Streetcar Projects Advance Nationwide Thanks to Local Initiative


» In spite of questions over whether the federal streetcar program has a future and the death of a project in Fort Worth, local dollars are distributed to build new links in Cincinnati, Dallas, New Orleans, and Tempe.

Last week’s decision by officials in Fort Worth, Texas to halt planning work on the city’s streetcar line struck a blow to the nation’s nascent collection of modern streetcar lines, one of the Obama Administration’s biggest transportation policy moves. Local leaders backed down from a $25 million grant received from the federal government earlier this year, arguing that the city wasn’t ready to invest its own money in a project that some suggested shouldn’t be funded by taxpayers.

The decision reinforced the commonly heard argument that the federal government is encouraging a form of transportation that is not fully accepted by people on the ground. It is certainly true that

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DOT to Award $280 Million in Inner-City Circulator Grants

» Announcement in New Orleans suggests that city will receive funds for its planned French Quarter streetcar line.

Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans hard — harder than any American city has been hit by natural disaster for decades. Yet if the storm put the town on its death bed, to pretend that it wad in pristine condition beforehand would be absurd. The big easy had been losing population since the fifties, and for good reason: it had huge crime problems and worse, a depressed economy that couldn’t keep up with a rapidly changing global marketplace. In some ways, then, the despair and destruction caused by the storm could mean a rethinking of the city’s raison d’être.

For those who believe that an investment in streetcars could play a major role in that transformation, the Obama Administration’s announcement yesterday that it will spend some $280 million on inner-city trolley

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Governor Bobby Jindal, Flip-Flopper Extraordinaire

After criticizing high-speed rail, Louisiana’s governor submitted a preliminary application for federal funds. Now, after being criticized for his hypocrisy, Bobby Jindal changes his mind once again.

Just last month, Louisiana informed the Federal Railroad Administration that it would request funds for a $300 million high-speed link between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The final application was due today — but Mr. Jindal has now decided not to submit it, citing concerns that the line would not be self-sustaining. Considering the general attitude of the American right, however, it seems reasonable to suggest that the governor’s decision was motivated more by an attempt to save face in front of his conservative allies than by a fiscal argument.

In his televised Republican response to the President’s State of the Union address in February, Mr. Jindal focused his aim at high-speed rail, arguing that it was “larded.” Like most modern conservatives, the

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New Orleans Rekindles Hopes for a Desire Streetcar

» City to use FTA planning funds to consider new line downtown.

New Orleans is famous for its streetcars, but the fact is that the city has only a few lines in operation, and their service has been relatively limited since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Yet the RTA transit operator there is intent on moving ahead with increasing its offerings, and has launched a study of potential corridors in the still-vibrant French Quarter and Central Business District. The three lines under consideration — shown in the map above — are all quite short and provide service just a few blocks from where streetcars already travel. The options, in other words, aren’t particularly compelling.

RTA’s focus is on increasing the attractiveness of the city’s core by expanding access to the convention center, the city hall, and the northern areas of the French Quarter and the burgeoning Marigny neighborhood. Each line

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Local Beneficiaries of Obama's Presidency

We’ve had some discussion in the past about the potential implications of an Obama presidency. As we noted on Thursday, California’s High Speed Rail System, now that it has a $10 billion taxpayer-approved bond on its side, may well be the first project to benefit. But there are three other major infrastructure projects that are quite likely to find further funding in the first few months of the Administration: the further reconstruction of New Orleans and the surrounding area post-Katrina; a Midwest High-Speed Rail system initially emanating from Chicago; and the necessary financing of the Chicago 2016 Olympic Games, if the city is selected by the International Olympic Committee as host.

Mr. Obama has made it clear that the Bush Administration’s failure to provide for the functional reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is unacceptable. His campaign platform argues that “as president, Barack Obama will partner with

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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