The American Public Transportation Association defines a streetcar as "rail transit vehicles designed for local transportation, powered by electricity received from an overhead wire" (APTA). Streetcars are a means of public transportation typically focused in a relatively small downtown or other high-use areas as an alternative or supplement to buses and light rail networks.

Strategies and Greenhouse Gas Reduction

  • Continue to research the feasibility of a streetcar system and other mass transit options to connect the employment centers of the City with the residential areas.
  • The introduction of a streetcar system or other mass transit system by could reduce CO2 emissions by 2,500 tons by 2015-20 based on the assumption that each streetcar rider is equivalent to an emissions reduction of one ton per year.

Cost to the City
Expensive to very expensive. The city of Albuquerque's estimates that it's modern streetcar system (scheduled to open in Fall 2009) will cost $28 million/mile (cost includes steel rail, concrete, pedestrian friendly stops, traffic signals, maintenance facility, power source, utility reconstruction, roadway reconstruction, and streetcar vehicles). In contrast, the city of Portland's modern streetcar (completed in 2001) cost $11.4 million/mile.


  • Tacoma's general population
  • City of Tacoma
  • Pierce Transit
  • State of Washington
  • Local businesses


  • Locating funding sources
  • Cooperation with local businesses during construction


  • By reducing dependence on individual vehicles, a streetcar system, like other means of public transportation helps reduce congestion and improve air quality in high-use areas.
  • Streetcar systems create a pedestrian friendly area that serves to enhance downtown environments.
  • Increased availability of public transportation helps make cities more tourist-friendly by reducing the need for private transportation.
  • A streetcar system is proven to be less expensive to install and manage than a light rail system and has a reduced likelihood of accidents than buses.
  • According to Seattle's department of transportation, streetcars attract a larger amount and wider range of riders than a bus network.
  • Encourage transit-oriented development and population density.


  • City of Tacoma
  • Pierce Transit
  • State of Washington

What is most likely to be the largest single task is acquiring the necessary amount of funding for the program. While streetcar systems are less expensive than light rail, the figures still reach into the tens of millions, depending on the size of the route. Other tasks include:

  • Increasing public awareness and fostering support through various marketing campaigns
  • Deciding which route will maximize ridership and have the greatest impact
  • Working with local businesses that will be affected by the new system
  • Physical construction of the streetcar network

Success Stories
Portland, Oregon
The Portland Streetcar has been in operation in downtown Portland since 2001, and at that time was the first modern streetcar to be built in North America in the past fifty years. The 4.8-mile system was constructed in only two years and at a reasonable cost ($54.6 million). Since its implementation mass transit ridership in the city has increased 87% and it has generated an estimated $2.2 billion in direct redevelopment. The streetcar system is seen as a model system by other municipalities.

Kenosha, Wisconsin
The city (population 92,800) introduced a modern streetcar system in 2000 and currently has a ridership of 60,000 people per year. The system is also attributed with the generation of $150 million in direct development.

Little Rock, Arkansas
Introduced in 2004, Little Rock's (population 184,000) modern streetcar system currently has a ridership of 118,000 people per year and $200 million in direct development has been generated to date.

Tampa, Florida
The city's (population 326,000) implementation of a modern streetcar system in 2003 has resulted in the generation of $1 billion in direct redevelopment to date and 434,500 people currently use the system per year.

Other cities that currently have an operating modern streetcar system include: Memphis, Tennessee; San Francisco, California; and New Orleans, Louisiana. Seattle currently has a system under construction that is scheduled for completion in late 2007, as does Washington D.C.