…for a streetcar ride. Maybe.
Once one of the nation’s great streetcar cities, St. Louis has installed one light rail line, and is now the recipient of $25 million in federal bucks to start a traditional streetcar line. This article, originally in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has all the details, starting with a comparison to the ne plus ultra of such streetcar operations, Muni’s F-line.
The $25 mil St. Louis scored from the feds was matched by similar-sized grants for traditional streetcar systems in Charlotte, Dallas, Fort Worth, Cincinnati, and New Orleans (by “traditional,” we mean either vintage-type streetcars [authentic or replica] or modern Portland-type streetcars of European design, as opposed to Big Bredas like Muni’s). All the grants share a goal articulated by an Obama Administration official in the article.
“Streetcars are making a comeback because cities across America
are recognizing that they can restore economic development downtown
— giving citizens the choice to move between home, shopping and
entertainment without ever looking for a parking space,” said Peter
Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration. “These
streetcar … projects will not only create construction jobs now,
they will aid our recovery by creating communities with the
potential to be more prosperous and less congested.”
The article also quotes SFMTA’s Nat Ford as estimating F-line peak ridership at 24,000 daily, a new high in Muni estimates. Ford is also cited as saying that streetcars do more for economic development than buses.
St. Louis streetcar no. 1704 at St. Francis Circle in 1983
As many know, St. Louis was the streetcar manufacturing center of North America in the first half of the 20th century. All of the streamlined vintage “PCC” streetcars in Muni’s fleet today were built by the long-gone St. Louis Car Company.
And, hey, if that city really wants to do it right, they can find all the rolling stock they need, made by their own residents, run by their own transit company, right in their own backyard. (The PCC streetcars mentioned in this earlier post were all built in 1946 by St. Louis Car Co. and were operated by St. Louis Public Service (the transit company there) until they were sold to Muni in 1957.)
Muni still owns 12 of these ex-St. Louis streetcars, all in storage. (Check the complete list here, scrolling down to “1100 class.”) One of these, pictured above, was restored to its original St. Louis Public Service paint scheme and car number and used in the Trolley Festivals of the 1980s. Full restoration would be needed before any in this group of stored cars could return to service today. Market Street Railway would like to see at least one of these bright red beauties join Muni’s vintage fleet in the future. They are well remembered by many.