July 2, 2009

Streetcars: Made in the USA?

I don't normally post on transportation issues, our good friends over at GGW do such a good job on the issues. However once in a while something great comes up I have to share especially when it involves my home state of Oregon. There has been a lot of talk about streetcars and how American cities can emulate the good lessons of Europe's streetcar renaissance, one question has been who's going to build them. DC has some (long delayed) plans to install a single streetcar line, but the cars and technology come from the Czech republic. I was delighted to see however that Portland's new streetcars they have installed are home grown, built by Oregon Iron Works right there in the great Northwest.

An American, Oregonian made Streetcar rolls off the line.

The company was motivated by the good experience with Portland's streetcars, but a little irked that there were no US manufacturers, so they decided just to build their own. I have to say, the cars look just as attractive and convienient as any found in Europe, and doubtless delivering such trams across town has to be cheaper and faster than delivering them half a world away. Such ingenuity and entrepeneurship ought to be applauded and rewarded, perhaps the next streetcar DC buys could be "Made in Oregon?"

Trams are a key component in building a beautiful city in my opinion, they make for safe, clean and quiet transit, quite opposed to the armada's of SUVs and fleets of rumbling buses and trucks*. A city can have proper public spaces only when people, not cars, dominate the public realm, and having effective and attractive ways to get people there is key to that. I'm happy that an American, and specifically Oregonian, company is helping lead the way.

*Trucks need not be part of the city either. Dresden began using street cars to keep trucks from cluttering up their beautiful city, by creating special "freight streetcars" to deliver parts to their new VW plant.

One of Dresden's windowless freight hauling streetcars.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's great news. I smell economic recovery in stories like these. Yo Barak, are you listening?

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