Tacoma Urbanist

Feb. 2, 2008 at 12:28am

Streetcars Trump Buses in Tacoma


Buses vs. Streetcars..


Are buses and streetcars equivalent? Why have more expensive streetcars when buses can certainly perform the rudimentary task of transporting people.

Everett is slated to get streetcars from Sound Transit.

Here is an article interestingly written by the Everett paper about Tacoma's streetcars and why they work better than buses:

Streetcars are better than buses because they attract up to 60 percent more riders, seem to encourage quality urban development and open door for creative funding strategies, Brennan said.

Portland, for example, has seen more than $3 billion in development along its streetcar line since it opened in 2001, including about 6,000 residential units and 4 million square feet of commercial space, according to the Nelson-Nygaard study...

When Tacoma replaced an existing bus line with streetcars, it saw a 500 percent spike in ridership, Everett's consultant said.
Thus, streetcars (in Tacoma's case LINK) are simply more attractive to users.  Buses seem to be something that transportation experts say people should like when they don't.


Then there is the romance factor.  I can't imagine Tony Bennett signing about buses in San Francisco.  Let's revist the song and see how it works.

Here's an excerpt from the original song:

My love waits there in San Francisco
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come home to you, San Francisco,
Your golden sun will shine for me!

I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me
To be where little cable cars
Climb halfway to the stars!
And the morning fog will chill the air

Here's the bus version of the same song:

I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me
To be where large diesel buses
Climb halfway to the stars!
And the morning fog will chill the air

See?  Its just isn't the same. 

Here's Tony Bennett demonstrating just how attractive and romantic streetcars are singing I Left My Heart in San Francisco.  I just don't think the song would have been such a classic had Mr. Bennett been singing about a bus.





Bonus Flashback for Urbanist readers : Tony Bennett and Judy Garland sing the song in 1963.

 


Final commentary:

The only song I can think off hand of that refers to a bus is the simplistic song "Wheels on the bus go round and round" and Weird Al Yankovic's song "Another one Rides the Bus."

The first song is a child's song.  The second is a disparaging song about bus riding.

Final Bonus for reading this long post:

Here is the video "Another
One Rides the Bus" from Weird Al.




Tony Bennett (Streetcars) or Weird Al (Buses).  You decide.

comments [18]  |  posted under tacoma, washington

Comments

by jenyum on 2/2/2008 @ 8:30am
There are people who would never dream of riding a bus who would happily ride a streetcar. There is something about buses that many Americans regard them as only a last-resort method of transport. I'm not sure why this is, but it is. They're not remotely equivalent in terms of public perception.

by Erik on 2/2/2008 @ 10:42am
There are people who would never dream of riding a bus who would happily ride a streetcar. There is something about buses that many Americans regard them as only a last-resort method of transport.

Yes. Much to the dismay of traffic planners. That is apparently true even though LINK is free so its not just an issue of being able to afford something else.

It may be that streetcars seem to be more ontime, more safe and cleaner than buses and the atmosphere is different. Who knows.

by morgan on 2/2/2008 @ 3:44pm
Bus companies across the country realize that they can only reach so many people and that there is a high percentage more people taht would like to use mass transit, except they don't want to take a bus. I think the perception that buses are a last resort method of transportation is based in realisty: for many people, buses are the only way to get around. Another phsychological aspect of streetcars is that the route is fixed - you can see it in the street. This has a way of cementing the route in poeple's minds as well - somehow it's more reassuring. Just ask the developers in Portland!

by morgan on 2/2/2008 @ 3:45pm
...where's the edit button when you need it!?

by Erik on 2/2/2008 @ 3:50pm
This has a way of cementing the route in poeple's minds as well - somehow it's more reassuring. Just ask the developers in Portland!

Maybe it makes the destination of the journey more predictable, and thereby, more valuable. Its easy to get on the wrong bus. Hard to get on the wrong LINK.

...where's the edit button when you need it!?

There is supposed to be a 15 minute period to edit posts before they become permanent. But its not always there.

by urbanX on 2/2/2008 @ 10:29pm
wow. i'm always amazed at Al Yankovich. Not only does he write super clever ridiculous lyrics that match the music he is spoofing and rhyme well, but then he sings on key while mimicking whatever performer's style too. With an accordian and the help of an assistant beating on a box and squeeking horns he does a fine job of reproducing the song that took 4 of Rock and Roll's elite to do.....
Ok, thoughts on street cars. Why are modern street cars not more stylish? They sort of look like buses....also I would like to see any future street cars built on a a low tech pully system like the old cars. Would most likely greatly reduce the carbon footprint and cost too. In many 3rd world countries they are finding low tech means to do the same things we do, just as well but with little cost and little environemental impact plus more sustainability.

by Erik on 2/3/2008 @ 1:35am
wow. i'm always amazed at Al Yankovich. Not only does he write super clever ridiculous lyrics that match the music he is spoofing and rhyme well,

I didn't know you were such a Weird Al fan or I would have posted much more on him.

They sort of look like buses....also I would like to see any future street cars built on a a low tech pully system like the old cars. Would most likely greatly reduce the carbon footprint and cost too.

Wouldn't such a pulley system still take electricity to run like modern streetcars?

by Brotha E. on 2/3/2008 @ 2:15pm
[IMG]i244.photobucket.com/albums/gg8/Brotha_E...]
seems like an unfair pic of the bus. Im sure if Austin can get away with it than I don't see why Tacoma thinks we wait 20yrs to get a rail system.

by Brotha E. on 2/3/2008 @ 2:16pm
Guess that didn't work quite like I thought it would.

by Brotha E. on 2/3/2008 @ 2:19pm
i244.photobucket.com/albums/gg8/Brotha_E...
Try this one.

by NineInchNachos on 2/3/2008 @ 5:34pm

need to use real html formatting. exit133 is where you use the lame bb style tags

even so, the problem with the fake-streetcar-bus is that they are super cheesy.

by NineInchNachos on 2/3/2008 @ 5:38pm
Tacoma has some pretty amazing buses. They are comfortable and accommodate wheel chairs and baby strollers, walkers / grocery baskets etc.

The link is a neat little setup. Would like to see it expanded.

by NineInchNachos on 2/3/2008 @ 5:48pm
weird al is one of my childhood heroes.




by Erik on 2/3/2008 @ 6:01pm
[IMG]i244.photobucket.com/albums/gg8/Brotha_E...]
seems like an unfair pic of the bus. Im sure if Austin can get away with it than I don't see why Tacoma thinks we wait 20yrs to get a rail system.


I have seen glorified bus but haven't seen it work very well. Buses are no doubt still going to play a role. However, they can't fill the role of a streetcar.

by Brotha E. on 2/4/2008 @ 8:49am
I get the whole cheesy thing opinion, I get the whole it will spur development along the fixed line routes. One thing I don't get is why there is no consideration for costs. Most of you won't even be around to enjoy the benefits of a fixed rail line extending out to TCC or McKinley, City officals will move on to bigger and better things leaving us to hold the bag, and just think of the cost my children will have to pay for the next 20yrs after completion of a link extension. Im not proposing a permanent solution by using buses but wouldn't it work for a pilot project until we know there will be enough participation or the routes are correct. We can't even agree what streets would be used to bring this up the hill. I hear the criticism already, why did they use Stadium way and not Broadway, Why loop around Jst and not Yakima. All in all it's a great idea and would definitely vote for it but show me how much $ and a time table first. Development can happen without rails in the street I also have seen it first hand in East Austin on Cesar Chavez which reminds me alot of MLK. That's the other thing, why don't we have a Cesar Chavez st yet?

NIN sorry about my formatting but sitting at the computer is a hobby for me not my life's long passion, but i'll work on it.

by jenyum on 2/4/2008 @ 9:14am
Cheesy or not, I also think that if you run one of those fake streetcar buses on a fixed 10 minute route up the hill, say to the Lincoln District (which looks like an urban destination) it would be popular. The throngs of people getting on those things in San Francisco don't seem to particularly care much whether they're the real thing or not. (the real cable pully cars are actually really loud and uncomfortable.) People eat that sh** up. Since the cost is limited to dressing up a bus and altering a bus route, it seems like kind of a no-brainer. A moving advertisement for streetcars! Gets people invested in the concept.

by jenyum on 2/4/2008 @ 9:18am
Oh also, don't call it a bus route. Give it it's own fancy stops with little streetcar signs. Make it reminiscent of San Francisco's "F" line. (Which is a streetcar, but actually pretty bus-like inside.)

by Jake on 2/4/2008 @ 11:00am
"Why loop around Jst and not Yakima."

Thats what I'm saying!