West Main Streetcar

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

June 28, 2005

As Charlottesville grows by leaps and bounds, so does the traffic. However, the Thomas Jefferson Planning Commission has come up with a new plan that they said will attract more people to public transportation. This new mode of transportation is faster and more modern than a city bus.

"Charlottesville's quality of life is threatened by traffic," said Alia Anderson of the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation (ACCT). This is one of the many reasons why the Planning Commission is looking into putting an urban streetcar system in for the Main Street corridor.

"Streetcars are used inside a city to connect destinations and create vitality" said Anderson. ACCT has taken on the project to figure out if this new mode of public transportation would make Charlottesville a more vibrant place to live and visit.

Much like a modernized city bus, a streetcar runs on an overhead wire and rails in the ground. Officials said if it is approved the streetcar rails would stretch from Water Street through West Main and all the way down to the Corner and Jefferson Park Avenue.

Since that is one of the Charlottesville Transit Service bus routes it could mean bus transportation could be a thing of the past. It also depends on if the city approves it.

"I don't think the city is ruling out the possibility," said Tony Edwards, a city engineer. As long as the city can get plenty of funding, since the project would cost roughly 11.9 million dollars per mile.

"It's terrific to be educating and pushing this one technology...but I'm not real sure about the technology or routing, and that's really what a study has to accomplish," said Harrison Rue, the Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning Commission.

The next step is a more in depth comprehensive technical feasibility study to find out how the city can make the streetcar a part of our community.

Charlottesville isn't the only city trying to modernize public transportation. Experts say Portland, Oregon, and Tacoma, Washington have streetcar systems running through their cities, and they are thriving.

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