Janette Sadik-Khan, Commissioner of Transportation of the City of New York, is in Toronto tomorrow to celebrate Earth Day and to see a Toronto icon that she wants to bring back to the Big Apple: the streetcar. “I’m very jazzed about my visit,” Ms. Sadik-Khan said today from her New York office. “The streetcar program is something that I’m looking at here. We threw away our streetcars, and you kept them. I think it’s a great economic development tool.”I don't think that New York should adopt the streetcar model of Toronto exactly. For one thing the single cars are more like buses instead of the sleeker more comfortable european trams that can be of greater size due to modular designs. You would lose out on some of the benefits of greater capacity and energy usage. Toronto is currently looking to replace the existing vehicles so we'll probably see them make the switch soon as well. Also it's likely that a dedicated lane for streetcars will be necessary to make the lines even more efficient, something Toronto is starting to do.
Perhaps we'll see some sort of study soon. And perhaps New York can look to some of Scott Bernstein's ideas on using funding from electric companies to bring them to scale. Not everywhere, but on a few key routes that could use the capacity.