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Streetcar Panel #1

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, May 22, 2008, at 11:24AM
Panel 1 Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Jeff Boothe, David Taylor and Scott Bernstein with moderator Jessica Wethington McLean.

Panel one of the Los Angeles Streetcar Workshop ran the gamut of streetcar topics. Titled "Streetcars 101," it was a in-depth primer on designing, funding and building a system.

With each of the five panels today we'll be running a recap of some of the panelists' comments and the Q&A session that follows the presentations.

On this pannel:

  • Scott Bernstein, President, Center for Neighborhood Technology
  • Jeff Boothe: Partner, Holland & Knight; Chair, New Starts Working Group; Executive Director, Community Streetcar Coalition
  • Mark Dorn, Senior Project Manager, URS Corporation, Portland
  • Charlie Hales: Sr. Vice President & Transit Planning Principal, HDR Portland; Former Portland Transportation Commissioner
  • Ken Johnsen: Principal, Shiels Obletz Johnsen; Project Director, South Lake Union Streetcar
  • Michael Powell: Business Owner, Powell’s Books, Portland
  • Jared Smith: Senior Vice President, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Seattle
  • David Taylor, Director of Sustainable Transportation Solutions, HDR

A quick rundown of some highlights from the first panel presentations:

Charlie Hales: When you look at old pictures of streetcar days, notice how many pedestrians are on the street.

Michael Powell: The streetcar is "Development Oriented Transit." Streetcars were originally built by the developers to help people who couldn't afford cars live in their developments. Once again cars aren't affordable, but this time it's the city that can't afford all the cars.

Ken Johnsen: Use what other cities have already done. "The key is keeping it simple and keeping it fast." Get your first line open instead of studying the project to death. Two months after the Seattle streetcar opened (in December), the City Council already had a system map of all sort of other lines they now wanted to build.

Jeff Boothe: Don't count on the Feds. The Federal Transit Administration's system is set up to reward systems with long intervals between stations and dedicated right-of-way. The best projects for funding: those in highway medians.


"What was the biggest surprise and biggest lesson learned?"

Hales: That the local transit agency didn't get it. Someone really needs to champion the project.

Berstein: We're just getting going in Chicago, but we've learned that getting the economic numbers out right from the beginning is key.

Powell: We were so focused on the development, we didn't anticipate the joy that people would ride [the streetcar] with.

Johnsen: Shoo away the consultants and just go build it.

Dorn: Don't give up when you get to a tough issue.

__"How can the streetcar encourage small business?"

Powell: It encourages opportunistic shopping.

"What about fares?"

Bernstein: Lots of creative ways to generate funding out of employers, bundling into rents, etc.


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