Don’t Forget the Zoning

Portland Streetcar

» Streetcar projects promise new development along their rights-of-way. But cities must allow new transit-oriented buildings to be built nearby. A look at St. Louis and Portland.

In the United States, streetcars have assumed a dramatic new prominence, in part because of increasing federal support. In dozens of cities, new lines are under construction, funded, or in planning thanks to local political leadership that recognizes the benefits of such investments in relatively cheap new rail lines. While streetcars are typically not the most efficient mobility providers — compared to light rail lines and often even buses, they are slower and more likely to be caught in traffic — they are promoted as development tools. Streetcars, it is said, will bring new construction and the densification of districts that are served by the new rail lines.

But streetcars alone aren’t enough to spur construction of residential and commercial buildings in neighborhoods with

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St. Louis’ Loop District Gets Endorsement from Feds with Grant for Streetcar

St. Louis Loop Trolley Map

» New “trolley lines” will connect to two light rail stations and activate region’s most urban district outside of downtown.

St. Louis’ successful bid for a $25 million grant to partially fund the construction of a new streetcar line in the city’s Loop district is being hailed in the local press as the latest achievement of a man who has in just a few of decades taken what was once a downtrodden street and transformed it into one of the city’s most active commercial areas. Joe Edwards — the “mayor” of the Delmar Loop — started a restaurant, then restored a concert hall, then opened a hotel and a bowling alley, and recently he has been the primary proponent of this rail project.

From that perspective, it makes sense that of the nine streetcar systems* the federal government has funded this year (thanks to the TIGER

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Major Endorsement from St. Louis Voters for Transit Improvements

St. Louis Moving Transit Forward Plan

» St. Louis County voters agree to 1/2¢ sales tax increase designated for the Metro transit agency.

It’s nothing less than a roaring comeback for public transportation in St. Louis: After a narrow loss at the polls for a proposed tax increase for transit in 2008, voters came out massively yesterday for similar measure, with 63% in favor. This approval will increase sales taxes by half a cent in St. Louis County, increasing contributions to the Metro transit agency by an estimated $75 million a year. The passage of the sales tax also triggers a quarter-cent sales tax increase in St. Louis City (not part of the county) first approved in 1997, adding an additional $8 million annually to region’s transit pot.

This is the first increase in local funding for transit in St. Louis County since 1994.

Proposition A will allow Metro to increase

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St. Louis Metro Promotes Transit Investment Plan, But Will Need Sales Tax Support to See it Through

St. Louis Moving Transit Forward Plan

» Referendum on April 6 could determine feasibility of the project.

Planners at Metro Transit call Moving Transit Forward St. Louis’ first serious long-range plan for public transportation. For the city’s voters, who will vote in April on a sales tax referendum called Proposition A, its release is better late than never; it is essential that the electorate have a clear understanding of the projects for which their money would be used.

For 2010, that’s what St. Louis will get, but in the process, citizens are being given the suggestion of a promise too big for their region to fulfill.

The last time around, in November 2008, voters in the transit area — including St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and St. Clair County (in Illinois) — struck down a proposal that would have increased the tax rate to

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Major Study Advocates 220 Mph Operation on Chicago-St. Louis Run

Midwest High Speed Rail Association envisions a less than two-hour express trip between the cities.

Today, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association released a major report studying 220 mph train service between Chicago and St. Louis. Though the project has yet to be endorsed by any government officials, the Association’s study will stimulate further discussion about the level of investment necessary for the link between the two cities. More importantly, the study’s conclusions indicate that Illinois’ existing plans for 110 mph, four-hour service between the metro regions are out of date and under-scaled to meet travel needs in the Midwest.

The study, completed by consultant Tran Systems, was commissioned by the Association to determine costs and other elements of a potential very-fast service across the state of Illinois. The main challenge of the report was to compare the existing Amtrak corridor, which runs almost directly from Chicago to

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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