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Links - "beta communities" and US streetcar renaissance

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  • Christopher Miller
    Some interesting links I have come across recently here... The CoolTown blog has had a series of articles on beta communities , i.e. groups of people who get
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 17, 2007
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      Some interesting links I have come across recently here...

      The CoolTown blog has had a series of articles on "beta communities",
      i.e. groups of people who get together to plan a community they hope
      to live in, and on how to effectively communicate a vision for a
      community to the public concerned:


      The Treehugger blog had an article Tuesday about a resurge in
      popularity of streetcars in the USA with a link to a USA Today
      article (parts of which I reproduce here):



      Cities rediscover allure of streetcars
      Updated 1/10/2007 8:38 PM ET
      E-mail | Save | Print | Reprints & Permissions | Subscribe to stories
      like this

      By Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY
      The streetcars that rumbled and clanged through many American cities
      from the late 1800s until World War II helped shape neighborhoods.
      More than a half-century later, streetcars are coming back and
      reviving the same neighborhoods they helped create.
      Several cities have resurrected the streetcar tradition and about
      three dozen others plan to — from Tucson, and Birmingham, Ala., to
      Miami and Trenton, N.J.

      This return to the past is less about satisfying a sense of nostalgia
      than about enticing developers and people to old industrial areas and
      faded neighborhoods. As cities experience a much-publicized urban
      renaissance, streetcars have become another draw for investment in
      housing, stores and restaurants.

      Cities hope that streetcars can do in this century what they did in
      the last: Connect neighborhoods and provide a relatively cheap
      alternative to walking and driving.

      "The return of the streetcars is not really happening for new reasons
      but for the same reasons," says Michael English, vice president of
      Tampa Historic Streetcar, which operates along 2.5 miles connecting
      downtown, the fashionable loft and entertainment Channelside district
      and historic Ybor City. The city had a 54-mile system until 1946. The
      new line opened in 2002 and condominiums have been sprouting up along
      the way since.


      Trains with 'sex appeal'

      Electric streetcars are light-rail, too, but they're less expensive
      because they use lighter cars, fewer cars and shorter tracks that
      share the road with cars and buses. And they evoke many emotions,
      from a sweet longing for the good old days to the passion of Marlon
      Brando's primal cry — "Stellaaaaaaa" — in A Streetcar Named Desire.

      "Streetcars have sex appeal," says Len Brandrup, director of
      transportation in Kenosha, Wis., which opened a 1.9-mile line in
      2000. "It resonates with folks. … Developers don't write checks for

      Streetcar lines cost about $10 million to $15 million a mile compared
      with $50 million to $75 million a mile for light-rail lines.

      Most streetcar lines stretch for less than 5 miles compared with 10
      to 20 miles for light rail. They've become so appealing that some
      developers are helping pay for the systems, says Shelley Poticha,
      president and CEO of Reconnecting America, a national non-profit
      group that works to spur development around transit stops.

      Some streetcars are vintage and refurbished. Others, such as Tampa's,
      are new trolleys designed to replicate the look of old. Yet others
      are new and look modern.

      "It's an inexpensive way of providing transit," Poticha says. "It
      expands the reach of pedestrians in a community without having to
      build an expensive infrastructure. It can be built quickly,
      inexpensively, right into the street to get around without a car more

      Streetcars aren't a total solution to transit needs because they
      can't carry vast numbers of commuters, according to Street Smart, a
      new book published by Reconnecting America and other mass-transit
      advocates. But they can augment other forms of transit.

      Many cities buying in


      "Mayors, business people and developers are seeing this type of
      transit as an amenity that helps revive neighborhoods," Poticha says.
      "Yes, it's transportation but more than that, it's a package of urban
      renaissance tools."

      Posted 1/8/2007 9:33 PM ET

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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