Downtown Neighborhood Association Makes Case for Retaining Free Streetcar

Daniel Friedman, writing on behalf of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, has an op-ed piece in today’s Tribune, arguing to keep the Streetcar in Free Rail Zone.

The core of the argument is that downtown has unique characteristics that support a unique fare structure. Here are the four main bullets:

  • Most of the people who live downtown are not wealthy.
  • Most of the people who travel without charge in the FRZ do not live downtown.
  • Rather than being a special amenity for poor people or downtown residents, the FRZ is a valued public service available to everyone who travels downtown for work, shopping, school, recreation, or business.
  • A prosperous downtown is essential to the well-being of the entire region.

It’s a pretty good argument. But my concern is that the boundaries are wrong. I would suggest you could take the four points above and in each case substitute ‘Central City’ for downtown, and they would remain equally true.

The City’s comprehensive plan does not have a ‘Downtown Plan’, it has a ‘Central City Plan’. The Streetcar Loop is a transit service responsive to the entire Central City, on both sides of the river, and needs to have a consistent fare throughout the Central City.

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