2008 Comeback Stories: Streetcars desired again


This is one in our series on people, places and things than have found new life in 2008.

My neighborhood association chair has a dream. His dream isn't about people of different races living together in harmony, no, it's more about an iconic mode of transportation whose tracks still run, buried, throughout my hometown of Portland -- and in cities across the U.S.

It's the streetcar.

We've already started bringing it back. In the tourist destinations of both San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, streetcars run cheerfully through college campuses and down retail thoroughfares. They're digging them up elsewhere, too, in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Edmonton, New Orleans. Ours goes past Powell's, City of Books. We'd like it to go further, to connect neighborhoods with electricity instead of the big isolated fossil-fuel-guzzling pods we call "cars." There was once a streetcar down Gladstone Street, a nice wide local avenue now featuring a bunch of lovely speed bumps.

There's much to love about streetcars. Not only are they cute, but they use fewer resources and they spur economic development. They connect people with the past, with their neighborhoods, with how beautiful transportation could be. It's time they went from tourist attraction to a real part of more cities' public transportation system. Ding ding!