Where Should Streetcar Corridors Be?

At a meeting of some of the Greater City people about the Providence streetcar proposal, many of us had severe criticism of the current plan. The line is too short; it is S-shaped; it detours to serve a hospital that’s close to but not on a straighter route; the frequency is mediocre; RIPTA does not have a clear plan of where subsequent lines would go. The discussion quickly turned to alternatives, involving frequent-stop commuter lines to the inner suburbs on existing trackage and perhaps a new connection to the rail tunnel, and streetcars along major corridors to fill in the gaps. It is the streetcar corridors that I want to discuss.

In brief, the existing streetcar proposal only links downtown with near-downtown job centers in College Hill and at the Rhode Island hospitals; secondary centers and neighborhoods would be served in the future, along undetermined routes. People at the meeting who know more than me believe that the western leg, serving Olneyville, is likely to be on Broadway by default, as it is a wide street, and likewise a future westward expansion would follow Manton, a similarly wide street. Instead, they propose, the streetcar should follow Westminster Street.

The issue at hand is, partially, development. Broadway looks a little more developed than Westminster (excluding the portion within downtown proper, where Westminster is a major commercial street), but this development is not dense. Westminster has developed parts and undeveloped parts that could be used for TOD. This is more than just development-oriented transit – Westminster is on the way to Olneyville – but it’s a partial reason.

But the main issue is location. The proposals that we developed at the meeting hinge on using major streets that are centrally located within neighborhoods. We prefer Hope Street to Main Street on the East Side, even though Main Street supports a higher frequency on the 99 bus than Hope Street does on the 42, because Hope Street is accessible from the entire East Side. (Both have auto-oriented commercial development that could potentially be densified.) Likewise, Westminster is closer to parts of the West End; the idea is to run down Westminster and Broad in that direction to serve the western and southern parts of the city.

This is not how I’m used to thinking about where to put favored routes, whether they are light rail or BRT. Usually I think in terms of how developed the immediate area around the street is, what destinations there are, and so on – in other words, spiky density near the route rather than general density within half a kilometer in each direction. That said, this thinking is informed by rapid transit, which is at much larger scale, and bus-oriented density is more diffuse.

The question is whether the rough sketch that came out of the meeting makes sense, or whether it’s just lines on a map. At several places, there’s tension between serving the immediate street and serving a broader neighborhood. At others, some routes are good for only part of the way: for example, in Pawtucket the streets feeding into Main are actually more central and more densely populated than that feeding into Hope, a reversal of the situation in Providence. For another example, Atwells is highly developed but not centrally located in Federal Hill, and is the opposite in Olneyville.

I’m interested to hear what existing successful practices are. Do good streetcar (or rapid bus, etc.) corridors just follow the most successful bus lines and the most developed individual streets, or do they instead serve a broader swath along the routes?


  1. Matthew

    Boston’s “B” line is the most heavily trafficked light rail branch and development grew up around it in an interesting fashion. There’s a corridor of densely built residential apartments along Comm Ave, easy to see from the road, and it also stands out on a map. But most of the commercial “action” is not on Comm Ave, however, but off to the side on streets like Harvard Ave, Brighton Ave and Cambridge Street. On the other hand, Brighton Ave used to host what was (briefly) known as the “A” branch, so perhaps that’s why.

    The “C” seems to have a decent mix of residential and commercial development around it. The “E” passes through a lot of institutional land so it’s hard to say. It used to run down Centre which has developed into a business district that got to the point where it has rejected the streetcar in favor of a bus (since 1986). Centre isn’t as wide as the other streets though.

    I noticed in San Francisco that N-Judah trains, once you leave the inner Sunset, head west along a fairly low density residential street, while all the businesses are lined up along Irving Street, one block north. I’d be curious to know what led to this. It reminds me also of Park Slope where the R is one block away from 5th Avenue. This stands out even more in Bay Ridge where it seems that most businesses are along 3rd and 5th but not along where the R runs underneath 4th Avenue. Not sure why this is.

    • Alon Levy

      The Brooklyn el used to go on 5th, moving to 3rd farther south; that said, it terminated at 65th Street, so it couldn’t have influenced Bay Ridge too much. I can think of two possibilities, then. One is that this follows old streetcar routes. The other is that the subway under 4th Avenue led to apartment building development, and then when the time came for local commercial development, it went on the two parallel avenues.

      Elsewhere in New York, Broadway in Uptown Manhattan is more important than the parallel streets, but Lex is not more important than 3rd (and the really dense development is on 1st and 2nd), 8th Avenue is not terribly important, and CPW and St. Nicholas are residential. In Harlem the main street is 125th rather than the north-south streets that host subways, though this could be explained on the grounds that once Harlem developed into a cohesive neighborhood, its local businesses would cluster along an in-neighborhood street rather than along routes that only connected parts of the neighborhood to the rest of the city.

    • enf1234567890

      The story behind the N Judah is, I believe, that the United Railroads already had a franchise for a never-built line on Irving, so building on Judah was the legally straightforward thing for the Municipal Railway to do.

  2. Zmapper

    My weekend project was converting a Denver Tramway Corp map into a Google Map, and one thing I noticed is that the light rail serves most of the same neighborhoods that it served 80 years ago, albeit on a different alignment. You can take the light rail to Englewood, DU, Union Station, Five Points, etc like people took the trolley back 80 years ago. Everything has changed, yet everything has somewhat stayed the same.

    So where should the trolley go? Take a map of the Providence streetcar system from 1930 and you have the Providence streetcar map from 2030.

    • Alon Levy

      Well, there’s a map of a proposed Providence subway from the 1920s, with four lines radiating from downtown. Of those, two follow Broad and Westminster, same as on the map of the routes we discussed at the meeting, though they are shorter. One follows the innermost part of North Main; our choice of Hope over Main is one of the issues I want to raise (the inner part of Charles serves a mall and a Wal-Mart, i.e. new development). One follows Waterman to the river; we talked about the possibility of a line to Wayland Square and beyond to East Providence, but the area is quite wealthy and full of NIMBYs (whereas people on Hope support more density and transit), and in addition a surface route would have to deal with or change the fact that Angell and Waterman are a one-way pair.

  3. Eric

    I would think the bigger question is what exactly do you mean by a streetcar and whether that is the preferred mode at all. Will the streetcar have separate lanes? Signal priority? Stops every 50 meters or every 400? If the answers are no,no,50 then this does nothing to increase mobility. It may still promote development, but what is the track record of that and does it justify the streetcar’s cost?

  4. EngineerScotty

    Portland’s streetcar generally gets lauded as successful–and enjoys but not great ridership (10k rides/day). It (the original line, plus the southern extensions; excluding the Eastside line opening later this year) follows a zig-zag path, connecting several upscale heighborhoods and shopping districts, two university campuses (PSU and OHSU), a hospital, and quite a few other cultural attractions. The area that the Streetcar serves is already high-density and transit-rich, but the Streetcar runs on side streets where bus service hasn’t traditionally run. Rather than running N/S up the Portland Transit Mall, the Streetcar runs five blocks to the west.

    Frequency is adequate but not great (12 minutes). The service is notoriously slow (less than 7MPH average speed). It runs almost entirely in mixed traffic, with a few short stretches where it has a lane all to itself; there are currently a few single-tracked sections along the line. I’ve found that when I miss a Streetcar, its usually quicker to walk where I’m going than wait for the next one.

    The line works and the neighbors tend to love it (despite the slow speed); but I’m not sure how replicable its success is outside of downtown. Rapid transit it ain’t; and there has been some tension over the service between the city of Portland (which owns it) and TriMet (which operates it, along with the bus system and MAX light rail, and which would rather not be in the land-use business). Many transit riders outside downtown are skeptical of the line, considering it pork-barrel politics and a waste of money.

    • David Alexander

      Portland’s streetcar generally gets lauded as successful–and enjoys but not great ridership (10k rides/day)

      Which admittedly leads to the question of whether Portland Streetcar would work and have similar ridership if it was a bus shuttle or integrated on a similar routing.

      Frequency is adequate but not great (12 minutes)

      Admittedly, that’s what bugged me when I visited PDX in November. It’s the type of high profile transit investment that cities should be making that isn’t absurdly expensive and great for urban mobility, but the awful headways means that it approaches semi-uselessness. Mind you, given that 15 minutes is considered to acceptable for “good” bus service in PDX, it may explain why people are willing to tolerate the poor headways. I grew up in Southeastern Queens where the bus came every ten minutes off peak, so I may be spoiled…

      Although, there’s a part of me that wonders if Portland’s use of the streetcar is leaving it to be used merely as a “development” tool which leads “big” systems like NYCTA or CTA avoid even considering the use of streetcars as an effect means of bringing higher quality rail based transit to heavily used bus routes that don’t require full blown subways or the high cost of full blown light rail line.

      Many transit riders outside downtown are skeptical of the line

      Of course, one could argue that they should just simply demand their own streetcar as well.

  5. Peter Brassard

    This first sketch raises other questions.

    The four main lines offer reasonable coverage to the city’s population clusters, however the northwest quadrant remains neglected. Maybe six lines would give better coverage. A line could extend from the city line along Smith Street or Chalkstone Avenue to downtown, through Kennedy Plaza and follow Washington/Westminster Street to Olneyville Square, then extend along Manton Avenue to the city line. Olneyville, Manton, Lower Mt. Pleasant (Chalkstone Av and to the south), and Smith Hill have higher density and are generally have less affluent people who use transit.

    If Smith Street were used, the streetcar could serve the PC and RIC campuses though the VA and Roger Williams Hospitals would be a walk from Smith St. If Chalkstone were used the hospitals would be served, but the schools would not.

    An alternate downtown alignment for the Broad Street line might be to use Dorrance Street to Weybosset Street instead of Empire. This would allow for a stop that could serve PPAC and the main Johnson & Wales campus.

    What this sketch doesn’t address is how to create an internal “circulator” or line within downtown’s north-south axis from the train station to the Jewelry and Hospital districts. Another approach for the Broad Street line could be to keep it on Empire and basically follow the Core Connector proposed route to the Hospital District. The line could reach to Broad Street by way of Dudley/Blackstone. A disadvantage with this idea is that the streetcar would not serve the Broad Street stretch between downtown and Trinity Square, an area ripe for development.

  6. T. Caine

    I have always been intrigued by New York-sited “Vision 42” that proposes streetcar service on the east/west corridor in lieu of car traffic all together. The proposal was actually referenced in Cook+Fox’s design process of One Bryant Park, citing saturation of activity, points of interest and transit connections that could merit the removal of car traffic all together on 42nd Street, leaving only a streetcar system with pedestrian plaza on both sides. Where the crosstown bus takes 43 minutes river to river, the proposed streetcar would make the same trip in 21.

    In a way, this seems to be the most sensible use of streetcars where the entire environment is basically pedestrian controlled and accessible to foot and bike traffic. The street car system then just becomes a faster way to move people to different points along the corridor. I’ve never been to Denver, but I hear that their light rail/streetcar system works in a similar way and acts as a fairly successful example.

    Vision 42 hasn’t really gained any traction over the past half decade, certainly not helped by the economy, but it remains an interesting proposal. It begs the question of whether or not a number of crosstown streets could be removed from the vehicular grid, given to pedestrians with streetcar for added mobility. 23rd Street? 14th Street? Canal Street?

    • Eric

      That would have been a cheap alternative to the 7 extension. Too late now though…

    • Rob B.

      I never understood why the Vision 42 couldn’t be turned into a Busway on 42nd Street like SBS? Instead of having many buses terminate in the Port Authority Terminal, why not have them run all the way across 42nd Street?

      • Matthew

        I think that bus dwell times are too long for that. Especially with the intercity/commuter buses that are used by NJtransit, with one small door at the front. They need a lot of space to “buffer” buses as they arrive and unload.

      • Adirondacker12800

        they don’t run them across 42nd St. because there’s too many of them. An average of 450 an hour between 6AM and 10AM which I’m sure is higher at the peak of rush hour.

  7. ant6n

    If streetcars should fill the gaps in the rapid commuter rail system, the streetcar actually needs to connect to the rail stations. This seems a bit limited in this proposal (unless there’s some new tunnel station?).
    I’d also note that Providence is relatively small, and the downtown core seems to be a bit way from the main train station. This would make it an ideal candidate for tram train operations, i.e. the Karlsruhe model.

    • Alon Levy

      The main station is pretty much a lost cause. The place where the streetcars should go is a parking garage; the streets are decked over it, so that walking to the train station from downtown involves a slope. When it was built, nobody anticipated it would have much commuter traffic, so they didn’t bother engineering it to hold buses and streetcars. That’s why I think the streetcars should instead try to hit places that should be secondary train stations, like Pawtucket and Olneyville. If those don’t get commuter rail stops, then commuter rail is not a useful part of the city’s transportation system to begin with.

      The tram-train model could work for feeding into the East Side tunnel. For the main station, it’s much harder, because getting from either side of the station to downtown would require viaducts to hop over Route 6 or the river. Really everything about the main station is awkward, and there’s no way to fix it short of building a new station farther south, and even that would just connect the west/south end of the mainline with the East Side and have real trouble connecting to Pawtucket and Woonsocket. (At least the mainline can be rerouted through the East Side.)

      • ant6n

        Other ways to solve main station/streetcar connection could be to build a new secondary downtown commuter rail station 250m North of the current one to connect (basically just a plattform with a roof, and stairs going to Smith St, plus:
        – another branch going along Smith Avenue into the NW of Providence
        – detour Charles St branch to go through the intersection W City Ave / Canal St. Using the empty lots just East of the tracks at Smith Street, the commuter rail station could be as close as 50m to the streetcar stop.

  8. Eric O

    Streetcar alignments, I agree, need to run in corridors that are located centrally between lower density urban communities. In other words along “liminal” edges where commercial activity and plenty of connections to the adjacent fabric exists. All these alignments are more or less ok, except for the relative lack of TOD opportunities. If mixed-use TOD development on the Westminster alignment can stitch up the fabric so that adjacent neighborhoods can be better connected to each other, then I would say it is a decent candidate.

    Rapid transit likes to speed through low-density communities that have a relative lack of activity centers or significant destinations. In that respect it favors traveling along borders- that is, edges that separate districts and neighborhoods and were the cross-connections represent crossing points (or convergence zones) that ideally are major existing centers or TOD opportunities and spaced roughly every 1/2 mile. However, they can run in streetcar-like corridors as they near the central district. In this respect, the Charles Street alignment looks really ideal for a streetcar route that can serve also as a limited stop future light rail line connecting Providence to Woonsocket (and which create plenty of opportunities for greenfield TOD developments between).

    • Alon Levy

      If you’re connecting Providence to Woonsocket, there’s no reason to go on any corridor except the legacy railroad. Yes, it means dealing with freight, but that line serves Providence Station without any streetcar-mode running, and goes through Pawtucket and Central Falls.

      The point of an on-street light rail system is to complement mainline rail, which should act as rapid transit in the city. Annoyingly, RIPTA still thinks in terms of mode-dependent pricing. If it sells an inner-city circulator service, like the proposed streetcar, it cuts the fare below the usual bus fare. Chances are if it ever thinks of running regional rail, it’ll bump up the fare because commuter rail should be more expensive. In reality, it’s feasible to do mode-neutral zone fares (say, $2 if you stay in Providence/Pawtucket/Cranston/Central Falls, or if you do not enter the Providence CBD; $3 if you come in from farther out into the Providence CBD) with free intermodal transfers. In conjunction with high all-day frequency and frequent urban stops, it could make commuter rail actually useful.

      • Eric O

        In Charlotte, our Central Ave. streetcar corridor is intended to serve as a local line running north and parallel to the Southeast Corridor Rapid transit corridor. It is a surface “complement” to the rapid transit line, which is a good way of deploying streetcar. We also treat streetcar as “light rail lite” in the suburban segments (as in Providence’s Broad Street and Hope Street segments), where it almost becomes a semi-local line. Where you don’t have a Rapid complement, I think one should entertain dedicated guideways or BRT buslanes, so that it becomes a local/Rapid hybrid. BRT especially is well adapted to be used as a “semi-local”, spacing stops, say, every 600-800 meters in suburban sections and 400 meters (1/4 mile) in the more commercial areas. DPZ proposed creating a “St. Charles Street”-style median guideway for the “light rail lite” sections, but no one had the courage to seriously entertain it (we used to have these median guideways in our streetcar suburbs).

  9. Nathanael

    Bleh. I don’t know much about Providence. Looking at the maps, I don’t see any good route; I suppose your sketch is as good as any.

    No idea what would make sense in that city… the train station is in the wrong place, the districts are carved up by highways (my God the expressways, far too many for that size of city) and waterways, etc.

    I’m also impressed at how twisty and unsuitable for high-speed operation the rail line in Providence is. Yow.

    • Alon Levy

      The urban design decisions are actually worse from the narrow perspective of good transit service than the highways are. Cutting the link to the East Side Railroad Tunnel and moving the train station out of Downcity proper made sure regional rail would have to involve hundreds of millions in concrete just to get to the same level of infrastructure that the city already had thirty years ago. Then the best elevated alignment from that tunnel to the mainline west of the station over Kennedy Plaza is occupied by the bridge between the convention center and the Westin. All of this is fixable; it just requires a lot of money, and either knocking down Citizens Plaza or settling for a curved platform with platform extenders.

      Likewise, the streetcars have to contend with a street grid that’s been modified for the worse over the years. The train station’s streets do not lend themselves well to streetcar service; the station just isn’t on the way on a major street. Westminster Street is cut by the Catholic church, so you have to do this awkward turn on my map instead of have Westminster as the downtown streetcar alignment. The College Hill portal of the bus tunnel is fine on the west side of Thayer, but south of the portal on the east side of Thayer they have a parking strip, and the only way onward from the portal is a narrow alley that’s used as frontage for garages. Farther east, Angell and Waterman are in a one-way pair, and the Red Bridge over the river has been replaced with the freeway-grade Henderson Bridge, complicating a straight Waterman route and making it much harder to be able to serve Wayland Square properly.

      • Peter Brassard

        It’s amazing how renowned architects can screw up a city. SOM for Providence’s train station/Capital Center and I.M. Pei for Cathedral Square, which not only chopped off Westminster Street, but also a now completely untraceable portion of Weybosset that passed in front of the cathedral to Westminster. I would add to this dreary list of design/planning blunders, the construction of Providence Place Mall and the disconnection of Promenade Street along the Woonasquatucket River to the west from downtown.

        An even more expensive idea for the East Side Tunnel to reach the main line might be to build a new tunnel segment from within the existing tunnel that could dip under the Moshassuck River to under the existing train station platforms, creating a lower level. This underground segment could join the main line roughly a half-mile away from the station in each direction. The issue this is that construct costs that would be insane.

        Another problem with Rhode Island’s commuter rail is that when Amtrak electrified the NEC east of New Haven in the 90s, the tracks in the Providence inner metro area were reconfigured from four tracks to asymmetrically spaced three tracks making it impossible to have both north and southbound local commuter rail tracks.

        • Alon Levy

          You’d have to rebuild the entire tunnel if you want it to go under the river. There are 200 meters between the portal and the river, and the maximum ruling grade for EMUs is usually 4%, and even that’s exceptional (the more common standard is 3.5% for high-speed rail; the most modern commuter EMUs can beat that somewhat). The portal is, I believe, 10 meters above sea level, and to clear the river floor you’d need the tracks to be at something like -10.

          I just checked and immediately west of the mall, in the tightest spot between the freeway and the onramp, there are about 20 meters of available space, which away from stations is enough for four tracks. At Atwells there’s enough space for four tracks (about 24 meters), but a station there would have narrow platforms.

          • Peter Brassard

            You’re right about the 20m, however, there’s a pinch point in Olneyville. There are two relatively new bridges at Broadway and Westminster. The center supports for the bridges are off-center, making it impossible for four tracks. Both bridges would have to be demolished and rebuilt to construct four tracks. Amtrak has fought RIDOT for 20 years over the replacement of the Conant Street in Pawtucket. They broke ground last fall to build the replacement bridge. Who wants to bet that the same blunder will be made enshrining three tracks instead of four within a four-track corridor?

          • Nathanael

            My God. Perhapse the only way to “fix” Providence is to wait until people are ready to tear down the freeways, and turn some of them into rail lines.

  10. BruceMcF

    What are the opportunities for sharing the streetcar corridors as express bus corridors?

    Whats the thinking in not extending the spine to Broad/Cahir and bring the Westminster north along Cahir? ~ or visa versa (Washington & Dean to Westminster and to Broad)?

    College Hill is problematic, but there doesn’t seem to be any obvious alternative to a split route on Waterman/Angell.

      • BruceMcF

        They can indeed, and there is, of course, no intrinsic contradiction between having a narrow street and a dedicated streetcar / express bus corridor. As well, the core TOD zone around streetcar line is a quarter mile (400m) walk along well designed sidewalks, so a boulevard stop near a cross street, with substantial TOD the short side of a block away in either direction, is certainly viable. A quarter mile stop spacing on a rectangular grid can easily place every shopfront along both parallel streets within a quarter mile walk of the closest stop.

      • Alon Levy

        Ideally you want the streets that have surface transit on them to be Manhattan avenue wide; if they’re narrower, then this forces design compromises such as shared lanes, transit malls, and narrower stations. (Likewise, it’s cheaper to build a subway under a straight, wide avenue than under a twisty narrow street.) It’s the side streets that could be made really narrow.

        • BruceMcF

          Pragmatically you want the streets that have surface transit on them to be boulevard width ~ IDEALLY you’d just relegate the cars to a different street and take the street for transit, cycleway and wide sidewalks, but that is likely a decade or more away from being practicable.

          • Alon Levy

            This is RIPTA’s thinking, and this is why they prefer Broadway. That said, there aren’t that many boulevard-width corridors in Providence in the first place. North Main is one, but even Broadway is far from Manhattan’s Broadway. Pretty much anything other than Main requires killing the parking lanes, and a few places (e.g. the downtown alignment) would need to be transit malls. The busiest secondary streets, Atwells and Thayer, aren’t even real options at all – too much pedestrian traffic, and on Atwells a crazy car culture.

  11. Peter Brassard

    The old rail tunnel might be a good long-term goal, but it’s distraction now, as it would be highly controversial to propose a new viaduct, even if beautifully designed, and would take over a decade to implement. Commuter rail already goes to the badly placed train station, which needs better access. Olneyville Square has a passenger capture area of roughly 30,000 people who are either within a 10-minute walk or 10-minute bus ride, plus it has over a million square feet of mill buildings, also within walking distance, makes the most sense to become the city’s next station location.

    Express buses usually end up on a highway fairly quickly from downtown and few of the city’s streets have multiple lanes that could be used for exclusive transit right-of-ways. The idea of shared streetcar routes along Washington that splits to Westminster/Broad around Cahir and College Hill/Charles from Kennedy Plaza (KP) would work well with downtown’s roughly east west orientation.

    It might even be possible to pass directly by the train station from KP with a route by following Exchange Street then turning right onto to Railroad Street and/or Finance Way in front of the station. The route could extend north hugging the tracks. This would require an elevated structure in the empty parcel north of the station to connect to Smith Street where a northbound route could continue to Charles or North Main.

    The challenge is downtown’s north south orientation and how to connect south to the I-195 redevelopment land, the Jewelry District, and hospitals. Perhaps use a variation of the Core Connector route or should a hospital route follow the waterfront to Washington Park, Johnson & Wales harbor campus, and beyond or something else?

  12. Andrew Nosal

    1. Interesting points about putting the streetcar on Hope St. But- North Main, lined with underdeveloped parcels, is the best transformational redevelopment play around. There is room for transit lanes. Otherwise implacable NIMBYs are already on record endorsing multistory mixed use concepts there. Nothing of that sort could happen along Hope St. Plus, the Hope Street bus should run all the way to Wickenden St and then west across Point Street. East Side and Oak Hill would have choices of a one seat ride to the Jewelry or Hospital districts, a reliable transfer downtown via streetcar at Angell St, or a walk to North Main for direct service to downtown and train station.

    2. Get rid of McVinney Auditorium and rebuild Cathedral Plaza so Westminster Street can be a nice straight dedicated streetcar route.

    3. “Exchange Street then… an elevated structure in the empty parcel north of the station to connect to Smith Street where a northbound route could continue to Charles or North Main” Excellent! This project is the single best opportunity to eliminate minutes per streetcar trip stuck in downtown traffic for more than one branch, and makes the train station a proper hub.

    4. Lines to the northwest should run west from the train station to an elevated structure in Hayes Street, crossing I-95 to the vacant areas north of the Foundry complex. From there are many possible routings to Valley, Chalkstone or Smith Streets.

    5. The unused RR tunnel is indeed a distraction until such time as express service to the east can be justified.

    • Peter Brassard

      When the Core Connector advocates met, one of the reasons why Westminster was thought to be a logical location for a west side route, was that there were plenty of development opportunities along the street, besides being a major divider/unifier between two densely populated neighborhoods, Federal Hill and the West End to draw ridership from. Broadway had virtually no development opportunities and Atwells had too many pedestrians, car traffic, and was on the edge of the neighborhood, so they didn’t seem to be the best choices.

      Why Hope and Broad were considered is that both streets were central to a larger neighborhood population cluster to draw passengers from. Charles was considered because the street has the most bus routes for any street. North Main is similar to Westminster with development possibilities because of fragmentation with many empty lots or parking lots with single-story buildings. Other Providence streets that have been degraded by fragmentation that could accommodate new development are Eddy Street, Elmwood Avenue, and to a lesser extent Broad and Charles Streets and Hartford Avenue.

      Two ways to look at locating routes:
      1. Locating within neighborhoods with the highest population to draw passengers.
      2. Choose corridors with the greatest potential to add new development/density.

      A major finding in the Core Connector study is in pretty much all cities that built light rail/streetcars recently resulted in a great deal of development following the start of service. Westminster filled both requirements. The others Hope, Broad, and Charles favored one aspect more or less.

      Should streetcar corridors be located based on existing population or development potential or a combination?

      • Ian Mitchell

        I’d bet all cities that didn’t built light rail also had a great deal of development. I think there’s too much cargo cult thinking and not enough emphasis on good transit as a public service.

  13. Arthur Eddy

    Just as a concept, Memorial Boulevard is a four lane road that connets to a lot of different destinations. If the 6/10 connector was turned into a Boulevard and the city was stitched back together, the street car could service a wide touch a wide range of nodes within the city (Jewelry District, Financial District, the Mall, Federal Hill, Olnevyville Square). The street car could then turn up Westminster and touch the hospitals and create a circulator. Olneyville would no longer be severed by highway and economic development and job creation would be connected back to a iable work force.

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