Tags: Spotlight

I Want the Streetcar

Posted 04.27.15 by Kate

I’m not sure but I think it was 2007 when I went to Portland for the first time for a conference. At that time, I knew very little about public transportation...I was basically an event planner. My local Alderman had put me on a mission to get pictures of the Portland Streetcar since I was headed that way. He was advocating for Streetcar in Milwaukee and wanted photos for upcoming presentations. At that point, Portland was in construction of their first extension to their system. I got to the airport and took the light rail to downtown’s Pioneer Square (I heard about these small restaurateurs serving food out of short buses and I had to see for myself. Remember, I was an event planner). I laughed at the irony when the easiest route to my hotel was by way of Streetcar, so I jumped on the Portland Streetcar and started shooting photos. Yes, I felt like a nerdy tourist.

The next day I had arranged a meeting with the transit team that was building the Streetcar’s second phase so I could visit the construction sites and get some good photos for Alderman Bauman...the tour was great! They talked about how quickly it had exceeded their expectations, how the first phase saw ridership they had never anticipated, and how the fare recovery was more than they had budgeted. They showed me where the line ended and I got pictures of the new rails being placed. I probably took 20 pictures of the metal flap that lowers at the platform to make it completely flat. Almost on cue, a woman with a stroller validated how easy it was to board.  

I spent about 5 days there and took either the Streetcar, light rail or buses everywhere I went...I was hooked. I took about 250 pictures back to Milwaukee and chuckled to myself every time I saw my shots in the Alderman’s presentations. Since then, I have become an advocate myself.  There are lots of reasons to want a Streetcar for Tempe – additional transit helps us navigate the expected growth, fixed rail systems usher in development, this system will service our expanding office towers and relieve some of the traffic pressure on Rio Salado, future extensions will reach into our neighborhoods and connect entertainment destinations creating a complete network of transit -- transit is a necessity for attracting and retaining young professionals, and it’s (buzzword coming) green. 

But let’s not overlook the day to day. We are possibly creating a system where people can get rid of their cars and live a totally different life. Our light rail is great, our Orbit system is wonderful...add Streetcar and we are cooking with gas! Imagine a day where you can live in neighborhoods in and around downtown, walk to get your coffee, hop on the light rail to get to work, read a book and answer emails while riding, use the Streetcar to meet up with friends after work for a show at Gammage, then take light rail or Streetcar home … ‘oops just remembered I’m out of granola’ … hop off and grab it at the store and then hop back on and head home. 

Like I said, I want the Streetcar!