Transit Performance of Modern-Era Streetcars: Consideration of Five U.S. Cities

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, mode - tram/light rail, operations - performance, economics - profitability


transit performance, streetcars


This study examined the transit performance of streetcars in five U.S. cities: Little Rock, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; and Tampa, Florida. The study documented strong and weak performing streetcars and identified the factors that might explain variation in streetcar performance. Portland emerged with the highest ridership and was the most productive and second-most cost-effective streetcar city. Portland’s stronger transit performance was attributed to its local setting and to its planning and operating decisions, which emphasized the streetcar’s role as a transportation investment and development tool. This approach contrasted with the other cities, where development and tourism objectives were the dominant factors in streetcar decision making.


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