Thursday, April 16, 2009

Oh, Streetcar!

Why do people like streetcars? Tyler Cowen comes up with two reasons: that street car lovers wish to "affiliate themselves with the past" and that streetcars help you avoid that "low class feeling" which all too often comes from riding on the bus.

I don't disagree with either of these but there are also substantive reasons to prefer streetcars, i.e. they are smoother and quieter than other forms of public transportation. The streetcar we rode in New Orleans (above) definitely fell into the "affiliate ourselves with the past" category, but there are plenty of modern-looking streetcars (in Amsterdam for example, probably in American cities too) that also provide a cheap, quick, quiet, pleasant way to travel. The history thing is nice, to be sure, but absent that tie the ride is still very nice.

I also like to ride buses and subways, though, so I may not be a good case study. Also because I live in a strongly car-centric city with no short- or medium-term plans to build any alternative modes of transportation.


Erik said...

Much like it's great that doing public service has become hip and trendy, I'm perfectly ok with people using public transportation for image related reasons. Whatever gets people doing something positive like that, you know?

Rob said...

Yeah I mean I will take it. If old-timey streetcars get yuppies to ride public transportation, then old-timey streetcars it is!

Nicole said...

The problem with streetcars is that they don't actually do anything to ease congestion since they ride along on the same road as all the other cars and buses. This isn't a big deal for smaller cities that aren't horribly congested and maybe could increase the "quaintness" of it all, but ultimately subways/elevated trains are the way to go.