To manage traffic issues in Gainesville, some residents and city officials are desiring a new solution: a streetcar.
The Gainesville City Commission and the Regional Transit System are overseeing a study on a streetcar system that could potentially help traffic flow.
The study, which will be conducted by Tindale-Oliver & Associates Inc., will cost the city about $100,000 and will come from the city’s general funds, said RTS Marketing and Communications Supervisor Chip Skinner.
The study will run until December and will detail “what kind of vehicles, preferred routes, possible fares, and how many miles of track or roadway we will be resurfacing,” he said.
The final cost for inserting and operating the streetcar will be determined after the completed study, Skinner said, and funding could include government assistance.
“Federal government would probably look at a match, meaning there would be local tax money going into the project,” he said.
Although the study is in its earliest stages, Skinner said, the ultimate goal is to limit the amount of traffic between campus and the downtown area.
“Come December, we’ll have a better idea of exactly what we’re looking at,” he said.
Some residents have voiced opinions that the cost of the study outweighs possible benefits.
Gainesville resident Matthew Webster said he fears the cost of the study and streetcar system could snowball out of control.
“My concern is that eventually the operational costs and infrastructure costs will be passed on to the taxpayers” he said. “That’s a bigger crowd than you’d think. Students get taxed, and builders and developers would get taxed, too.”
While Webster said he recognizes some benefits the streetcar could deliver, he said the financial consequences are risky.
“I think the good for it could be some economic development,” he said. “Developers will bank that there will be a transit route in front of them. But at what cost?”
Webster said UF students should also consider the possible effect the streetcar system could have.
“What’s going to happen to the RTS fees that are part of the tuition?” he said. “How much more will you have to pay down the road?”
Area resident William Summerhill voiced similar concerns in an email to the city commission.
“It seems to me that a streetcar is an expensive ‘cutesy’ idea with little practicality,” he wrote. “It would be a lot cheaper and more practical to simply increase the bus service.”
A version of this story ran on page 3 on 8/21/2013 under the headline "A streetcar named possibility: City, RTS supervising traffic study"