Officials will soon launch a new study on the potential costs and benefits associated with building a streetcar line in Oakland (a city which, in the interest of full disclosure, this writer hella loves). This isn’t the first time The O has looked at bringing back rail, but the lack of any viable funding plan means the cars won’t be rolling any time soon.
The idea is to lay rail down a corridor roughly from MacArthur BART to Jack London Square via Broadway – backers promise that the permanency of the rails and catenary would then encourage economic development along the corridor in a way that a bus line could never do. The streetcar corridor would also link established employment centers including Kaiser and Alta Bates Summit Medical Center to BART, Amtrak, and the ferry terminal, as well as the future East Bay Bus Rapid Transit service.
Currently Broadway is served by a number of AC Transit lines as well as the popular Free B shuttle. The shuttle is, as the name implies, fare-free, and operates on an annual budget of nearly $770,000. It is claimed to result in nearly $10 million in purchases for merchants along the corridor, but streetcar backers have their eyes on an even bigger prize – they hope to replicate the success of Portland’s groundbreaking modern streetcar line, which has reportedly resulted in billions of dollars of development in that city.