Today, while randomly exploring Kansas City, I walked into Union Station during a Open House event featuring a modern trolley that KC leaders would like to see downtown by 2015. The model on display, courtesy of Kinkisharyo, was a new ameriTRAM designed specifically for American cities wishing to bring back streetcars.
Its bragging points include a 100 percent low floor and an “e-hybrid” system designed to run on overhead power or lithium-ion batteries for up to five miles. Even while operating on batteries it has several security cameras, wireless internet, and lcd information screens. The light weight cars will not necessitate bridge replacement on the proposed routes through downtown Kansas City, and will help to lower the cost of laying track. Because the plans include only routes that are around two miles long, overhead wires are unnecessary, eliminating not only a possible eyesore but also the associated expenses.
Coincidentally, the length of the Loop Trolley in St. Louis is approximately two miles long as well. Could our local streetcar project use the ameriTRAM? Could completely eliminating overhead power help lower the price tag? One of the first things that this blog did was come out against the Loop Trolley project. I still don’t think that this particular implementation is a great addition to our transit system because it does little more than duplicate the coverage of the Metrolink and the 97 Delmar Bus. Other critics have argued that it just connects Blueberry Hill to the Pagent. If the project is perceived as a failure, it could help prevent new investment in more substantial public transit infrastructure in the future. On the other hand, streetcars are awesome, and the potential for this project to spur expansions is too exciting to ignore. To best take advantage of this opportunity, we must make sure that the Loop Streetcar is effective and well received. One easy and substantive way to make this project more legitimate is to use cutting edge technology – the latest modern streetcars. In my opinion, a sleek, modern and attractive streetcar will be even more enticing to the curious pedestrian or motorist than a replica of a historic trolley. I think it’s an option worth considering. The advantages are considerable.