Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools


Are streetcars the answer to our transit and environmental needs?

By Steven Dornfeld

Diers_Twin coverPatrick Condon wants to turn back the clock to the streetcar era.

Condon, an urban planner and professor at the University of British Columbia, says bringing back the streetcar is the best thing cities can do to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases and become more sustainable.

Speaking last week at the University of Minnesota, Condon said most North American cities developed out of the agricultural grid system, in which the land was divided into one-mile-square parcels. Streetcars could easily be added back into cities that developed on a grid pattern and many suburbs could be retrofitted to include them, he said.

Congdon said he came to be a "train nut" late in life, and does not readily identify the older guys "in bib overalls hovering over their train layouts in the basement."

But he argued that cities could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent or more by linking streetcars and higher-density land use. Making communities walkable and bikeable also could help.

One major challenge would be getting public buy-in, Condon said. Half of the public "doesn't believe climate change is a problem."

There is, however, a certain amount of nostalgia for streetcars. Many baby boomers and their parents recall the days when it was possible to hop on a trolley and get to just about anywhere in the Twin Cities area.


Related content
Twin Cities by Trolley