Archive for the 'Issues' Category

San Diego’s Lost Treasure: The Historic Class 1 Streetcars, 100 Years Later

We recently revamped our short documentary-style video about the Class 1 streetcars with some additional and updated information, as well as some strong praise from Councilperson Sherri Lightner. If you’ve seen it before, you might want to check it out again. And if you haven’t seen it yet then definitely take a look!

Meant to be an education in the history of streetcars in San Diego as well as a clear demonstration of what returning these historic treasures to the rails would mean for our city, we’re proud to present San Diego’s Lost Treasure: The Historic Class 1 Streetcars, 100 Years Later. We hope you’ll enjoy this entertaining and informative look at the past and potential future of the Class 1 streetcars and join us in our efforts to restore this important and historic piece of San Diego’s past. Let’s preserve our history, boost our local economy, and improve our public transportation in one fell swoop… San Diego deserves it!

San Diego’s Roots: Our Historic and Cultural Heritage

A few weeks ago, we had a great conversation with Anne and Peg Marston about the Class 1 streetcars and Balboa Park for our television program “San Diego’s Lost Treasure: The Historic Class 1 Streetcars, 100 Years Later” (which you can view right now on our website). We hope you’ll enjoy watching the extended interview with the Marston’s up above. This conversation definitely got us thinking a lot about San Diego, the historical and cultural roots of our community, and historic preservation…

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At a recent TED event, historic preservationist Rhonda Sincavage, stated: “It’s not about saving an individual building; preservation is more about building community.”

Historic preservation not only preserves our physical historic resources, but also protects the roots of culture that allow the present community to feel connected to their past. In a city like Charleston, SC, the history of the community is immediately apparent in the beautiful architecture as well as the regular recognition of historical events. Visitors flock to learn, experience, and understand the history of the city. Moreover, by retaining the relics of the past, locals are raised in a community where their history is simply apart of everyday life. In their preservation, the Charlestonians of today are inextricably tangled in the roots of their culture. Such roots tie people to their communities as they make life decisions. As we build careers and have families, we are more likely to create our own roots within our community if we feel that deep connection. In San Diego, many residents, especially younger people, often express that they feel there is no real history, no real culture. Perhaps these people feel that the soil here holds no real roots, so as they move forward and look to plant their own they turn to cities like Charleston, Portland, Seattle, or Austin that make a point to protect and build upon their history. However, in our estimation, the cultural and historical soil in San Diego is surprising fertile.

George Marston, the patriarch of the Marston family who came to San Diego in 1870, was known as “San Diego’s First Citizen.” In our recent conversation with Ann and Peg Marston regarding their memories of San Diego’s streetcars and Balboa Park, Peg charmingly recounted her husband Hamilton Marston’s experience of the opening day of the 1915 Exposition. The Marstons have long been known for their community involvement and historical preservation of many landmarks in San Diego and beyond, including Balboa Park, the Marston House, Presidio Park, and the Anza Borrego Desert. Hamilton himself was instrumental in the important “Temporary Paradise?” urban planning study and was known for emphasizing the balance between progress and preservation. Because of families like the Marstons, San Diego has created and retained considerable roots for future generations.

When thinking of San Diego history, many think of wonderful and iconic places like Balboa Park, The Hotel del Coronado, the Missions, the Point Loma Lighthouse, and the Whaley House in historic Old Town. But we shouldn’t forget our historic communities like Golden Hill, South Park, North Park, The Boulevard, Hillcrest, Mission Hills, and Banker’s Hill. They may be less tourist-driven, but they are still invaluable in the story of San Diego’s past. And as we San Diegans become both more appreciative of our history and more forward thinking, it’s up to us to continue to protect our historic resources as we make our city an even better place to live.

San Diego should be seen as more than just a place with nice weather or a transient city where folks come for school and head out to more fertile pastures after graduation. We think the Class 1 streetcars will be a key element in revitalizing the history of our urban neighborhoods and encouraging our roots to continue to grow and expand. Let’s help connect new generations to San Diego’s past by laying the rails to San Diego’s public transportation future — we deserve it.

Chris Chaffee Speaks to the San Diego City Council

Chris Chaffee, the owner of the Class 1 streetcars, spoke to the San Diego City Council yesterday and got a shout out from Todd Gloria! Thank you Councilman Gloria for your tireless work to bring back streetcars in San Diego, not to mention all of your other valuable efforts. Check out the footage up above.

A Surplus of Funds

A surplus is not a concept we deal with all too often in the realm of contemporary American government, but nonetheless that is the news coming out of SANDAG this week.

After weighing their options and collecting public input, Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration have selected the “Express Lanes Only” option for the I-5 expansion plan. This plan, the least expensive of the four considered, will convert the I-5 in the north coastal region to include eight all-purpose lanes and four express lanes and reduces the cost of the project from $4.3 billion down to $3.5 billion. Presented with the opportunity of redistributing $800 million to other transportation projects in the 2050 RTP, SANDAG’s Transportation Committee is holding a joint session with the Regional Planning Committee tomorrow, Friday July 15th, at 10:30am to discuss the management of those excess dollars.

Right now SANDAG has only accounted for funding roughly 10% of the streetcar projects in the 2050 RTP. We encourage everyone to please head down to the SANDAG Board at 401 B Street, 7th Floor in downtown San Diego and voice support for using a portion of these funds to ensure we get our streetcar lines and we get them soon! Also, be sure to tell them you want historic streetcars, as our San Diego treasures can operate as practical transportation and unique economic engines for our urban neighborhoods.

Thank you, we hope to see you there. Only with your support can we make streetcars in San Diego a reality!

Source: Move San Diego

Public Comment on the 2050 RTP

As we approach the close of the public comment period for SANDAG’s 2050 Regional Transportation Plan, we encourage everyone to please let their voice be heard… and push for the return of the Class 1 streetcars!

Comments can be submitted by e-mail to 2050rtp@sandag.org, calling (877) 277-5736, fax (619) 699-1905, or by mail to SANDAG, 401 B Street, Suite 800, San Diego, CA 92101. Please submit those comments by July 8th, 2011.

Thank you all for your continued support. If you’d like, you can read the comments we submitted to SANDAG after the jump.

Continue reading ‘Public Comment on the 2050 RTP’

On Hold: The Plaza de Panama Plan

Yesterday, after the City Council Rules Committee passed along the memorandum of understanding for the Irwin Jacobs’ Plaza de Panama Plan without their endorsement, the philanthropist and entrepreneur has decided to step back and “wait and see what happens” regarding the city’s stance on the plan. Jacobs went on to express concern that if it takes too long for “the city to get on board” that we are likely to “miss the centennial date”. [1]

Given the suspension of the only funded plan for transforming Balboa Park for the Panama-California Exposition centennial celebration of 2015, it is imperative that we — city and community leaders, philanthropists, business associations, developers, community associations, non-profits, corporations, small businesses, and citizens — come together to develop some alternative plans for revitalizing Balboa Park in case the city fails to find the support needed to get the Jacobs plan rolling again.

We’ve got some ideas that we’re working on, which we will be sharing with you soon. We would also love to hear some of yours — let’s brainstorm! What are the most important goals we can reach by 2015 related to Balboa Park? Where do you see the Class 1 streetcars fitting into the equation?

The Class 1 Streetcars: One Potential Future

In Monday’s Union-Tribune newspaper, an article by Logan Jenkins introduces a new proposal made by entrepreneur Sandy Shapery that would significantly reduce the need for additional parking inside Balboa Park and eliminate the need to build a bypass bridge on the Cabrillo Bridge. The Shapery plan would connect the outskirts of Balboa Park to the heart of the park, using the original historic streetcars, which were designed and used to carry patrons to the Panama California Exposition almost 100 years ago.

You can read the entire Union Tribune article here.

Here at the San Diego Historic Streetcar Project, we would love to love to see a city wide historic streetcar system using our native historic Class 1 streetcars running from downtown to Balboa Park and to all surrounding neighborhoods in time for the 2015 centennial celebration of the Panama-California Exposition. However, given the logistics, we do see the Shapery proposal as a great way to introduce the historic Class 1 streetcars to San Diegans and visitors in 2015.

What do you all think? Would you like to see the Class 1 streetcars serving in Balboa Park by 2015 as Sandy Shapery proposes?

In Monday’s Union-Tribune newspaper, Logan Jenkins introduces a new proposal made by Sandy Shapery which would significantly reduce the need for additional parking inside Balboa Park, and would eliminate the need to build a bypass bridge on the Cabrillo bridge. This proposal would connect the outskirts of Balboa Park, to the heart of the park, using the original beautiful streetcars, which were designed and used to carry patrons to the Panama California Exposition almost 100 years ago.

You can read the entire on-line Union Tribune article here.

Here at the San Diego Historic Streetcar Project, we would love to love to see a city wide historic streetcar system using our native historic Class 1 streetcars running from downtown to Balboa Park, and to all surrounding neighborhoods in time for the 2015 centennial celebration of the Panama-California Exposition. This is likely impossible due to the logistics, but we do see the Shapery proposal as a great way to introduce the historic Class 1 streetcars to San Diegans and visitors in 2015.

What do you all think? Would you like to see the Class 1 streetcars serving in Balboa Park by 2015 as Sandy Shapery proposes?

Livable Streets

We think you might enjoy this video about Donald Appleyard’s influential and fascinating studies on traffic patterns. It goes to show that transportation has a massive impact on our lives in a number of ways, including some that go far deeper than accessibility or commute duration.

We think you might enjoy this video about Donald Appleyard’s influential and fascinating studies on traffic patterns. It goes to show that transportation has a massive impact on our lives in a number of ways, including some that go far deeper than accessibility or commute duration.

A Perfect Match: The Historic Class 1 Streetcars & The 2015 Centennial Celebration at Balboa Park

This is no time to think small.  Great cities are built with great ambitions— and with great effort.

- Jerry Sanders, Mayor of San Diego

In the dialogue surrounding the centennial of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and the year-long celebration set to take place in Balboa Park, the common theme expressed in virtually all viewpoints is the desire to transform Balboa Park into a world class tourist destination, all the while celebrating and preserving San Diego’s rich history and unique beauty. If we all agree on this ambitious and worthy goal, then it seems that the historic Class 1 streetcars would be a natural fit for Balboa Park and the centennial celebration. And right now there’s nothing driving our local government to develop a comprehensive streetcar system any time soon. We can’t wait until 2050. The Class 1 streetcars belong at the centennial celebration.

What better way to help preserve the history and enhance the quality of Balboa Park than with practical public transportation provided by the streetcars that were originally developed to move the massive crowds of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition? As we’ve mentioned before, if these streetcars return to any original route — the line that began at Santa Fe Depot, ran down Broadway, and then up to Balboa Park seems particularly ideal — they would be eligible for state and national historic designation, bringing in federal funds for historic preservation to develop and maintain the line and any potential expansions. More importantly, this is a unique opportunity to enhance the Panama-California Exposition centennial celebration with a streetcar line that at once adds a complementary historical element that is distinctly tied to San Diego’s history and helps solve the persistent problem of parking in Balboa Park.

There’s no doubt that the public would be behind such an undertaking. In his most recent “State of the District” address, Todd Gloria asked his constituents in District 3 if they want a historic streetcar line– the overwhelming response was “Yes!” Furthermore, in their official report “The Future of Balboa Park: Funding, Management and Governance”, the Balboa Park committee stated that participants at a centennial kickoff event suggested that Balboa Park still needed “another ‘wow’ factor” to further solidify its status as a world class park. Those participants went on to say that “Balboa Park needs to exceed expectations, not just meet a baseline condition.”

We completely agree. Balboa Park deserves a world class historic streetcar line that will compliment its beauty, history, and preserve the park. The Class 1 streetcars have the potential to bring in cultural heritage tourism on the level of San Francisco or New Orleans’ landmark streetcar systems and are the only truly historic streetcar option in San Diego. This would be an investment in San Diego’s future and a great way to advertise the city and the centennial. With their unique and specific historical connections to Balboa Park and the Panama-California Exposition of 1915, the Class 1s are the obvious choice for public transit to the park and could fit in perfect synergy with all other aspects of the centennial celebration.

Tampa: A Streetcar Model for San Diego

In developing a new historic transportation system for San Diego or anywhere, one will need to be able to reasonably project the potential challenges, outcomes, and benefits. Feasibility studies, environmental studies, examinations of local transit patterns and traffic flow, funding logistics, and a myriad of other issues must all be taken into consideration. However, from the early outset, we think it is particularly important to have a model for development that can be used to guide and shape the direction and goals of a project. While no two transportation systems can ever truly be the same given the complexities and uniqueness of travel patterns in American cities, much can be learned from the successes and shortcomings of historic streetcar lines that have preceded us.

One of the most rousing success stories of historic streetcars in modern America would have to be the TECO Line Streetcar System in Tampa, Florida. Opened on Oct. 19th, 2002, this historic streetcar line consists of one restored original “Birney” car from the Tampa streetcar system that started in 1892 and ran through 1946, as well as nine Birney streetcar replica’s and one open-air “Breezer” model replica that were built by the Gomaco Trolley Co. in Ida Grove, Iowa [1]. Connecting downtown Tampa with the robust cruise industry at Garrison Seaport, the Tampa Convention Center, the Ice Palace Arena, the Florida Aquarium, the historic Ybor City district, and a number of outlying parking structures, this historic line shattered ridership projections in its first year, carrying 420,000 passengers (20% over original predictions) [2]. The initial line ran about 2.4 miles through downtown, Channelside, and Ybor neighborhoods, but with annual ridership remaining at a consistent 400,000 plus, Tampa decided to expand the system to 1/3 of a mile to further parking areas [3] [4]. Since the conception of this historic streetcar line, the Tampa Downtown Partnership has identified over $800 million in private development within two blocks of the TECO streetcar line [5] [6]. As a result, other areas of Tampa are currently lobbying the city to expand the system into their neighborhoods so they can enjoy similar benefits [7].

All that is impressive in itself, but we also like that the Tampa system was spearheaded and is now operated by an independent non-profit, Tampa Historic Streetcar Inc., in conjunction with the city of Tampa and the local transit authority, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) [8]. They also funded this historic in unique and creative ways, combining special assessments of streetcar serviced districts, a private endowment fund fueled by naming rights to the stations and cars of the system, advertising, and fares [9] [10].

We see the Class 1 project playing out in a surprisingly similar fashion. Once we move a little further along, we’ll be announcing our detailed vision for Phase 1 of a historic Class 1 streetcar system in San Diego. Are you as excited as we are?