Tacoma may follow the example of Portland and Seattle by starting to rebuild a city streetcar network. Hopefully the momentum will continue to grow.
Relatively inexpensive streetcars could help knit neighborhoods together, reduce pollution and stimulate economic growth, according to a recent feasibility study. It's hardly a done deal:
All of the details still need to be determined, including precise routes, the order in which they would be built, the style of streetcar, and funding.
Streetcars demonstrably meet the goals reportedly outlined in the Tacoma study. The trick is getting enough critical mass to convince naysayers. Portland's system -- which is now a true network of more than 7 miles interlocking with the metropolitan light rail and bus system -- is frequent, reliable and a far more dependable economic-development engine than city bus routes would be. Seattle is building a starter streetcar line that should be a boon to its neighborhood but may be not ambitious enough. To serve a serious role in city transportation it needs to stretch a few miles north (over bridges that need refitting).
The big question is how to finance such systems. Seattle is using a mix of city transportation funds and neighborhood taxes. Portland uses a tax increment system that Washington doesn't widely allow. Taxing sectors of the city that would benefit, with the rates declining according to distance from the route, may find less opposition.