdf

posted by: jawbone on April 10, 2009  4:51pm

I wouldn’t think anyone in their right mind would propose a light rail/trolly to Tweed.  That thing would be used by 15 people a day, if that.

posted by: ParkStTaxPayer on April 10, 2009  4:59pm

well I just called and left a message on the number listed above; I’ve lived downtown on Dwight Street and Park Street for the past 5 years, and parking has ALWAYS been a topic of concern for us renters.

I would give up my car, but in order to get to the grocery store, to get to the suburbs (which were enabled by the trolley system), we have created the need for personal transportation, at the expense of our pocketbook, and the health of the individuals living near the exhaust.

Mass transportation that uses energy efficiently (ONE power plant instead of HUNDREDS) will encourage responsible growth of the city, will promote and encourage car-free living (no more premiums, insurance payments, crashes like on College St this week, etc). Numerous studies (including one in an Independent article) have shown conclusively that in-road track for trolleys (and regular, concrete routes that are visible even when the trolley isn’t running… a difference from buses) has increased property values, encouraged new business to move in ON THOSE CORRIDORS, and has shown an increase (and sustainable amount) of ridership.

New Haven must lead the way to a sustainable future. Initial investment must be made if we are to see a safer community infrastructure; tired of potholes? Ride the tram. Sick of congestion? Take the reliable (and visible) trolley. Want to ditch your car, forgo insurance payments, leave the driving to someone else, nix the diesel soot from the 5 mpg buses?

Take the trolley. And if the track size is comparable to the old trolleys, why not have “Antique Sundays” with old trolleys from the East Haven museum run on Sundays to bring back the feeling of nostalgia, the feeling of joy to the youth?

New trolleys, new routes, new construction means jobs. And think of the side panels, the inside panels, the roofline: for advertising revenue!

New Haven is a blip on the map. We need concrete IN THE STREET COMMITMENT to a sustainable and livable city, or residents will leave, businesses will move to suburbia, and the potholes will continue to grow in number.

If Portland, Philadelphia, Boston, and Europe can do it, surely New Haven could!

A dedicated route from Whalley (Delaney’s) to Downtown, to Union Station and back will be one arm. Linking Hamden from Whitney to Downtown would be another possible route. State Street, George St, etc… like spokes of a wheel, and the inner tube itself, we need to connect neighborhoods together in a circle around the spokes… get on the steering committee and voice your opinion! messageboards are great for fostering ideas, but until you get out of your seat and do something, this will just be another endless debate.

posted by: ParkStTaxPayer on April 10, 2009  5:12pm

“For the second year in a row, ridership on all modes of public transportation increased in every quarter.  Light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) had the highest percentage of annual ridership increase among all modes, with an 8.3 percent increase in 2008.  The light rail system that started in November 2007 in Charlotte, NC showed the highest percentage of increase with an annual 862 percent increase.  The New Orleans, LA light rail system, which is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, had an annual increase of 218 percent. Light rail systems with double digit ridership in 2008 were located in the following areas: Buffalo (23.9%); Philadelphia (23.3 %); Sacramento (14.4%); Baltimore (13.7%); Minneapolis (12.3%); Salt Lake City (12.3%); the state of New Jersey (10.9%); Denver (10.5%); and Dallas (10.2%).”
(from: http://www.apta.com/media/releases/090309_ridership.cfm)

New Haven’s ridership seemingly is the economically-disadvantaged. Get people of all incomes out of cars and onto trolleys, and we’ll see a kinder, safer, and happier city that truly serves ALL citizens. Who knows, perhaps local businesses will contribute matching funds for operating costs?

This is an important time for New Haven. Are we going to let our city die a slow death, or are we going to truly invest in its future, and lay down the tracks of change NOW?

posted by: lance on April 10, 2009  5:15pm

Doh!  you’re right ed h. 
thanks for the link.

posted by: juli on April 10, 2009  6:29pm

i thought reposting this would be helpful.

Posted by: Rick Gustafson | January 29, 2009 9:53 AM
I read with great interest that Mayor Stefano is supporting a streetcar in New Haven. I am Executive Director of the Portland Streetcar in Portland, Oregon. We built a modern streetcar in Portland in our downtown which now travels 4 miles. The redevelopment along our line is absolutely phenomenal. Since 1999 when the project announced, we have experienced $3.5 billion in private investment within 750 feet of the streetcar line. In fact, over 50% of all the building value in our central city has been built within 250 feet of the line since 1997. Developers built at much higher densities when they had the confidence that their buildings would have high quality transit access.
We have proposed extending the line 3.3 miles to our eastside and have an application to the Federal Transit Administration for $75 million to help fund the project through FTA Small Starts similar to what Mayor Steephano has proposed.
There are over 80 cities in the US that looking to build a streetcar as part of their urban redevelopment. The Community Streetcar Coalition includes many of these cities and transit districts.
I am proud of New Haven and their Mayor. I attended Yale during the Mayor Dick Lee period and the urban removal program. I returned to my home in Portland and have been engaged seriously in transportation and development in Oregon since.
I would love to help New Haven with this.

Rick Gustafson
Yale, Class of 69

posted by: robn on April 10, 2009  6:35pm


Thanks for the link. The proposed route is bogus and has nothing to do with getting commuters out of cars, but is simply a campus loop for Yale and Hospitals. What about Whitney Ave and Dixwell Ave commuters? If city hall is seriously considering this route the plan is DOA.

posted by: SL on April 10, 2009  7:56pm

I’ve sold monorails to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrooke, and by gum, it put them on the map!

posted by: William Kurtz on April 10, 2009  8:56pm

How about bringing it down Kimberly to points west?  If state money is going to go into this, it really should do more than provide a fun ride around downtown.  Of course, all of these decisions seem to have to be made at the municipal level, which is yet another argument for some meaningful regionalization.

posted by: Joe on April 10, 2009  10:52pm

Geesh Norton Street, move into a cave already.

posted by: norton street on April 11, 2009  1:58am

you commented on this issue once before with the same simpsons quote, and its made me laugh each time.
new haven used to be on the map, it used to be one of the greatest american cities, but it has since faded into just another small city that looks like it could belong in the south or the west because of its sprawl appearance. new haven is one of the oldest cities in the country and we’ve done it no justice by destroying it to accommodate for individual automobiles.

if youre not going to say anything of substance or purpose than dont post. try to make an argument, present some facts, do some research and come up with some ideas. just liking youre car and liking to drive it isnt enough to join a serious discussion about our countries future and the quality of life for millions of people. i grew up in a cave, locked in my house because it was too dangerous to play outside because the generation before me decided to throw away a great city in order to make a “modern” one. so i work everyday to get the skills i need to change things so that it will be safe for my kids to grow up. so dont comment with youre ignorant one liners that have no resemblance of anything even remotely intelligent.

posted by: Josh Smith on April 11, 2009  3:53am

I agree with what Norton Street said.  What’s more, I wish we could go one step further and build a city that doesn’t allow cars in past the perimeter of the city.  Now that would create some livable, walkable streets!

posted by: tom on April 11, 2009  8:17am

Rick, you did enough damage with the urban removal plan. stay out west

posted by: robn on April 11, 2009  9:12am

The longest point to point distance in the proposed route is less than one mile. The more I look at this the more ridiculous it seems. What about Whitney, Dixwell and Kimberly corridors? What about Fair Haven? Plus the analogies with other cities don’t pass the smell test. Portland in particular is a radically different city.

posted by: City Hall Watch on April 11, 2009  6:54pm

Norton Street: Change your nick to Caveman.

Kurtz: Parking at Bradley is $65 a week, not $100.

Rail to Tweed: In your dreams. The people who can afford to pay two or three times the airfare of competing airports, will never in a million years take a trolley. They drive their late model SUVs, Porches, Cadillacs and MBs. Or they hire a limo.

Juli: New Haven is no Portland. What developable land is there that would be developed to high density? What jobs would sustain such growth? The city’s idea of economic development is not jobs, it’s buildings. That’s it. They took Class A potential real estate and turned it into a non-taxing paying school.

All the rest who dis parking garages - exactly where do you expect people to park who come in from the suburbs to eat at our restaurants, attend events or horror of all horrors, work at Yale and YNHH. Those are the only economic drivers in the city. The rest of the them have all left which is why you have rising poverty and masses of subsidized housing. Hell, you even have subsized housing in Taxpayer Towers.

posted by: fedupwithliberals on April 12, 2009  9:01am


“I am proud of New Haven and their Mayor.I attended Yale during the Mayor Dick Lee period and the urban removal program.”

Yeah, and look how successful that was! If you loved it so much, why did you move?

posted by: Edward_H on April 12, 2009  12:43pm

Norton Street

i grew up in a cave, locked in my house because it was too dangerous to play outside because the generation before me decided to throw away a great city in order to make a “modern” one.

Really? Are you serious? I am sorry but your posts are really cracking me up. Locked in the house? Honestly ,it sounds like either the personwho raised you was irrationaly paraniod, did not one love you enough to take you to a park/playground or simply locked you inside for your own good because you could not be trusted not to go play in traffic.

the automobile was a great invention but it is no longer practical for everyday use based on economic needs of the country, environmental issues in the world, the conditions of our public spaces, and so on and so on and so on.

Yeah, The police, Ambulance and Fire services really need to bring back the horse and buggy strictly to respond to people who think the automobile is no longer needed. Of course the animal rights people will not like this but I guess that is a different topic.

posted by: SL on April 12, 2009  4:02pm

Norton Street -

It must have been someone else who posted the quote before!  I don’t recall doing it on an earlier story.  But glad you enjoyed it.


posted by: norton street on April 12, 2009  9:59pm

traffic is one aspect of the problem. mostly what kept me from being able to go outside as a little kid in the early 90s was the crime, which back then, was twice as high as it is now. the blvd side of edgewood park wasnt exactly the most kid or family friendly place. and monitor square was worse. and it was the creation of route 34, the encouragement of mass urban exodus through incentives and subsidies, and design of modern architecture that obliterated human scale that turned west river into a prostitution, drug and violence ridden place. that land became so undesirable to be around that it kept the surrounding neighborhoods from benefiting from any of the building, specifically housing, booms that have occured in the decades proceeding 1950.
and dont ever bring “the person that raised me” into the public discussion, you can say whatever you want about me, but dont ever cross that line again and bring someone from my family in here.

and if people dont understand what i mean by “individual automobile” then ask. it makes no sense for each member of a family to drive their own car. one of my neighbors who went to hillhouse, and whose mother taught there used to take two cars everyday and they lived within easy walking distance, this type of behavior isnt uncommon, but it is ridiculous. when this is repeated millions of times, the amount of parking required is incredible. american cars are also so out of scale with people, theyve become small apartments. our massive vehicles are so fuel inefficient that 30mpg is being marketed to us as good. cars are just another case of something that has to be used in moderation.
city hall watch,
there are plenty of vacant 100 year old beautiful homes in my neighborhood waiting for families to move in and theyre all within 2 blocks of public transportation, walking and/or biking distance of downtown. it is not the job of cities to provide parking for suburbs, its ones own responsibility to get to work, we need to stop subsidizing a lifestyle that is wasteful and extravagent with massive amounts of parking and road construction/repair.

posted by: Edward_H on April 13, 2009  10:30am

Norton Street

traffic is one aspect of the problem. mostly what kept me from being able to go outside as a little kid in the early 90s was the crime,

Thank for clearing that up. Your previous posts seem to imply that traffic played the major role in your being “locked in a cave” as a child.

and dont ever bring “the person that raised me” into the public discussion, you can say whatever you want about me, but dont ever cross that line again and bring someone from my family in here.

Get off your high horse and stop playing the wounded martyr. You brought your family here when you described yourself as being “locked in a cave” as a child. Unless you locked yourself in a cave, which is unusual behavior for a child. If you don’t want people analyzing why the people that raised you “locked you in cave” then cease from mentioning it in a public forum.

P.S. telling me “dont ever cross that line again” is pretty much going to guarantee that I will make every effort to do so in the future as many times as possible.

posted by: Ali on April 13, 2009  10:41am

I love the idea of a streetcar/trolley and have used them in other cities.  But I have to agree that the route seems like a complete waste.  Wait 15 minutes to ride a trolley a distance that could be walked in the same amount of time or close to it? Didn’t that bus/fake trolley thing we had get the axe because of low ridership?  Would this be any different?  I’m sure some people would use such a thing, but to make a real difference in traffic etc. it should go up Whitney to Hamden or out to Westville on Chapel.

posted by: Leonard J. Honeyman on April 13, 2009  11:29am

Thanks for your note. Let me clear up some points for you, if I can.
First of all, the city is, in all probability, years away from the point where the Board of Aldermen, or the Development Commission, need to get involved.
Right now, they are determining if the project is feasible for New Haven at all. It seems to look good so far, but much more work needs to be done.
The next step, besides the answers to the questions brought up by the February workshop (and probably answers to questions that the first set of answers will generate), is the gathering of the citizen panel.
Although the city is inviting self-nomination to the panel, there won’t be funds for that panel to begin its work until the next fiscal year, as it said in the story.
Right now, the city is looking into whether there could be federal funds. Again, first looks seem positive, but there is much more work to be done. As the British say, it is early days.
The consultant, and the city, say it could take from five to 10 years from this point to do all the work, and much more, that is required. I just wanted to indicate that nobody should look for streetcars, no matter how desired, anytime soon.

posted by: Our Town on April 13, 2009  4:30pm

Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually a supporter of mass transportation and have been since college many years ago, but this is a fool’s folly. It’s like the schools, a giant monument to one man’s insatiable ego. At least the schools may one day benefit the city, if we figure out how to educate kids. But this trolley benefits only Yale and a few tourists. New haven does not have, nor will it ever have, the population density to support mass transit, be it light rail or another form. I would venture, and I have not done the numbers on this, but if every single trip every day in New Haven were made by, say, trolley, it would still never pay for itself, and, lo and behold we would still need the roads for emergency services, delivery of goods, etc. So we would be supporting two transportation systems, not just one that is not self sustaining.

And, to those of you dreaming of lines all over the city, that’s not even flicker in daddy’s eye. And, by the way, the consultants tell you what they are paid to tell you.

posted by: eddie on April 13, 2009  4:32pm

The idea of light rail in New Haven has always appealed to me at an instinctive level. I want to support this idea, and I will if there’s a convincing case to be made for it.

However, not long ago this issue came up in conversation with a friend, and he stopped me cold in my tracks with one simple question: “Why is a trolley better than a bus?”

Until someone provides a convincing answer to that question, I’m not sure how we can justify the expense.

posted by: DingDong on April 13, 2009  7:47pm

Thanks Leonard.  I take it the “five to ten years” might not even include the time needed for construction.

I am optimistic about this project. 

New Haven actually has relatively high population density compared to many other cities with streetcars and light rail (though this is sometimes misleading, since cities like Portland might be very dense in the center and less on the outside).  Anyhow, if you don’t build mass transit, New Haven can’t get any more dense, since you need to have room for all that parking.

posted by: Ralph Ferrucci on April 13, 2009  11:31pm

Having a street car that goes from downtown to Y-NH hospital does not make sense to me, it is less than a five minute walk.

Going to Tweed or should I say Yale-New Haven Airport is even worse.

If a trolley to be worth anything, we should go to Fair Haven, the Hill and Dixwell. These communities would benefit more from more mass transit than having another Yale Transit disguised as a trolley.

Lower income areas of New Haven would help out residents so they can go shopping or to work.

If a Yale student is too lazy to walk three blocks, then they should call a cab.

Ther city should help out those who need it not those who can afford it.
Ralph Ferrucci

posted by: anon on April 14, 2009  11:06am

People are regularly being maimed and killed by traffic on the streets of New Haven, and we’re talking about a streetcar?  The city and state should spend their energy and money making the streets safe to live on first.

The city has a lot more pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders than potential trolley users.  Create sidewalks and crosswalks people actually want to walk around in, and make bus stops that are attractive.  Make it possible for kids and families to bike from their houses to a nearby park without getting in their gas guzzler.  Put up red light cameras. Reduce traffic speeds to 15 miles per hour on most streets so that people stop getting killed. 

First, please keep people from dying. As a side benefit, neighborhoods will be attractive again, so we’ll have a lot more tax revenue.  Once that is all solved, then we can worry about trolleys.

posted by: Anon on April 14, 2009  11:38am

I agree with ROBN, this plan is not the best use of resources. Trolleys look great and are really cool, no one’s going to argue with that. But dollar-for-dollar, they don’t go anywhere near as far as buses when it comes to transporting people. Wealthy citizens largely prefer trolleys and streetcars -that’s been shown in survey after survey- whereas the people who actually depended on transit day-to-day care most about frequency of service, cost (both in terms of fares and taxes), the coverage area, and the number of destinations served.

The proposed route will do little to nothing to help residents get to jobs in the suburbs, where, according to Brookings, job growth is occurring much faster than in Connecticut’s central cities. It also won’t help people getting to many popular shopping destinations.

The money that would go into the proposed streetcar route could instead be used to make significant improvements to the bus system that would provide measurable quality of life increases for those populations that depend on transit the most: the elderly, the poor, the young, the disabled. Better service would likely attract other population groups who want to use their car less, but don’t want to sacrifice travel time. A trolley by contrast, would as others have mentioned, serve primary those affiliated with Yale (who already have their own on-call shuttle service) and tourists.

The real-estate argument put forward by the Portland crowd is also bogus. It’s true that when cities invest in a light rail line there’s also a lot of private investment in the area. But that’s true of anywhere the government spends money. When the government spends money in a particular location, whether it be on street trees, sidewalks, lighting, etc. private money usually followers. Developers take the government’s investment in a location as a sign that the area will be well cared for and maintained. Short story, you don’t need to spend gobs of money on a streetcar to spur development.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the streetcar has a place in today’s cities, and more specifically in New Haven, but it’s clear that we need to take care of the basics first. That means developing a bus system that gets people where they need to go quickly and efficiently, repaving the roads on a timely basis, and filling in the gaps in the city’s bicycle and pedestrian network.

Once we achieve these more “back-to-basics” objectives, we can start thinking about grander, more expensive plans, like streetcar lines.

posted by: anon on April 14, 2009  2:15pm

I agree 100% with the above anon.

posted by: Seth on April 14, 2009  2:48pm

What is with the preoccupation with returning New Haven to its “former” glory?

There will be a great deal of stimulus dollars dedicated to transportation, so it is only right that New Haven take advantage, but are streetcars the answer?  How about just filling the potholes in a timely fashion?  That will help the suspension on my car as well as the foundation of my house.  Not to mention the jobs that will be created.

posted by: Josh Smith on April 14, 2009  4:20pm

Why are streetcars/trolleys/rail better than buses?  I’ve never waited for a train or trolley and have it not show up.  There’s a fixed route that a streetcar can take, and there are no stupid “special routes” that you have to watch the schedules for.  There’s nothing worse than waiting for the bus and having it detour around somewhere else when you think it’s running on the regular main route.  Streetcars also wouldn’t stop every other block, which would mean faster transit times (this is assuming trolley stops are designated a la the SEPTA surface trolleys down in Philly, or when the T runs on the streets in Boston).  And maybe if people walk a little further every day, we’ll have less of an obesity problem.  Those are just a few of the advantages of rail over buses.  And just maybe if New Haven plans it right, the streetcars can hold more than two bicycles in each car.  :)

posted by: Polaron on April 14, 2009  5:58pm

Downtown is small enough to be walked. If a trolley/light rail is going to be implemented, it would be best to do so on the high traffic corridors: Whalley Avenue, Dixwell Avenue, Grand Avenue, and perhaps a route to West Haven center.

posted by: JN on April 15, 2009  1:41am

I think a trolley in New Haven is a great idea.  It could unite neighborhoods and bring much needed revenue.  But the plan as presented so far is clearly aimed at yalies and weekenders from NYC.  We need transportation that will unite communities, not just tourist attractions.  I would love to see extensions going up Whitney to Hamden, up State and over to Fairhaven, down Whalley to Westville, something up Dixwell to the shopping malls, and something connecting the Hill.  Maybe even service to outlying suburbs.  There is a lot of potential for a successful trolley system in New Haven.  There is a good mix of people who don’t own a car (college students, those unable to afford the expense) and people who would forgo driving if there were a convenient, clean and reliable alternative (young professionals, the elderly).  This is all (very) wishful thinking at this point, but a smart public transportation system could really change things for the better in this city.

posted by: anon on April 15, 2009  1:51pm

I agree JN.  However, from a cost-benefit perspective, I think that improvements to the existing bus system (like GPS signs telling you when the next bus was coming, better stops, and reasonable head-ways) plus world-class bicycle routes would do more to unite the entire city than a trolley, which would necessarily be limited in its scope. 

A trolley would also cost twice as much as a comprehensive city-wide bus route/bikeway improvement program.

posted by: JN on April 15, 2009  3:12pm

ANON, I agree it wouldn’t all have to be trolley lines, especially to outlying areas that can be reached via dedicated bus lanes on larger roads.  But as much as feasible should be, especially to those areas that are in need of economic development, have a favorable density or the appropriate demographics.  Of course, this type of planning is years down the road.  In the meantime, I completely agree that the improvements to the existing bus lines mentioned are necessary.  If Yale can have GPS for their shuttles, we should certainly have that technology for the city buses.  The bicycle infrastructure should be improved as you said, since many of the roads in their current condition are not safe for bicyclists.  However, not everyone is able to bike.  We need to make sure the transportation system serves all citizens.

posted by: Ned on April 15, 2009  4:40pm

“Why are streetcars/trolleys/rail better than buses?“Ask yourself: Would you go to San Francisco to ride a bus?  No.  Would you go to San Francisco to ride a Cable Car, or to ride a historic street car? Okay, you might not, but thousands of people do.If “middle class” people prefer riding streetcars over buses, that seems like a good way to build a constituency for streetcars and public transit.How about a streetcar line running up the center of Whalley, with a rezoning of Whalley to eliminate strip malls, bring the buildings to the street and increase the height to five stories, and eliminate parking requirements?Billions for the Q bridge (how many trips do New Have residents make over this bridge?).  Towing New Haven residents cars off of city streets to ease the commute of suburbanites - bring on the streetcars and dedicated bus lanes.  Tax parking spaces and surface lots, and make the buses and street cars free.

posted by: Josh Smith on April 16, 2009  12:31pm

Ned, I completely agree.  I wasn’t asking that question in earnest, but merely repeating someone else’s question and answering it for him or her, so everyone could see some advantages of rail transport over buses.

posted by: Josh Smith on April 16, 2009  12:43pm

I also agree with those who are saying that streetcars can’t just serve a Science Park, Downtown/Yale, and Union Station route, even though a solid transit connection between the train station and downtown that operates continuously is sorely needed.  Streetcars should have lines that serve all New Haven neighborhoods.

I also hope they have fixed stops/platforms every so often, rather than stopping everywhere like the buses do.  I’m happy to walk a few more blocks to the transit stop if it will cut my travel time significantly over a bus.  Additionally, I think the headway for all streetcars should be ten to fifteen minutes, and they should run for all but the earliest of morning hours.  That feeling of always being able to catch a ride home (without having to wait a half hour or more) is what we need to get people out of their cars for local trips and on to mass transit.  Without that feeling, I’d rather drive or ride a bike, because I know I can leave my destination at any time.  What does everyone else think about this?

posted by: norton street on April 16, 2009  5:52pm

the current plan for the loop is terrible. only linear street car lines makes sense (whalley, whitney, dixwell) or very large circumference lines for the boulevard.
the train station is within easy walking distance from anywhere downtown, what makes it seem far or unpleasant are the incredible amount of SURFACE parking lots on state street that really make the buildings look terrible and the area unsafe even though in reality some of the most beautiful buildings in the city are on state street between chapel and george, its just the parking lots that make the area look decrepit.
after george street on state the human scale is obliterated by the terrible architecture and surface parking lot followed by the highway and bad crosswalks, then followed by another surface parking lot for the train station and the awful police station across the street. that is why the walk is so unpleasant and seems longer. if there were meaningful places and buildings along the way the walk would seem too short. the key is density and diversity all in the human scale, which has implications in both architecture and transportation. a bus seating 30 people is much more city-dweller scaled than an SUV and a 4-6 story mixed use building is much better than a 9-10 massive box.