Some officials believe the next step in the city’s transit services is a streetcar system.

The Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization, an organization made up of both city and county representatives, recently reranked its objectives, making the streetcar concept study its top priority.

The study, funded by the city in 2012, was designed to help officials decide if the streetcar option is feasible for residents, said City Commissioner Thomas Hawkins.

It focuses on the possibility of using the streetcar to connect UF, Innovation Square, downtown and surrounding areas.

According to Alligator archives, the study was due to be completed in December.

Hawkins said he isn’t sure when the study will be complete but expects it to be in the near future.

He said a streetcar could be the next, better step in transportation for residents.

“We need to provide something more convenient, comfortable and effective, and a streetcar is that in a way that buses are not,” he said.

The biggest concern Hawkins said he expects is for residents to question the cost, which will be determined when the study is complete.

But he said that inserting the permanent rails for a streetcar could benefit development in a different way than temporary bus stops.

“If you put a streetcar outside (a building), I know it won’t be moved like a bus stop could be,” he said about the permanence of routes.

Brad Pollitt, a member of the College Park University Heights Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory board said the streetcar could help encourage residents to live downtown instead of in distant suburbs.

He said one of the arguments he has heard against the streetcar system is traffic congestion, but he doesn’t think it would be an issue.

As part of the concept study, Regional Transit System developed Route 46 about a year ago to serve as a “pilot program” to simulate a possible route for the streetcar, said Chip Skinner, RTS marketing and communications supervisor.

“We have a circular route more or less to simulate the possible route,” he said. “It’s been performing pretty well.”

[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 1/28/2014 under the headline "Gainesville considers new streetcar system"]

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