This is a fictional, future Eugene Streetcar System Map for 2032 I drew (click here or on the image for a high-resolution version in a new window). It is inspired by the historic street routes in Eugene that gave rise to some of our first commercial districts. In some instances, these routes follow actual, historic routes such as north and south on Willamette Street. Additionally, the former College Crest route was originally, partially located on Friendly Street. Attempts are made to place the streetcar lines and stations in proximity to many present-day commercial districts. A main station would likely be located somewhere along Willamette Street (between 5th and 13th) perhaps adjacent to the LTD bus station. Other options for a main station would be near the Amtrak passenger station at 5th & Willamette or between the Hult Center and Eugene Hilton.
Note: This map is not intended to be a definitive system of routes, rather a concept to encourage additional community conversation & consideration.
Streetcars are domestically produced (Made in the USA). In fact, they are manufactured in Oregon! (see United Streetcar)
The streetcar is not meant to compete with either automobiles or buses. It's another tool in the "transportation tool-kit" for providing a community an additional method of getting around in a clean, reliable, and affordable manner. In this system map, thought is given to try and locate streetcar routes on streets that are not considered "auto-intensive" in an effort to increase safety and minimize potential traffic congestion or "conflict".
This all electric streetcar system could be built in four phases of one-way loops; beginning with a smallest, most vital loop and moving towards larger loops as funding is available and public support/usage is demonstrated. A thoughtfully- sized loop can allow a streetcar to complete a full cycle within a reasonable period of time (approximately 30 minutes) thus providing regular service and requiring only a single streetcar per line or route. In addition, a one way loop requires only a single lane in any given transportation corridor. Ideally, consideration would be given to locate streetcar lines in corridors that possess two lanes going the same direction (so there is an automobile passing lane) whenever possible.
• The first route (the "NE line" indicated in yellow) is 2.1 miles in length and would link downtown Eugene to the UO Campus. It would travel south down Willamette Street, and then turn east to travel along 13th towards campus. It would turn north on Hilyard (through the Sacred Heart Hospital complex) before reaching the already-congested western edge of campus. The route would travel north on Hilyard across 11th and then across busy Franklin Boulevard. It would continue towards the Willamette River briefly before angling northwest to serve both the Federal Courthouse, the EWEB Riverfront properties, and the Willamette River Bike Trails. Finally, the route would pass by the 5th Street Public Market and the adjoining commercial district. The route would travel past the Oregon Electric Station and Amtrak station before turning south onto Willamette Street to finish the loop.
• The second route (the "NW line" indicated in red) is 3.19 miles in length and would also originate in Downtown Eugene somewhere on Willamette. It would start out heading north and next turn west on 5th Avenue towards stops in the Whiteaker Neighborhood. It would continue across Blair Boulevard, and then on towards the edges of West Eugene before turning south on Polk. The route would travel Polk Street for a while before turning east on 13th Avenue and traveling past the Lane County Fairgrounds. At Willamette Street it would turn north to complete the loop. Streetcar passengers who are embarking in the Whiteaker or West Eugene area, whose destination is the UO campus, could transfer at 13th & Willamette to the previously described yellow line to continue on towards the University.
• The third loop (the "SW line" indicated in green) would require construction of 3.73 miles although the route length would be 5.92 miles. This is because it partially shares a track with the previously described NW line. This route would also originate at a main Downtown Eugene station somewhere on Willamette and continues on into the Whiteaker Neighborhood on 5th Avenue. At Polk Street, the line turns south and continues across automobile-intensive 18th Avenue to 24th Avenue where it turns east to Friendly Street. It continues on along the historic College Crest route to 28th and 29th before turning north again on Willamette where it would serve the South Willamette commercial district. The SW line continues north past historic Civic Stadium and along Willamette Street back to Downtown Eugene to complete the loop. (Note: This would require restoring the last remaining stretch of one-way Willamette Street back to a two-way configuration. "Local" automobile traffic destined to the 18th and Willamette commercial district could also continue north here. "Commuter" automobile traffic would continue to take the existing "jog" east off of Willamette Street at E 20th Avenue and onto Oak Street where motorists could continue towards downtown without fear of being "stuck" behind the streetcar.
• The fourth loop (the "SE line" indicated in blue) is 6.57 miles in length, although it would only require construction of 5.37 miles because it partially shares track/corridor with the yellow "NE" line. It would also originate in Downtown Eugene and travel down Willamette Street to the South Willamette commercial district and Woodfield Station. The streetcar would then continue south to 33rd Avenue with a stop near the US Post Office and Fire Station nearby. Some form of Park & Ride facility (with both automobile parking and secure bicycle facilities) might be useful/appropriate near this location. The streetcar would then turn east and travel down 33rd Avenue to Hilyard. It would then turn north, past a commercial district at Hilyard and 30th. An LCC-bound bus stop would ideally be located here. The streetcar continues on past Amazon Park, and Amazon Pool until arriving at 24th Avenue. A streetcar stop located here would serve the existing Hilyard and 24th commercial district. The line would then turn east onto 24th and on to Agate Street where it would turn north. It would then travel past historic Hayward Field and make several stops to serve the UO campus (without disrupting the academic "core"), UO Housing, ORI, and the Matthew Knight Arena. The streetcar would then turn west onto Franklin Boulevard, traveling along the Millrace, before turning north onto Hilyard Street and rejoining the yellow "NE line" route past the EWEB Riverfront properties and the Federal Courthouse and then 5th Street Public Market before finally turning south on Willamette Street and completing the loop.
Overall this future Eugene Electric Streetcar System would require construction of 14.39 miles of track. The 2011 Eugene Streetcar Feasability Study estimated a cost of $17.5 million dollars per mile (depending on multiple factors) for a streetcar in Eugene. The streetcars themselves cost about $3.5 million dollars apiece. Operating costs were estimated to be around $1.1 million dollars per mile. Ideally capital construction costs are supplemented, if not primarily funded, by federal and state grants. Yearly operating costs would need to be sustained through whatever fare and other streetcar revenue generating mechanisms are put in place. Further study on projected cost is needed.
A recent Eugene City Club discussion focused on the potential for a future Eugene streetcar. One question posed was: "What are the differences between streetcars and buses?". Streetcars typically travel at a lower speed and stop more frequently than a bus. Streetcars generally require a stronger roadbed due to their increased weight. An electric streetcar would also require overhead lines to provide power. Representatives from United Streetcar indicated they were investigating a streetcar concept that would be powered by overhead lines, but could also travel without direct power using a battery system for short periods when necessary.
In 2010, the City of Eugene, Lane County, Lane Transit District, EmRail, the Eugene Chamber of Commerce, Travel Lane County, EWEB, the University of Oregon and the Central Lane Metropolitan Planning Organization formed a Eugene Streetcar Feasibility Study Group. The 2011 report is available here.
(Left: streetcar rails on University St. 2010 - Right: streetcar rails on Columbia St. 2010)
The benefits of an electric streetcar system in Eugene would be many. Residents from many of our most central neighborhoods could access the streetcar and conveniently travel to the city core and back in a safe, comfortable, and reliable method of transportation. Existing automobile corridors, bus lines, pedestrian and bike trails, and new and future Park & Ride facilities would "extend" the relative reach of a future streetcar system to Eugene's residents who live father away from the city core.
Additional information on Eugene's historic streetcar lines may be found on the "history" page of the Friendly Area Neighbors website at www.FriendlyAreaNeighbors.org.
The primary challenge to implementation of a local streetcar system are the significant "startup" costs such as planning, street preparation and rail installation, streetcar purchase, station construction, power transmission infrastructure deployment, right of way attainment, and installation of safety, control and communication systems, signage, human resource costs, etc.
Any Eugene Streetcar System would be a serious undertaking and require considerable resources. It's not out "of the ballpark" either though...as has been demonstrated from our neighbors to the north; Portland. As was previously mentioned, many of our early commercial districts sprang up along the historic streetcar lines. It's not unreasonable to consider the benefits that might result from "partnering" streetcars with our commercial districts once again. This in turn supports the residential neighborhoods that rely on nearby businesses and vice versa. Bringing back streetcars to Eugene would surely be a complex challenge however; one that would require significant community conversation and public input. For such an investment, it would be vital such a transportation system is efficient, affordable, and something that enhances the character and livability of our community. It is probably decades away at the earliest, if ever at all. It is an admirable goal however; seeking to provide sustainable, convenient, reliable, & efficient public transportation. It would also support the historic character of Eugene and the streetcars of 100 years ago. Thanks for reading this!
Note : Although the map is to scale, the direction of travel indicated on "bi-directional" streetcar corridors would actually be reversed. On South Willamette for example, the southbound streetcar tracks would actually be on the left "side" of Willamette and the northbound tracks on the right "side", thus requiring the tracks to cross one another.
Another major challenge would be negotiating 2-way streetcar movement past the Hult Center on Willamette Street where there currently only exists a pedestrian pass-through. One idea would be to locate the downtown/main streetcar station between the Hult Center and Hilton hotel as part of the upgrade of the pedestrian-only walkway that would be necessary if streetcars were to travel Willamette Street again. A pair of covered, main platforms would extend towards new entrances to the Hult Center and Jacob's Gallery one one side, and on the other side the Eugene Hilton and adjacent convention space. (Hult-Hilt Station?)
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