Factors That Influence Urban Streetcar Ridership in the United States

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - tram/light rail, place - north america, ridership - demand, ridership - drivers, ridership - growth


streetcar, United States, ridership drivers, feeder rail, residential accessibility


Some streetcar lines, which were designed to serve as urban circulators, have been completed in the past 15 years in the United States. Many more lines are in either the implementation or planning stage. Much literature on the forecasting of fixed-guideway ridership focuses on light rail or regional rail lines that primarily serve commute markets, which are far different from the travel markets served by these new streetcar lines. The research reported in this paper sought to improve the understanding of the factors that influenced urban streetcar ridership. Extensive data on ridership, station area characteristics, route configuration, transit network connectivity, and special generators were collected for modern streetcar lines in Portland, Oregon, and in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. Regression models were used to measure the influence of different variables on ridership. Three models for urban streetcar ridership, with adjusted R-squared values that ranged from .74 to .76, are presented. Variables found to have a statistically significant influence on streetcar ridership included feeder rail, retail and residential accessibility, distance to closest station, free stations, start-of-line stations, and special generators (e.g., hotels, colleges, hospitals and entertainment centers).


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.