Eyes on the Street: Bicoastal Streetcars

Brooklyn

streetcar_brooklyn_1.jpg

streetcar_brooklyn.jpg

streetcar_brooklyn_2.jpg

San Francisco

streetcar_san_fran_2.jpg

streetcar_san_fran.jpg

Like Clarence Eckerson, I recently returned from a visit to San Francisco. I left with a feeling that San Francisco has the best urban surface transportation in the country: emissions-free buses drawing power from overhead wires, regular buses, cable cars moving up and down steep hills, many cyclists despite those hills, partially buried lightrail and a regional subway. But the most heartwarming thing to see was the streetcars. What a joyous and democratic mode of transportation, the streetcar.

Sure, we have light rail over in Jersey City, and it’s great to have that. But there is nothing like an honest-to-God fully functioning streetcar system like the one San Franciscans have managed to preserve restored on Market Street and the Embarcadero (the F Line). Think they’re just for tourists? Maybe the cable cars, but the streetcars I saw were standing-room-only, with a mix of visitors and natives. There are probably other models visible in museums, but these old cars and the ones New Orleans still only partially restored after Hurricane Katrina are the last in the country still doing the heavy lifting. At least for now.

Now that the corpse of the ill-fated attempt to bring streetcars to Red Hook (pictured above) is cold, we can begin to think about the new efforts to bring streetcars back to Brooklyn. ‘Frisco proves that it is possible.

(Top two photos by Futurebird.)

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Good Streets Include Streetcars

|
Last stop for Brooklyn’s trolley dodgers at Fairway Market in Red Hook. Devotees of the Red Hook, Brooklyn Fairway grocery store can have the pleasure, after loading up on gourmet salt and other essentials, of sipping coffee on their back veranda over looking the river. It’s a wonderful view. On your right is the Statue […]

Transit-Oriented America, Part 3: Three More Cities

|
Part 3 in a series on rail and transit-only travel across the United States focuses on the final three cities of our journey. Part 2 looked at the first three and Part 1 presented an overview of our travel.  San Francisco Fully restored streetcars, cable cars, buses with and without pantographs, submerged and at-grade light rail, a […]

4 Reasons a $2.5 Billion Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar Doesn’t Add Up

|
Later today, Mayor de Blasio is going to deliver his State of the City speech, and one centerpiece is expected to be a new streetcar running from Sunset Park to Astoria along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront. It’s an idea that’s surfaced repeatedly in one form or another as developers have transformed sections of the waterfront into new residential neighborhoods. As alluring […]

Transit-Oriented America, Part 1: Eight Thousand Miles

|
My wife and I were married last month in Brooklyn. For our honeymoon, we wanted to see as many great American cities as we could. In 19 days of travel, we visited Chicago, Seattle, Portland (Ore.), San Francisco, Los Angeles and New Orleans (and also stopped briefly in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Houston, Atlanta, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia). How could two people as obsessed as […]

Parking it in the Slope

|
In the coming weeks I will be transitioning my blogging over to a new domain: Streetsblog. This new blog, supported by The Open Planning Project, will be covering the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign on a daily basis. It will include other contributors as well. While the new site is in development, I will […]