Sunday, September 28, 2008

EDITORIAL: Letter by "Streetcar supporters" not convincing

A "Letter" of about 675 words (What happened to the 150 word target set by Editor Marv Adams?") appeared on page one of the Perspective Section of the Sept. 28 Sunday News.

Let's examine some of its assertions:

"We want to meet the needs of a broad public. This public ranges from downtown employees who could park in perimeter lots, school children reaching after-school activities, First Friday patrons, 15,000 residents within three blocks of the route, and many more. We are proposing about 15 boarding stations along a 2.3 mile route, with an expected ten minute interval between arrivals."

How is this nearly as desirable as the service provided by the faux trolley buses that currently run much of that route, serve the same potential riders, and can pick up patrons at any corner?

"The path of streetcars delineated by steel rails tends to have a calming influence on rubber-tired vehicles, and traffic flows more smoothly when a city commits to solid enforcement of traffic regulations."

Calming traffic? More likely the trolleys would slow down and often halt traffic as they pick up and drop off customers . Furthermore, they cannot drive around delivery vehicles that partially block the lane. Finally, most drivers consider their slow progress on North and South streets to be too "calming" as it is.

"This project must not be a burden on the taxpayer. We are proposing a system whose capital cost is covered largely by state and federal grants..."

From whom other than "taxpayers" do they think the state and federal governments get their money?

"Fares will be voluntary, which enhances ridership, reduces auto usage, and meets the needs of elderly people and those with infirmities."

If voluntary fares are a good idea (and perhaps they are), why not permanently provide them for the the trolley buses?

"The project will be designed to reduce, not aggravate, traffic congestion."

How? Do they propose to provide the streetcars with wings?