Saturday, May 16, 2009

City Requests Federal Funds For Streetcar On Main Street


Mayor Sebastian Giuliano and the city's Department of Conservation, Planning and Development have submitted an application for SAFETEA-LU (Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Act - A Legacy of Users) for a streetcar line that will run the length of Main Street.

Other communities that have established short-run lines have found them to be so successful that they are soon expanded. City planner Bill Warner cited Lowell and Worcester Massachusetts as nearby examples.

The city will be meeting with leading streetcar manufacturers this month to discuss an engineering feasiblity study.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pinch me!

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised the Mayor would get behind this poor idea.

The idea of a streetcar line on Main Street Middletown is certainly romantic and fun. However, take the time to really observe how cars, car parking, motorcycles and emergency vehicles use Main Street, and also consider what happens during heavy snow conditions and heavy traffic times.

Then - picture a large streetcar on a fixed line placed in the middle of all this. How can you possibly think this system will work?

There are better, less costly, more realistic solutions to dealing with transportation and parking in and around main street - even if they may be a less romantic than the desire for a streetcar.

Anonymous said...

Not all streetcars run down the center of the street. There are many options, and I am sure that there is one out there that will work for Middletown's unique Main St. Let's explore the possibilities before giving up on this romantic but ever so practical and cost effective idea.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous #2,
The point of the streetcar is to CHANGE the way cars use main street! If people visiting town don't have to park on Main Street to access the shops, it will lower the "overuse" of the street.

Anonymous said...

Annon.#2 Here.

I certainly do understand the reasoning behind a Streetcar line: to encourage people to park in parking which is off of Main Street and then having those people use the Streetcar to travel and negotiate Main Street to reach their Downtown destinations, as well as Downtown residents usage for public transport. But I think you are wishfully thinking and not considering the reality of traffic flow as it exists on Main Street Middletown, CT. Open your eyes and take a good look. Heck, go to Amato's and then build a scale model of your vision! Take a good look at that. Also, I wonder if you are considering about how Main Street will likely be in 10 or 20 or 40 years. It will very likely be more congested - More cars, more trucks, more motorcycles, more emergency vehicles. I wonder if you have thought about the upcoming Rt.9 overhaul and the impact that would have. Will these Streetcars stop at Washington Street? How will the very busy Highway section of Main Street (The North End) deal with a Streetcar line with it's already saturated traffic usage? Take a look at plans on the drawing board by the DEP for the Rt. 9 overhaul, especially the potential closing of Exit 15 and more especially the on and off ramp that will spill traffic directly where the entrance to the Arrigoni Bridge is. As to where a Streetcar will run down Main Street; In the center or in either the interior or exterior lane of either side of the street - what makes you think that a streetcar will create less of a traffic bottleneck no matter which line of the street it runs on? I love trains and Streetcars, and I think the vision of transportation lines between cities is an idea worth considering, but supporters of this Multi-million dollar Streetcar project are filled with folly.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 2 again - Please replace "DEP" with "DOT" in my last post - (CT Dept. Of Transportation).

Thank You.

Anonymous said...

Look at the rousing success of the "streetcar-like" bus that used to rumble thru town.Ever seen one full? Heck, even the MAT buses are usually empty.
Federal funding for this folly, and other useless feel-good projects, is an insult to the American taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

Re:Anonymous 11:16
What "off Main St. parking"? You mean all the metered stalls off Broad where the Parking Nazis eagerly wait for the red flags to pop up? Or the pay-to-park garage?
The only free parking is behind the courthouse.Sounds like the Parking Authority is behind this one.

Anonymous said...

Likely the streetcar will displace parking. Anyone coming from the immediate downtown area will find parking more difficult (which will soon become more difficult with the sellout of the parking lot at Main & High) and take their buisness elsewhere. Why would anyone going out, say to dinner want to ride a streetcar with the lowlives that inhabit Main Street?

If it is such a great idea Middletown should pay for it. If the voters want it let, them pay for it.

What about spending the earmark money we got from Washington for downtown parking? The parking lots are in deplorable condition and an embarassment!

Pearse said...
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Pearse said...
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Pearse said...

Some thoughts on the streetcar/tram/trolley issue:
First the way I envision it, a modern streetcar will run the length of Main Street, stopping to pick up pedestrians at dedicated, well-designed locations. This streetcar will be connected to (or in close proximity to) two parking lots (one at the south end, one at the north end of Main Street).

Because our Main Street is four lanes wide and is used as an interchange for three state highways -- 66, 17, and 9, it accommodates a high volume of traffic. This is how the merchants wanted it when the highways were built: no traffic would mean no shoppers. But the way we travel is being forced to change. We have become completely dependant upon the automobile and our current struggle is to break this addiction. This dependency has led to our current parking problem. The trolley would help to solve this problem for both Middletown residents and those who choose to shop here from out of town. For Middletown residents who need to run errands all along Main Street quickly, the trolley would present a way to get from one end of Main Street to the other and back to your car in a timely manner; and for out-of-towners, our Main Street would have a much greater parking capacity because of the additional trolley station lots.

I recall a mayoral debate during which our current mayor, Mr. Giuliano, brought up an anecdote to show the way people think of our Main Street. He said he once went to a sporting event where the halftime show included a man who claimed he could tell you one thing about any town in Connecticut. Mr. Gulianno asked what he knew about Middletown CT. The man replied, "Middletown has the widest Main Street". Middletown is known for having a spacious central corridor, and I would argue that this is another reason our Main Street is clogged with through traffic. I believe that if the tram were to reduce the width of the street to 3 lanes, the result would be less through traffic from the state highways. This would not necessarily mean less commerce however, as the tram would provide a boost to the local economy.

Also in response to a point made by Anonymous 2, I have been informed that the Route 9 redevelopment has been postponed/indefinitely. It will probably go back to the drawing board. See: http://mdrpb.blogspot.com/2009/03/route-9-improvements-update.html

Another Anonymous person wrote:
“Look at the rousing success of the "streetcar-like" bus that used to rumble thru town.Ever seen one full? Heck, even the MAT buses are usually empty.”

The problem with most buses that are used as a replacement for streetcars (running up and down Main Street) is that they are simply not as convenient as the street level streetcars that are common these days. These new streetcars are very easy to board, which is a huge advantage when thinking about shoppers and those with physical handicaps. Instead of having to climb onto a bus, shoppers can simply enter the streetcar at the same level, which makes the shopping experience much more attractive.

Another anonymous writer asked:
“What "off Main St. parking"? You mean all the metered stalls off Broad where the Parking Nazis eagerly wait for the red flags to pop up? Or the pay-to-park garage?
The only free parking is behind the courthouse. Sounds like the Parking Authority is behind this one.”

Frankly, I support people being charged to park in the downtown. The way our society subsidizes car-based transportation is ridiculous, and in these tough times our city can use any money it can get. Will being charged for parking seriously put off people? Perhaps there could be a program that couples a parking fee with a ticket for the trolley or a main street E-Z pass of sorts that allows free parking in the lots and use of the trolley.

In conclusion, I hope I’ve convinced you that the streetcar/tram/trolley idea has merit. Thanks for your time.

NOBO said...

I'm a bit of a skeptic. Malls became popular for several reasons, two of which were FREE PARKING and eliminating the need to go out into the elements shopping from store to store. I don't see the street car competing with this. I DO see a stepped up ticket writing campaign to subsidize this fiasco though.
Wide as it is, Main St. would be a horror show if it lost a lane.

joseph getter said...

I'm in favor of reducing the number of cars moving through our downtown, and I believe that will make for a more pleasant social and shopping environment.

Have a look at this article, about how Broadway in New York has been closed to vehicular traffic in some short stretches: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/26/arts/design/26clos.htmlOther cities have successfully changed their car culture, and we can, too.

Ridge Road Resident said...

For anyone interested in transportation issues, there was a wonderful documentary on PBS last week http://www.pbs.org/wnet/blueprintamerica/reports/road-to-the-future/overview/549/

How can we make this happen in Middletown? How can we make this happen in Connecticut? These are things we need to think about going forward.

Eye Spy (Anthony R. Lancia, Jr.) said...

My position would be to first do a thorough study of the traffic that currently exists on Main Street and what affect if any a trolley may have, chances are most of Main streets traffic is that of people whom are passing through not stopping in to shop.
Parking is more the issue than transportation up and down Main street, being able to park curb side has a very inviting appeal to it.
Main street is technically six lanes wide and one of the widest in the Nation and should not be disturbed for that reason alone, it holds Historical value to the City.
As far as the merchants go and the theory of having traffic lights on Route 9 to attract customers, I would have to say that this may have been one of the biggest blunders ever proposed and acted upon and haunts us to this day.
If a trolley should be considered then my suggestion would be to look at parking toward the River road area, and putting a trolley along the current railroad tracks the length of Dekoven and up to Hartford in the future.
This would address mass parking issues and allow shoppers to have a view of our future WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT that the City has been building for the past 10 years.

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

I don't quite understand the fear of trolleys. Truth is car manufacturers lobbied to rid the country of its magnificent trolley network so it could sell more cars. We now see how much foresight they had.

The positive impact of a trolley line, even one this short, far outweighs any slight negative impact. Read this http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=505120.

In fact if we could be the first city to re-introduce a trolley line, we would have people (families) driving to Middletown just to ride the trolley.

Anonymous said...

I've been to about 20 different countries throughout Europe. Almost every city has a tram or trolley and their street are nowhere near as wide as Middletown. They are convenient, cheap, have no problems sharing the streets with autos, and are fun to ride. If Middletown would put in such a system it would increse tourist traffic to town. I hope Middletown takes this proposal seriously. It would be a boon for the town.