Are streetcars a better fit for the transit mall than light rail trains? Streetcars are smaller, slower and more appropriate for downtown, frequent-stop, circulator service. They would be safer than long light rail trains, intermixed with buses and private vehicles, which will also run on the mall when it reopens.
The current plan is to route the I-205/Green and the Interstate/Yellow Light Rail Lines on 5th and 6th Avenues. These are large high capacity regional trains that, unfortunately, will be forced to snake up and down the Transit Mall slowly, causing unnecessary travel delay for north-south inter-regional passengers. This is similar to the delays now experienced by east-west passengers as they creep through downtown on the Blue and Red Lines.
The Yellow Line would be faster and attract more passengers if it did not detour across the Willamette River in order to slog though the downtown on the transit mall. If it stayed on the eastside where it would provide rapid regional north-south service, streetcars could fill the void on the mall. A streetcar loop on 5th and 6th Avenues would provide more efficient frequent circulator service than would large light rail trains.
In the future, this loop could be extended north via Station Way to connect to the streetcar system in the Pearl District. This would allow streetcars to operate between the Pearl District and Portland State via Union Station and the Transit Mall.