Light Rail Jacksonville

Promoting Intelligent Rail and Skyway Transit in Jacksonville

Heritage Trolley Map

Easy to Build Heritage Trolley System Map

Most Streetcar Lines and Museums will swap cars for special events, in this case a Boston PCC car is awaiting passengers in downtown San Francisco, California.

Benefits of Heritage Trolley Lines

Denotes permanence

Investing in the fixed facilities needed for an electric, rail-based trolley system conveys to potential passengers, investors, and visitors that a permanent commitment has been made to provide transportation to the area. This can have important psychological benefits that tend to make positive contributions to urban development. The following is a statement prepared by a transit advocacy group relating to the potential return of light rail to the suspended Arborway streetcar line in Boston:
 “The investment in construction of a permanent way, such as a street railway, conveys a long-term commitment to provide a high quality service now and into the future. Bus options, making no such commitment, are too easily rerouted or curtailed. The presence of such permanent facilities has demonstrated tangible, positive, private sector economic and social spin off effects. Real estate values in Brookline, Milton, and Newton (MA), would be just such an example, as well as the enduring popularity that light rail has in these localities. Often overlooked is the psychological factor where public facilities are concerned. Consider how many government and private institutions conduct their business in structures made of large stone blocks, or other durable materials. This serves to reassure the general public with an appearance of stability and endurance through the ages. No doubt it would have been more cost effective to place several trailers or tin sheds in an asphalt parking lot in lieu of the current Boston City Hall and plaza, but what does it say about our civilization? A streetcar line conveys these same characteristics the public want so see preserved in our public facilities. Streetcar systems can and do function in many places as a mobile traffic calming device, making the streetscape more pedestrian friendly.” – Fred R. Moore, Association for Public Transportation, Saugus, MA, June 2001

Inspires economic development

The permanent commitment demonstrated by the rails and overhead wire conveys to potential investors and residents that transportation will be available. Cities such as Portland, Memphis, and Tampa report strong developer interest along heritage lines, in some cases even before the line has opened. Both residential and commercial developments can benefit from the certainty that rail transit will be available. In Tampa, businesses have been so convinced of the benefits that heritage trolleys will provide that many have made financial contributions to the construction and/or operating costs of the line.
A Tampa report states: “Just the announcement that the [heritage trolley] project was going to be implemented has resulted in heightened development activity all along the corridor. An estimated $800 million in new development is either currently under way or will be under way before completion of construction of the line. This includes approximately 1,600 units of upscale high-density residential development never contemplated at the time that the project was in the development phase.” (See Tampa Thinks Big).
But what about those horrible unsightly wires? Gee, I don't see anything unsightly in this Memphis scene, do you?

Provides mobility in a downtown area

People enjoy riding streetcars and can be lured from their automobiles by reliable, frequent service on heritage trolleys. Motorists are more inclined to park at the edge of a downtown area if they know they can be transported to and from the parking area by an attractive an enjoyable ride on a heritage trolley. For visitors to a downtown, the radius of the area they can visit easily expands considerably if there is visible and frequent streetcar transportation. Workers in the downtown area can find the area available for lunchtime errands or restaurant destinations to be considerably expanded by use of the trolley, and the ride becomes part of the experience.

Attracts riders

Evidence from across North America and around the world shows that many more people will ride rail transit than buses. Anecdotal evidence of this so-called “rail effect” abounds, and the following well-researched study documents the effect over the second half of the 20th century. The results are summarized here, followed by a link to the complete study:
The Transportation Research Board Special Report No. 1221, “Impact on Transit Patronage of Cessation or Inauguration of Rail Service” dated 1989, and authored by transportation researcher Edson L. Tennsyson concluded the following:
“Because transit use is a function of travel time, fare, frequency of service, population, and density, increased transit use can not be attributed to rail transit when these other factors are improved. When these service conditions are equal, it is evident that rail transit is likely to attract from 34 to 43 percent more riders than will equivalent bus service. The data do not provide explanations for this phenomenon, but other studies and reports suggest that the clearly identifiable rail route; delineated stops that are often protected; more stable, safer, and more comfortable vehicles; freedom from fumes and excessive noise; and more generous vehicle dimensions may all be factors.”
In San Francisco, the 8-Market electric trolley bus line was replaced by 50-year old heritage trolleys, renamed as the F-line, running over the identical route in the mid 1990s by the Municipal Railway of San Francisco (Muni). According to the agency’s own figures, in September 1994, the route 8 trolley bus averaged 5,813 riders per day. By November of 1997, the heritage trolleys on the same route were averaging 7,896 riders per day over the identical route, a 35% increase. Ridership has grown steadily since then and, including the Embarcadero extension, now is reported to exceed 19,000 per day. The Muni is hard pressed to run enough cars to meet the demand. The F-line service is one of the most popular services offered by the agency among both residents and tourists, and other parts of the city are requesting that heritage trolleys be extended to their neighborhoods as well.
This is a 1907 Boston Snowplow, still clearing the track 100 years later, in Maine!

Connects people with history

Using a simple, reliable form of transit from 50 or 100 years ago can bring history to life for 21st century Americans. More than viewing photographs, movies, or reading about transportation in earlier periods, actually using a heritage trolley for transportation can create a far deeper understanding of the experiences of bygone eras. If the heritage trolley line provides an opportunity for historical education as part of the riding experience—by means of photos and descriptions posted in advertising space inside the car, by brochures available for riders to take, by means of interpretive staff traveling on the car, or by special interpretive tours using museum cars—then the riding experience can reach an even more meaningful level.

Can be a first step toward light rail or commuter rail in a metropolitan area

In Memphis and Tampa, implementing a heritage trolley system has been considered a relatively inexpensive and attractive means of demonstrating the viability of urban rail that later could be expanded into a light rail network serving a larger part of the metropolitan area. Careful design of the track and facilities so that they can be used or adapted for light rail can provide important future opportunities.
Click on the link for an article summarizing benefits of the Little Rock heritage trolley system:

Quantified Benefits

Putting dollar figures to benefits has been one of the most desired but elusive pieces of information for those  planning heritage trolley or streetcar systems. Follow this link for a table containing some 

Comprehensive documentation

In late 2006 a thorough study of streetcars and their economic benefits was published by Reconnecting America, with the active participation of this site's sponsors. This book includes the first comprehensive documentation of realized benefits from new generation streetcar systems. It is a must for anyone interested in advancing plans for enhanced urban mobility and economic redevelopment. Order from the Seashore Trolley Museum store, online or direct from Maine.



The street railway was a major catalyst of urban development in the last half of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th. Streetcars provided mobility that enabled workers to reach their factory jobs while living further than walking distance from their places of employment. They enabled growth of suburbs and then brought people to city centers in sufficient density to support the development of department stores, major league sports, large theaters, and even created America's classic amusement parks, where streetcars could take workers on weekends.
But the decline of American cities in the 20 years after World War II was paralleled by the decline of electric streetcars. Paved roads and affordable autos sent workers and often jobs further from downtown, and buses were developed that could transport the few who couldn't afford cars, but consequently helped give public transit a down-market image.
But a renewed interest in America's downtowns, spurred in part by ever-longer commutes on traffic choked arteries, and by the soullessness some found in suburban life, served to reverse that trend. 
Remarkably, the electric streetcar has again emerged as a catalyst that helps encourage redevelopment of often-derelict downtown neighborhoods, but more importantly encourages a density of development that makes the neighborhoods they serve efficient in land use and highly desirable places to live.
Since the pioneering second generation downtown streetcar lines began to appear in the mid-1980s, there has been an ever growing appreciation of the roles they can play in helping focus redevelopment.
This web site and its sponsors are dedicated to sharing information about the streetcar resurgence in America and to providing technical guidance that can help ensure safe and effective employment of streetcar technology in 21st century cities.
Streetcars are energy efficient and the electricity that powers them can be generated from domestic, renewable sources. The permanence denoted by the track installed in street pavement and the power wire erected above encourages developers to concentrate their investments near streetcar lines. The close spacing of streetcar stops means that development can be spread along a corridor, not simply clustered around a rapid transit or light rail station.
The fact that streetcars—be they first generation cars, replicas, or modern designs—can operate in mixed traffic with automobiles and run at relatively low speeds makes them suitable to share urban streetscapes with both pedestrians and vehicles.
Though modern streetcars resemble smaller versions of the light rail cars used in a growing number of cities, the key distinction between the two is that light rail lines tend to bring passengers from suburbs to downtown while streetcars circulate passengers among downtown locations. As well streetcars typically stop every few blocks and operate in mixed traffic while light rail stations are further apart, stations are much larger, and they infrequently share lanes with motor vehicles.
Consequently streetcar lines tend to cost about one-third as much per mile as light rail systems and are much less disruptive to an urban environment as they are built. Streetcars are well suited to carry passengers brought from suburbs by light rail, heavy rail or buses to their destinations throughout a downtown area. This provision of high quality transit for the final part of a passenger's journey makes the entire system more effective.
Though those cities that have pioneered second generation heritage trolley and modern streetcar systems over the past 20 years have been able to cite considerable anecdotal evidence of economic development along the lines, only recently have benefits been quantified. The below table, prepared by Reconnecting America, helps to quantify the impressive record in four cities with new streetcar systems:
Streetcar systems do not necessarily increase the amount of development in a downtown area, but they do make the development much more effective. Neighborhoods along streetcar lines are more likely to be high density, to offer a mix of commercial and residential uses, and imply to developers that they can build higher densities with fewer parking spaces.

Critical Success Factors for a Heritage Trolley Line

Experience of the successful operating heritage trolley lines shows that there are a few critical factors that must be in place for supporters plans to be realized. Those planning new systems should devote considerable time to ensuring that these factors, as summarized below, are in place.

Champion in local government

Perhaps the single most important factor contributing to successful implementation of a heritage trolley line is for a person well placed and well connected in the local government to function as a champion for the project. This person can fill the critical role of winning support from government, business, and community organizations. He or she can also continue to provide momentum to a project when the inevitable roadblocks, setbacks, or other obstacles arise. Without someone filling this role, it is unlikely the resources necessary to implement a project can be obtained, or that the labyrinth of governmental issues can be negotiated.

Sources of capital and operating funding

Creativity and persistence in finding funding for a heritage trolley project is crucial, as there is no dedicated source of funding to implement such projects, as they do not generate sufficient direct revenues to cover their capital and operating costs, and as there is great competition for governmental sources of funding. Successful projects have typically obtained funds from a variety of public and private sources, and have often been very innovative in finding or developing new sources.

Partnerships between government, business, community, and nonprofit organizations

A key factor for most successful heritage trolley lines has been the collaboration of government, business, and nonprofit organizations in creating and operating the line. The wide level of support such collaboration demonstrates has helped convince funding sources to support the line. As well, the wide variety of skills from a diverse group of supporters has helped accomplish the many tasks necessary. The presence of nonprofit groups with willing and skilled volunteers has helped accomplish many tasks at greatly reduced cost. Virtually all heritage trolley lines have benefited from collaboration of different groups to make them successful.


Experience shows that moving a heritage trolley idea from conception to operation can take as long as 10 (or even as much as 15) years, given the need to build support, win approvals, secure funding, and complete construction. Thus when launching a heritage project, it is critical to have a realistic, long term view and to have project supporters who will stay with the project for the duration.
We can win this back. Lets work together to bring back the spirit of 1919. Jacksonville had the States largest Traction (Trolley) system and "The Most Beautiful Streetcar Line In The World." Why not? Lets do it again!