Streetcars: Fast facts

Streetcars: Fast facts
Photo By Maggie Gardner

• Streetcar systems run on fixed steel rails. Most often laid directly in the street, rails also can run in a dedicated median or beside the street.

• Streetcars usually operate in mixed traffic and share a traffic lane with vehicles; they can share sidewalk stops with buses.

• Streetcars are powered by electricity. Typically overhead electrification is provided by a catenary or string wire.

• Streetcars are slow – they run at speeds of 3 to 10 mph. This makes them pedestrian-friendly and lends a traffic-calming effect.

• Most new U.S. streetcar lines start up with about five cars in service; the streetcars run about every 10 to 15 minutes.

• Starter streetcar systems typically average 2 to 3 miles to serve a defined loop, area, or streetcar district. Most cities with new systems in place are planning expansions.

• Fares charged nationally range from a free ride to one-way fares in the $1 to $1.50 range. (Cap Metro's model is a free streetcar, to promote ridership.) Fares cover at most 25% to 30% of operating costs.

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