Monday, August 31, 2009

Wouldn't it be great to hop a street car?

Jonas Maciunas, a Wethersfield native and graduate student in city planning at the University of Pennsylvania, makes a great case for bringing street cars back to Hartford in an op-ed piece that appeared in Sunday's Hartford Courant. The comment string contains some great points too -- something pretty rare, it's sad to say, for most posts on the Courant site.

Maciunas notes that in 1920, Hartford had more than 150 miles of street car track. Most of it was torn up in the conversion to bus lines in the 1940s. (There's a lot of evidence that the automotive industry used shady tactics to induce cities across the country to do this.) Hartford's near-total enslavement to the car over the past 50 years is not pretty, literally--witness the blocks of often empty blacktop next to the State Office Building, wasting what should be prime downtown building space. Maciunas writes that Hartford land dedicated to parking has nearly tripled since 1960. While I don't quite agree with him that this is a direct reason for the city's drop in population, he's absolutely right that street cars could be an important part of any revitalization plan.