Monday, July 9, 2012

Streetcars make safer streets


Modern streetcars are long, light-rail trains operating at safe speeds on neighborhood streets. They can travel as fast as commuter trains through open countryside to connect outlying suburbs with the city. But in town they slow to 20 or 30 mph—like cars and buses except they’re not stuck in traffic. Because they move predictably along a path clearly marked before them by the rails in the street, a streetcar moving 30 mph is much less dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists than a bus moving 30 mph—not to mention a taxi or an SUV with a mom on the phone and kids in the back. At slower speeds streetcars can mix safely with crowds of people on pedestrian shopping streets.


No need to climb stairs to a platform: you can shop while you wait for the train, and board right from the sidewalk. People roll on and off the low-floor vehicles quickly and easily through multiple doors. With electric power they accelerate and brake smoothly, and they don’t pollute the air with diesel fumes. They reduce traffic congestion, boost local business, increase property values, and they’re cheaper to operate than buses. Plus they’re cool.


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