The Debate Begins

Brownstoner wrote a blurb about the proposed revival of trolleys in Brooklyn.  Not much new there.  What was interesting was checking out the comments section, in which a pretty heated debate got going as to whether trolleys were even a desirable new entry to the borough.

The trolley defenders claim

here’s a few of the many positive attributes of a streetcar (in contrast to a bus)

* The capacity per operator is much higher
* Faster loading/unloading is possible
* Tracks create a sense of permanence that is very important for economic development (long-term decisions about store locations etc.)
* The tracks mark where the vehicle goes… much easier to navigate for people who are going somewhere unfamiliar… i.e., no unexpected routes.
* While streetcars have to deal with traffic as well, cars respect the right-of-way of a train on tracks much more than a bus.

There are many many more. AND before the bus-lovers get all up in arms… I’m not saying buses aren’t an important component of a successful transportation system. They most definitely are!

Posted by: tybur6 at August 18, 2009 11:55 AM

But the anti-trolleyites contend:

I grew up in a city with trolleys, and was a daily trolley commuter all through middle school and high school. I speak from first-hand experience about the disadvantages of a fixed-track vehicle on a shared roadway. The point is that it doesn’t take a quagmire to bring a trolley line to a halt. A single disabled vehicle anywhere on the line is all it takes.

And that…

In this time when there is great concern about global warming and our overall energy policy, I think it is downright irresponsible to propose trolleys over buses. The process of distributing electricity is HIGHLY inefficient. Only about one-third of the power that is generated in the central plant is used by the end-applicance, be it a trolley or a washing machine. The rest is lost to heat generated by the resistance of the power-transmission cable.

By contrast, an internal combustion engine is highly efficient. To those who complain about the emissions on the street, I would recommend that they go to a city that has modern buses. I recently travelled to Hamburg, Germany, where most of the trolleys have been replaced by gas-fired buses. They are quiet, and clean.

I agree that the hankering for trolleys is driven mostly by nostalgia, not by rational principles of transportation, engineering or economics.

So what do you think?  Trolleys in Red Hook (or downtown BK or DUMBO or…)- Yay or nay?

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