Relationships Between Streetcars and the Built Environment

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, mode - tram/light rail, land use - impacts, economics - benefits


Built environment, Case studies, Economic impacts, Environmental impacts, Literature reviews, Revitalization, Streetcars, Surveys, Trolley cars, United States, Urban growth


This synthesis documents experience with selected streetcar and trolley projects and their relationship with the built environment. There appears to have been a resurgence of such systems in the United States. Their ability to spur growth and revitalization has not been adequately documented, whereas local potential for changes in land use are often used as justification for investment in them. Policymakers and planners seek a better understanding of how this mode of transportation interacts with the built environment. The report examines selected, built streetcar and trolley systems to trace their evolution, define significant factors, and identify commonalities among levels of success in impacting the built environment. This report presents an initial overview of published literature; a summary of an in-depth telephone survey of 13 of the 14 currently operating U.S. streetcar systems, a 93% response rate; and case studies of five systems with more details on the state of current knowledge and specific relationships of streetcars to their own built environments.


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