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Streetcar line will boost transit, link river cities

The Dallas Area Rapid Transit streetcar made its public debut last month. Streetcar lines are making a comeback across the country.
The Dallas Area Rapid Transit streetcar made its public debut last month. Streetcar lines are making a comeback across the country. The Dallas Morning News

After 25 years of conversation and planning, the return of streetcars to our city is now in the hands of a small group of voters who live near the proposed route.

Through Measure B, this partly federally funded project will reunite Sacramento’s midtown and downtown neighborhoods, and meaningfully connect Sacramento and West Sacramento for the first time in nearly a century.

Across the country, streetcar lines are being built as part of an investment strategy. In Sacramento, streetcars will shape and stimulate economic development, providing an estimated 12,000 new jobs, and enrich the lives of Sacramento residents who live in or visit midtown and downtown.

The streetcars will also get drivers out of their cars, reducing traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. Streetcars will provide an inexpensive, safe and fun way to get around Sacramento, and will allow seniors, students, visitors, workers and central city residents to go car-free.

You’ll be able to ride it for $1 and relax without having to fret about your meter or tickets. Better yet, you’ll be able to use light rail or bus to get to the streetcar and ride for free.

The planned streetcar starter line is a missing piece of our regional public transit system.

Streetcars are the key to reducing traffic and improving parking, which are already a challenge in many midtown and downtown neighborhoods. As midtown becomes a more popular destination for dining and nightlife and as downtown adds more housing, we need a better and affordable means of public transportation. Streetcars are the answer.

The economic benefits are promising. According to an independent report published by Strategic Economics in Berkeley, the streetcar will generate between $856 million and $1.5 billion in West Sacramento and between $1.9 billion and $3.8 billion in Sacramento by the year 2035. That also translates into between $21 million and $37 million in new tax revenue for West Sacramento and between $38 million and $77 million in new tax revenues for Sacramento.

Streetcars are part of Sacramento’s legacy, and it’s time we bring them back. The city’s neighborhoods were built on streetcars crisscrossing the city. As recently as the 1950s, streetcars connected Sacramento homes and businesses, providing affordable, efficient and reliable transportation. Unfortunately, streetcars across the country fell victim to the auto industry, as cars became the preferred form of getting around. It’s time we remedy that mistake.

The project is also a great deal for Sacramento. Of the $150 million construction cost, we are applying for a $75 million federal grant and also hope to get $10 million from the state. Only $7 million would come from the city of Sacramento; West Sacramento is putting in $25 million and Sacramento County $3 million.

In an advisory vote earlier this year, property owners strongly voted in favor of taxing themselves to support paying a portion of the streetcar cost. Measure B is meant to implement that vote.

Senior housing and affordable housing will pay nothing. Other residential properties will pay as little as $3 to $5 a month. In fact, all residential properties in the tax assessment district will pay less than 0.5 percent of the cost for this project.

Neighborhood leaders, community leaders and property owners urge you to vote “yes” on Measure B. Help Sacramento construct an affordable and practical system that will connect our neighborhoods and kick-start widespread economic development. Let’s get people out of their cars, creating a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly urban core.

Steve Hansen represents District 4 on the Sacramento City Council, including the central city and Land Park.

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