Posting in Cities
More than a half-century after streetcars were abandoned and burned, at least a dozen U.S. cities are working to revive them.
The revitalization of Portland, Ore.'s Pearl District, where empty warehouses were replaced with art galleries and abandoned rail yards gave way to multi-family housing, truly began for some when a streetcar line opened there in 2001. As the streetcar shuttled passengers around the once-decrepit neighborhood, it also swept billions of dollars of investments into the revived community.
Now, the Pearl District has two private gyms and just about every type of ethnic cuisine. And in possibly the ultimate sign of neighborhood prosperity, a dog park is in the works. "It totally transformed far beyond anything we could have imagined," said Rick Gustafson, executive director and chief operating officer of Portland Streetcar. "The streetcar was part of a whole effort to make this kind of development occur."
By the 1950s, streetcars were in trouble. In their heyday, these electrified passenger rails chugged along the streets of just about every American community with more than 5,000 residents.
But after World War II, when streetcars were flagging from auto industry competition, municipalities and transportation authorities were convinced to make the switch to buses. Contracts were signed. Rails were paved over or torn out and sold for scrap. And streetcars dropped off their last passengers, traveled to the end of the line and were burned. "The [auto] companies did not want the competition of the streetcars with their buses," said Patrick Condon, a professor at the University of British Columbia and author of Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities.
There were some exceptions. Remnants of original streetcar systems are still running in parts of Philadelphia and Boston. And, despite a close call with the city's new mayor, Toronto maintains the region's largest original streetcar system. But more than a half-century after most streetcars were abandoned and burned, at least a dozen U.S. cities are working to revive these systems from the ashes. In addition to Portland, Atlanta is building a downtown streetcar line that, when service begins next year, will feature a Siemens S70 vehicle powered by a single overhead trolley wire. And in Los Angeles, a city defined by its car culture, residents are beginning to imagine what Broadway would look like with streetcar tracks.
Since streetcars were mostly overrun by subsidies for automobiles and airplanes, it's taken decades of car culture consequences -- congestion, oil dependence, environmental costs -- to bring them back into fashion. "We created an enormous dependence upon airlines and cars," Gustafson said. "Now we understand that transit is a very fundamental component of our city's vitality. It's almost like a utility. You need it."
But while other advanced countries largely maintained and updated their rail systems, the United States was left on the hook for billions of dollars in rebuilds. "We've destroyed all the infrastructure we'd built," Gustafson said. "We have nothing. Almost nothing."
A clean alternative to cars
As American cities started shelling out big bucks to revitalize their urban corridors, streetcars -- also known as trams or trolleys -- became an obvious transit option for connecting those populated downtown locales. Unlike light rails, which often transport passengers between suburbs and cities, streetcars are more like intercity circulators specializing in shorter trips.
Some transit experts argued that more bus routes would be a better, lower-cost alternative to the streetcar. But buses are hardly the catalyst that major property owners and developers want when it comes to investing to revitalize a community, Gustafson said. "They wanted a demonstration of commitment by the city to the area. They wanted the permanence of rails," he said. "Creating a streetcar was part of an emphasis on making mixed-use work."
In several cities, the streetcar has been living up to its end of the bargain, Condon said. "It changes the quality of a neighborhood so dramatically in a beneficial way," he said, "that the intangible benefits of the introduction of these systems is quite enormous." The construction of a streetcar line, with the permanence of its rails, Condon said, has spurred growth in housing and mixed-use buildings and shifted some city dwellers' dependence on cars to transit, biking and walking.
What's more, streetcars can protect the environment. "If you have clean electrical energy sources and feed them into the tram system," Condon said, "it is greenhouse gas zero." That combination of smart urban development and eco-friendly transit, he said, means more sustainable cities by 2050. "The real benefit of thinking about trams is not the vehicle itself," Condon said, "but rather how the whole city works and how you move from place to place in a way that's elegant, comfortable and greenhouse gas zero."
Building the future
Portland has proven a positive test case, Condon said, on how a streetcar system can improve and protect an urban area. Since 2001, Gustafson said, more than $4 billion in investment has come to the area, including 10,000 new housing units. "We turned it around and made it the hottest growth area in the region, rather than vacant land," he said, adding that developers wouldn't have made such an investment without the streetcar. In renewing an industrial wasteland into a liveable urban community, Gustafson said, planning by developers and the city focused on amenities including parks, underground parking and affordable housing.
City travelers reduce road congestion and avoid the hassle of finding parking, Gustafson said, when they choose the streetcar over the car for a short midday trip. In Portland, peak streetcar ridership is between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., he said, with passengers popping out of the office for lunch or heading to happy hour with colleagues.
In Los Angeles, where a four-mile streetcar system is in development, officials expect commuters and tourists alike to ride the rails. The downtown route would overlap with subway and light rail stops and connect the city's financial and commercial districts, including such sites as the Staples Center and Walt Disney Concert Hall. "It's for everybody," said Shiraz Tangri, general counsel for the non-profit group Los Angeles Streetcar.
United Streetcar, a subsidiary of Oregon Iron Works, was the first U.S. company to manufacture a modern streetcar. Unlike their 20th-century predecessors, modern streetcars are faster, more spacious, cheaper to maintain, Americans with Disabilities Act compliant and outfitted with regenerative brakes and LED lights. Using a model developed by the company Skoda in the Czech Republic, United Streetcar designed an "Americanized" version with roof fixtures and hinge plate headlights, said president Chandra Brown.
"The Czechs have old-world craftsmanship and a lot more people working on it," Brown said. "We're more about automation ... we had to change the design substantially to make it a better, easier, more cost-effective and higher-quality way of building." Since United Streetcar's 2005 launch, the company has been contracted to supply streetcars for Portland, Tucson and Washington, D.C.
It can take more than a year to build a city's first streetcar, Brown said, because of the long lead-time on certain items. "Because our market is so much smaller [in the U.S.], it's harder to find a good supply chain," she said. "We're committed to using as much local products and services as we can, but there are items that aren't even made in the United States."
Still, more than 200 U.S. companies are supplying United Streetcar, many of them small businesses. "We're excited about the ripple effect on U.S. manufacturing," Brown said. Internationally, other companies designing streetcars include Vossloh in Germany and Alstom in France.
Just as finding the parts for a U.S. streetcar can be difficult, it's not always easy for cities to turn the streetcar concept into reality. Though a streetcar system costs only about 10 percent of the price of a subway line, raising the funds is difficult. Government grants, such as TIGER funds awarded for streetcars in cities including Dallas, New Orleans and Tucson, are competitive. The city of Portland self-financed its initial streetcar line, priced at about $25 million per mile, with the help of property owners and bonds backed by parking revenue from city garages, Gustafson said. In contrast, the streetcar's expansion, opening Sept. 22, received half of its funding from federal sources.
Los Angeles continues to grapple with financing. Residents living within three pedestrian-friendly blocks of the proposed streetcar line will vote this fall on whether to approve a tax that would pay for about half of the construction costs. A taxpayer's individual burden would depend on his proximity to the streetcar line, Tangri said, with the majority of area condominium owners set to pay less than $100 a year.
A former downtown Los Angeles resident, Tangri argued the costs are reasonable considering the potential return on investment: new jobs, new businesses and more tourists. If the measure passes, he said, the private sector commitment would be used to leverage federal funding for other project costs. The public sector would handle streetcar operations. "It's a collective investment," Tangri said, "something much bigger than any individual developer could do."
Photo: Paul Sableman/Flickr
Oct 8, 2012
In Milwaukee, WI the mayor is planning a trolley for the downtown are. It will cost millions to move transmission lines and other infrastructure as the trolley cannot run over the areas where these lines are present. Who would pay for it ? The consumers on their bills and taxpayers. How likely are people to ride this albatross in the Winter ? Not very lilkely. We have enough toys thank you. Carbon Neutral ? Hardly. Anything needing electricity is not carbon neutral If it is such a good idea then someone in the private sector would fund it. That's why governments fund these sort of garbage projects that end up costing taxpayers maintenance costs and low ridership. Even in Europe rail ridership is declining and most people are driving their cars. These ideas are not new. We don't need more pipe dreams.
Having lived in Portland for many years, I have enjoyed the benefits of much of the variety of mass transit options available within the urban and suburban metro area. The mix of options include an aerial tram, the MAX light rail, trolleys, buses, street cars, our international airport, our feet for walking, and of course our world class biking infrastructure. All of which contribute to the high level of livability within the Portland metro area. One of the features mentioned in the article but overlooked by the commenters is the contribution to the local economy made by United Streetcar. Many years ago the City of Portland made a strategic decision to help grow the local economy and to build its fleet of streetcars by supporting the work of United. The synergy has worked quite well, leading to some of the best jobs in Oregon for what has become a growing industry. Some farsighted thinking on the part of a select group of local citizens. The revitalization of both urban and suburban areas has been directly attributed to the work of the local and regional government agencies and the local populations in a cooperative environment. Partnering with local developers and city planners has resulted in some of the best examples of how to grow a regional economy intelligently and avoiding much of the problems associated with urban sprawl. Love it or hate it, the urban growth boundary has contributed to the livability of the area and has become a model of sustainable local land use, recognized throughout the world. Don't get me wrong, Portland is not a utopia, it has its share of problems; but on a whole, the transportation system in Portland is quite well thought out and implemented to the benefit of its local citizenry. We also take advantage of some of the country's lowest electric rates, courtesy of the Bonneville Dam, which is essentially a giant solar collector if you consider how the water gets to the dam. So with the combination of intelligent urban planning, a cooperative population, a relatively cheap power supply, and a wide variety of mass transit options, Portland is one of this country's best examples of how to make things work.
To attribute the decline of rail transit primarily the shenanigans of National City Lines/GM/Standard oil shenanigans is an overly simplistic analysis which overlooks other significant factors: 1) Most urban/interurban electric rail lines were financially marginal operations. The combination of the increasing popularity of the automobile and the Depression caused many companies to go out of business in the 1930s. Seattle's trolleys were gone by 1939. 2) Many electric rail companies were corporately affiliated with electric utilities which provided much of the funding for operations and capital improvements. In the mid-1930s, Congress passed legislation requiring electric utilities and rail lines to be separated, thus depriving the transit companies an important source of funding. 3. After World War II, city officials, businesses and many transit companies themselves considered trolleys to be outdated and buses to be modern transportation. Additionally, buses did not have the costs of track and overhead and were cheaper to operate than single-car trolleys. 4. Many rail lines were built more to promote real estate development than to provide transportation. When the developments were completed and automobiles became popular there was much less reason to have the rail line. 5. City traffic engineers also wanted trolleys out because they interfered with traffic flows.
There are several sources, both academic and non-academic, that refer to the idea of a conspiracy, both pro and con: Bianco, M. J. (1998). Kennedy, 60 Minutes and Roger Rabbit: Understanding conspiracy-theory explanations of the decline of urban mass transit (Discussion Paper 98-11). Portland, OR: University of Portland, Center for Urban Studies. Cudahy, B. (1998). General Motors and mass transit...again. Transportation Quarterly, 52(1), 24-26. El-Nasser, H. (2007, January 10). Cities rediscover allure of streetcars. USA Today. Retrieved July 20, 2009, from USA Today Web site: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-01-08-streetcars_x.htm. Matus, P. (1974, September). Street railways: âU.S. versus National City Linesâ recalled. The Third Rail. Retrieved December 30, 2006, from The Third Rail Web site: http://thethirdrail.net/9905/agt1.htm. Slater, C. (1997). General Motors and the demise of streetcars. Transportation Quarterly, 51(3), 45-66. Snell, B. (2001, September 10). The streetcar conspiracy: General Motors deliberately destroyed public transit. Retrieved April 3, 2012, from LoveEarth Network Web site: www.lovearth.net/gmdeliberatelydestroyed.htm. Zearfoss, C. (1998). Rebuttal to "GM and the demise of streetcars". Transportation Quarterly, 52(1), 15-23. Two books on mass transit that I've enjoyed reading are Fischler (cited above) and Brian Cudahy, "Cash, Tokens and Transfers: a History of Mass Transit in North America". Fordham University Press, 1990. Note that the Snell article is not the original 1974 report to Congress; that can be found at the end of Fischler's book. That article also refers to an earlier article, published in 1994 in the New Electric Railway Journal, which I have been unable to find online.
Before I get to the main subject, I'd really like to see two of SmartPlanet's writers weigh in on this article as commenters, not necessarily as contributors: Christina Sherwood, the author of this article, and Tyler Falk, who writes about cities for SmartPlanet. When I was growing up in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, my city had trolley buses--or "trackless trolleys"--until I was seven or eight. They were clean and quiet, but they were useless if a traffic accident necessitated a detour or a street needed to be closed for maintenance. Hence the switch to buses in the late 1950s (see http://oldwilmington.net/oldwilmington/transportation_1.htm). Now to address the GM issue. The companies accused of conspiracy were: GM, which manufactured the buses; Firestone, which manufactured the tires; and Standard Oil, which provided the fuel. The Bradford Snell report to Congress (1974), which detailed the conspiracy, is presented in Stanley Fischler's book, "Moving Millions: an Inside Look at Mass Transit" (Harper & Row, 1979). Fischler states that Alfred Sloan, in order to increase GM's automobile sales, bought out and closed streetcar companies, changing to what he called "inferior bus service", and that inferior service caused former transit customers to buy their own cars. That, in a nutshell, is the conspiracy story. I'll offer some sources in my next comment.
Cities in the Netherlands, like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, have always upgraded their 'tram' infrastructure and materiel. They also have buslines everywhere and Ams and Rdam have a subway system, too. Apart from the many streetcars on rails, very often with their dedicated lanes, only used by trams, buses, taxis and emergency vehicles, there are trolley buses in the city of Arnhem. Like trams they have an overhead power line that they make contact with, but unlike trams they have wheels with rubber tires and they can sway left to right, when necessary, without the presence of rails. Amsterdam now has its experimental, articulated electrical buses, too.
If you mean that LA is trying to fund a kitschy tourist streetcar, that may be true, but Los Angeles already has two light rail and three heavy rail subway lines running under its downtown. The two light rail lines also run above ground through parts of the city, and beyond, and recent added funding will push up the timetable so that the "subway to the sea" light rail will be completed within the next decade.
Nice article. For what it is worth, Portland has had light rail in place since the 1990s. It is good to see at least some city expanding. Now if you could only convince Los Angelinos............
The author failed to mention the line Houston has had in place since 2002, or before. It is very effective, comfortable and has a large amount of people who use it. It connects all the downtown business with the Medical Center and is being expanded Southward to the Reliant Center / 610 Loop regions. Although I no longer live in Houston, I have friends and my grown children who use it several times a week. It is great to have in times when gas prices are on the rise, wind power is being expanded and anything to reduce greenhouse gases is needed. Without a solid, affordable electric car with the necessary power stations emplemented, the streetcar, and use of interurbans also, is a very logical form of transportation. And, streetcars are not so rigid as one thinks. They are very viable and they do not eliminate the use of the streets for other traffic. The Siemens system used in Houston is very efficient and blends well with other means of transportation.
> Whatâs more, streetcars can protect the environment. âIf you have clean electrical energy > sources and feed them into the tram system,â Condon said, âit is greenhouse gas zero.â Hardly. It just moves the gas generation out of town, to the site of the coal-burning electrical generation plant.
re Unlike light rails, which often transport passengers between suburbs and cities, streetcars are more like intercity (sic ?)circulators specializing in shorter trips. should be Unlike light rails, which often transport passengers between suburbs and cities, streetcars are more like intracity (thus) circulators specializing in shorter trips. Philip Bradfield living near Ediburgh (they are re-introducing a limited service : trams to the airport (next to which the railway to Fife already runs!) - see local opinions)
Being an old fart, if I remember correctly it was GM & Goodyear that conspired to buy up streetcars/trolleys and bankrupt them. They raised prices, cut service, until folks gave up on them. They were found guilty in court and paid a fine. Big deal. If they start throwing the CEO's in jail this stuff will stop on Wall Street.
Streetcars are nice. Streetcars are efficient. That's all good. The trouble with streetcars is that needs, neighborhoods, routes change over time. As the city evolves the need to move people from one place to another remains but the places change as neighborhoods spring up and decline and business moves to different areas. Since the streetcar operates on tracks it is very hard and expensive to move when it no longer takes people where they need/want to go. Buses are a whole lot less glamorous but the routes can be changed to meet changing transportation requirements without much cost. This is why over time streetcars will always lose.
LA was ground zero for the most public scandal, but nearly every street car system was killed by the same corruption. It was happening across the nation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_American_streetcar_scandal
I don't even need to know anything about Milwaukee to pick out the holes in your logic. Common sense tells you that transit powered by electricity cuts down on emissions. Twelve U.S. cities are bringing back streetcars because they are clean and efficient. The prvate sector funds things to make a profit from them. This is for the public good and will do fine with public funding. I have a secret for you. You can heat streetcars in winter. If you think most people are driving their cars in Europe and not using transit you are living in a fantasy world. Transit is not a pipe dream, and streetcars are not toys. But you are a grumpy old man with an axe to grind.
If the 1 Billion $ rebuild of the Marquette interchange in downtown Milwaukee was a such a good idea, then someone in the private sector would have funded it. In fact, every interstate in Milwaukee, yea even Wisconsin, is free - not a single toll transponder or booth to be found! When the private sector is building your roads and interchanges, then we can talk about private industry building other transport like trams, buses, and trains. As long as the public thinks that transportation is worthy of government funding via roads & interstates, then it should think that ALL transport is worthy of government funding, and that includes sidewalks, bike lanes, transit bus & tram services, Amtrak, Metra or the proposed KRM, and everything else that helps people travel and provide economic benefits to their communities.
They sound like true blended transit systems. Finding the right tool for each job. The citizens of many European cities and nations decided to keep their trolley/light rail/rail infrastructure when rebuilding after WW II. Avoiding the trap of the automobile. Generations of grateful citizens have benefited from their forethought.
The Houston light rail suffered from low ridership, high cost and political cronyism. It also disrupts traffic flow and has lead to quite a few train-car accidents due to the confusion it's design created. Ridership was so bad that Metro discontinued many of the bus routes that used to transport people from the Park & Ride lots to their jobs in the Houston Medical Center. They are now forced to take the bus to downtown, walk several blocks to the train stop and take the train down to the medical center instead of just staying on the bus the entire distance. While the extra exercise might be good, it's no fun on a rainy day and adds about a half hour a day to a lot of people's commutes. The money would have been much better spent improving the traffic flow through more intelligent traffic signalling, better designed and improved traffic lanes, etc.
to power them entirely by hydroelectric power if they contract with the Bonneville Power Administration for the electricity.
Still a huge amount more efficient than your car (unless you own a hybrid), and can easily use green/renewable power (which your car probably can't). And they can easily switch to newer electricity sources when they become available--so if a new solar plant opens in the area, that can be your tram power. Can't do that with a car.
Not all cities use coal-fired power plants--not even most. There are many other means of generating electricity that don't require fossil fuels at all and many of the oldest pre-date coal-fired steam generator plants. In the US, the oldest generator plant uses plain, old, water. No burning. No greenhouse gases.
The history is bit more sordid. GM and others replaced the ripped up tracks and tolley companies (they bought up) with bus companies that featured junk buses that broke down ofter enough to spur the purchase of automobiles - which the bus companies also were manufacturing. A conincidence? Not to mention the interest of big OIL. Further, remember all the trolley and RailRoad systems that blanketed the country (so you could take trolleys from Portland, ME down to NYC just by switching between companies) were all built with private money and then destroyed with (GM's) private money. Now the taxpayers are paying for the rebuilding. America the beautiful. Who does your elected rep work for? Not you.
Your argument about buses being superior because of route flexibility is as wrong as it is familiar. In Brooklyn, for example, most bus lines still follow the old trolley routes more than half a century after the streetcars' demise. In Los Angeles, the old streetcar routes are still so sensible that they are being rebuilt for modern light rail and trolley service. The truth is that cities and the travel patterns within them change _very_ slowly, if at all, and the alleged advantage of bus route flexibility is a phantom, logical at first glance but rarely meaningful in practice.
which is why Melbourne has trams /and/ buses--all govt owned, and you use one ticket for all public transport (trams, trains and buses). It's great to go shopping and get a day ticket for all transport, and it's not expensive.
Your notion might be correct for low density areas, but in denser cities fixed rail transportation actually stabilizes neighborhoods and creates more lively business districts at each stop. Denser housing also develops near the lines. Perhaps Portland is an example; Minneapolis certainly is.
In nearly every country but our own, streetcars in one form or another still carry huge numbers of passengers through cities far older than American cities. Subways serve essentially the same purpose, as do the elevated trains in some other cities. Of them all, the streetcar is still the most visible and most easily used transportation system that is also least affected by motor vehicle congestion quite often due to having their tracks separated from normal roadways and in others car owners doing their best to clear the rails before their own car gets struck by a tram. Simply put--you get hit by a tram, it's your fault for being on the tracks. Streetcars, through their 'rigidity', ensure the viability of a community longer than busses--which is why most American cities are now surrounded by huge suburbs and highways are clogged by cars--those busses simply cannot meet the need due to maintenance and fuel costs as well as their dependence on roads 'owned' by congestion.
If you have a high amount of vehicular traffic moving on a regular basis over relatively short distances between two or more points then street cars can be a viable alternative to increased road size and parking associated with supporting more cars. Once you have identified a location were streetcars will have the riders and alleviate traffic congestion related to separate vehicles being used for short distance travel, the next big problem is scheduling. People will not wait 30 minutes for the next streetcar to travel 5 city blocks when they walk it or drive it in less time. Schedules need to be timely. A fact often over looked by municipalities looking at any form of mass transit. Streetcars are by no means a panacea. They are one piece of the transit puzzle. Buses are another option. Street cars or buses can be very cost effective or very costly depending on how they are implemented. As mentioned above, taxpayers need to make sure their money is being spent on the right solutions, not the profitable for a few people solutions.
The backstory of "Who Killed Roger Rabbit" was the true story of what happened to the Redline in LA. My wife, who lived in that very area in the early to mid fifties and used the streetcar extensively, remembers very well the advantages. She didn't know anyone who was happy to see it go...and yes, greed and corruption there and around the country killed the streetcar and has largely kept it from coming back for these sixty-plus years. Finally people are getting their heads on straight and rejecting control by the monied and powerful who only have their own agenda in mind. Great article.
The "scandal" wasn't that GM conspired to put streetcars out of business, but that they conspired to monopolize interstate commerce. That's what they were convicted of. They wanted to make more money, and they bought streetcar lines and replaced them with more economical buses, which they happened to build. GM built (and builds) locomotives, too, so had electric trolleys been more economical, they might very well have monopolized that market rather than converting to bus systems.
Congrats! You can use a Jr. High level resource that's nebulous at best. That was 70-80 years ago. How about adding something intelligent that moves the conversation forward?
one oft-ignored cost of busses--the drivers. Many streetcar/tram systems carry more people per vehicle than a bus, and so need less drivers. But they also cost a lot less per KM to run, and the vehicles and vehicle parts last a longer.
Municipalities are usually not the entities planning and scheduling transit systems. Those tasks are typically performed by separate transit agencies. There are some transit agencies such as OC Transpo in Ottawa, the Charlotte Area Transit System and Detroit's bus system which are city departments, but it is much more common, particularly in larger cities, for transit agencies to be separate from municipalities, in part because they serve areas comprised of many different municipalities. In many cases, 30-minute intervals between buses or streetcars may have nothing to do with municipal or transit agency planning and everything to do with refusal of local or state governments invest sufficiently in transit to provide higher frequencies of service.
They were economical only because the price of fuel was low and they were supplying the busses to themselves at cost. If they were paying fleet prices they may not have changed over.
Building full sized locomotives for conventional rail use would not put them in competition with their own buses.
Hates Idiots is a well-known troll on this site, usually commenting negatively on government around all urban issues. It's best to ignore him/her.
What is a common thread among the destruction of street cars and the current state of mass transit in the USA? Corruption. Everything from the placement of rail and bus stations to the location of rights of way for mass transit is not governed by the best solutions to the problem, but by what is politically acceptable. Any time people propose a major shift in any industry it is prudent for taxpayers to follow the money. We the taxpayers must make sure that the changes being paid for by the taxpayers are the right changes, not the most profitable for the well connected. To use a blanket statement like "Since streetcars were mostly overrun by subsidies for automobiles and airplanes," is to throw out a polically popular punch line and ignore the bigger problem of corruption in our government at all levels.
When a city or town gets it right I am more than willing to offer praise. As I have numerous times here. All too often we the taxpayers end up with poor solutions that become costly white elephants. All you have to do is look at the state of most major American cities to know I am right. The biggest fault with modern urban planning among government entities is the one size fits all mentality. As such urban planning has run in fads over the years with occasional success, but more often failure when a concept is applied to a scenario in a city where it is not the right answer. The current fad is bike sharing. It works great in some areas and should be expanded, but in some areas it runs into a little problem called winter. That is not to say it is a bad idea. But one has to ask is it worth it if the bikes have to be stored 3 months of the year? Is it worth the effort needed to keep the lockup points shoveled out to have it available year round? Large scale bike sharing might not be the right answer for every city. Yet people who raise such honest questions are shouted down. Solutions to a host of issues vary greatly depending on geography, climate, city layout and a host of other factors. It is often as complex as, what works on the west side of a big city might not work on the east side. On a final point. Call me a troll if it makes your day, but it is never wrong for a taxpayer to second guess the motives of people spending millions and sometimes billions of OUR hard earned dollars. NIMBY aside, if a majority of residents think a project is a bad idea for their city yet a government bureaucrat pushes it all the harder, follow the money.