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What a proposed streetcar project could mean for Sacramento.
The current streetcar proposal calls for a 3.3-mile route connecting West Sacramento to Sacramento’s central city at a cost of approximately $150 million. “We call it a starter line because it’s not meant to be the end of the story,” says Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Hansen, who represents the district through which the streetcars would run and is a champion of the plan. “The larger vision is that the system would extend over time.” Expansion possibilities include lines to the Railyards, the Broadway district and along West Sac’s waterfront.
WHO WILL DO IT
The streetcar project is a partnership between the cities of Sacramento and West Sac, RT, Yolobus, Caltrans and SACOG.
EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE
Want to get from a baseball game to the ballet? The streetcar will get you there. “You could definitely go from a convention to Raley Field, or you can have a nice drink at Tank House and jump on and end up at an arena game or concert,” says Hansen. “My view as the first councilmember in 30 years to live in the central city is that by connecting West Sac and downtown, we’ve really given people a smarter way to move and we’re doubling down on smart growth and infill. One thing we know for sure about streetcars is that they tend to drive development along the line. Our goal of adding a lot more housing is going to be supported by this.”
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Critics may balk about investing in a streetcar system, but the history books remind us that streetcars were once commonplace in downtown Sacramento. “Sacramento was built on streetcars, and it’s an important form of travel,” says Hansen, who adds that he has “gotten comfortable with the fact that not everybody’s going to agree” about the project. “We’ve looked at the issues that critics have raised, we’ve double- and triple-checked our work, and we still feel really confident that we’re doing the right thing. So we’re pressing on.”
IN GOOD COMPANY
Sacramento isn’t the only city interested in streetcars. Portland has enjoyed a modern streetcar system since 2001. And several cities across the country have recently constructed a streetcar system (Atlanta, Kansas City, Tucson, Washington, D.C.) or are working on adding one (Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City).
HANGING UP THE KEYS
For Hansen, streetcars represent a certain kind of freedom. “One of the things that I would love to do is really go car-free. A lot of my meetings or things that I do during the day are in the central city. If I’m wearing a suit or it’s hot, I would like to walk or bike. But sometimes that leaves me a sweaty, disheveled person at the end of the jaunt. I’d love to just jump on a streetcar and get there,” says Hansen. “Our whole goal here is to get people to feel comfortable leaving their cars behind—to feel free of the worry of being carless.”