Thursday, December 17, 2009

Street cars in Rockford, Il

So I grew up in the Chicago metropolitan area and now live in Minneapolis. Some of my family in the past few years just moved to Rockford. This city is pretty much in the middle between Madison and Chicago. I have never thought it would come back other than a bedroom community with malls and cookie cutter developments. But Rockford just threw me a curve ball. This is a quote from this article in Rockford Register Star:

Streetcars are returning to cities around the United States. There are classic-looking ones taking tourists to the lakefront in Kenosha, Wis., and sleek, modern ones zipping around Portland, Ore.

They’re catching on so much, even Rockford is taking a look.City officials say a looped streetcar route might be a good way to move residents and visitors around downtown without clogging the streets with cars.

They like that the electric vehicles are energy-efficient and cut emissions. Advocates say they can spur economic development and promote tourism.“It’s a transportation choice that we can’t afford to overlook,” said Steve Ernst, executive director of the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning. “They’re becoming popular, and the technology has gotten to the point that it’s affordable now.”

I really like the way they are thinking about the future.

“If someone gets dropped off at a downtown train station, how do they get from that train station to their ultimate destination?” Morrissey said. “If it worked before everybody had an automobile, maybe it’ll work for us again.”

With a population of 150,000 can this small city turn things around downtown by planning for future commuter rail and that connecting to streetcars downtown? I for one would love to be able to take Amtrak to downtown Rockford and then hope on street cars. Hopefully they keep pushing forward to see if this is a feasible plan.

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