Streetcar and the RTP

In the draft policy language for the Regional Transportation Plan update, there is a 3-tier classification of transit service:

  • High Capacity Transit (MAX)
  • Regional Transit (connects regional and town centers)
  • Local Transit (bus)

Streetcar was initially lumped in Regional Transit (along with TriMet’s frequent bus lines). While the proposed Lake Oswego Line might fit that role, I thought it was off-point for most of the ways we’re using and intending to use Streetcar.

So I submitted a comment memo, likely to be discussed as part of a workshop next week. I’d be interested in feedback on it:

To:TPAC Workshop Participants
From:Chris Smith
Date:22 January 2007
Re:High Density Transit

At the last meeting, I made a suggestion that the hierarchy of transit types should include an additional category: Circulator Transit. After further reflection, I think High Density Transit is a better name (it does not make preconceptions about alignment structures). I’d like to expand on this idea a bit to assist our further discussion of the topic.

Purpose of High Density Transit

Provide short-trip mobility in Centers and serve as a place-making tool to foster an urban environment in which system users have easy access to housing, jobs, shopping and entertainment. A virtuous cycle is created in which ridership fuels development which in turn provides more ridership.

The dense urban fabric served and created by High Density Transit provides an environment that offers access to closely spaced land uses by walking and cycling as well as transit. FAR utilization approaches 100% in new development along High Density Transit alignments.

Characteristics of High Density Transit

-Operates in Centers and on Main Streets
-Very High Frequency (sub 15-minutes headways, ideally 10 minutes or less)
-Ease of access (i.e., frequent stops) is more important than speed
-Employs some form of fixed guideway to attract development
-May operate in mixed traffic, does not require dedicated right-of-way
-Has high amenity value

Local Examples of High Density Transit

-Existing Portland Streetcar alignment
-Proposed Streetcar Loop
-MAX between Lloyd District and Goose Hollow

I would be careful to distinguish between Streetcar as a vehicle type and High Density Transit. High Density Transit is about a service profile and the use of a fixed guideway.

While Streetcar serves this purpose admirably due to the capacity, scale and ride experience of the vehicle, Streetcar can also be operated as Regional Transit with greater stop spacing and use of dedicated right-of-way as is proposed in the Portland to Lake Oswego Transit Analysis.

In fact, the Lake Oswego proposal is a hybrid, with Streetcar operating as High Density Transit in Johns Landing and in Lake Oswego, and as regional transit in-between (much as MAX operates as High Capacity Transit outside the Central City and as High Density Transit in the Central City).

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