An old idea with a new twist, streetcars soon to come in downtown Erie?

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Community leaders are looking for other ways to navigate Erie.

Streetcars and light rail are making a comeback in other cities and, according to studies encouraging activity, but is it right for Erie?

Could the return of streetcars help move Erie forward?  

Executive Director of All Aboard Erie, Brian Pitzer, says, “We knew that a streetcar could be a pivotal part of that transformation of Downtown Erie.”

That’s because Erie Refocused and the Urban Land Institute are recommending light rail or streetcar to connect the downtown with the Bayfront.  All Aboard Erie is bringing transportation planners to town to discuss the possibilities.  

Dina says, “The moment that you’re taking the bus or you’re taking the streetcar or you’re basically leaving the car at home, you’re walking a lot more, you’re actually experiencing your town and your city. So, you can pop in a fruit market and pick up some things on the way home.”

The experts and All Aboard Erie agree that a streetcar could follow in the path of other cities and attract investment. 

Pizter says, “The investors, the landowners around the tracks, know that they’re going to be there. It’s not like a bus that can have its route changed. A streetcar is permanent.”   

And although a streetcar could bring benefits to the City of Erie, who’s going to pay for it? Petzer says, “Well, that’s why we need to have some studies done, so we can learn, ‘What are the options?’ Because there are many different ways of paying for a streetcar system.”

The ideas being discussed now would not resemble Erie’s streetcar system that ran until 1935, but experts suggest a new rail line could help reverse disinvestment in the city. 

Transportation Planner for AECOM, Peter Voorhees, says, “And since then, what do you see more of? Highways. Walmarts. Sprawling residential development.”

Strategic Projects Manager at Mid-Ohio Regional Planning, Dina Lopez, says, “If you want to live and work in a global city, a city that embraces different modes; you have to have options.”

The panel looked at how light rail is helping to transform other urban cores across the country. 

All Aboard says this is a step toward seeing if this idea could gain traction.

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