Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System


This chart from the City of Portland, Oregon, documents how streetcars fit within a comprehensive transit system. In Portland, MAX is the name of the regional light-rail service. (From “Portland Streetcar System Concept Plan: A Framework for Future Corridor Planning and Alternatives Analysis.”)

Source: Wikimedia – Steve Morgan (2008) Streetcars have visible and permanent tracks.
Source: Wikimedia – Steve Morgan (2008)




Streetcar Planning and Design

A well-designed streetcar connects multiple destinations with predictable routes and relatively frequent service. Streetcars typically provide a convenient option for short trips, connections to other transit systems, and an easily identifiable transit route for tourists and visitors who may be unfamiliar with other services. The fixed track infrastructure creates a sense of permanence that encourages ridership and can also influence investment in development. As most streetcar users are likely to walk to stops, increased pedestrian activity is also likely to result from the installation of a streetcar line. This combined with investment in supporting pedestrian facilities can help improve the urban environment and the livability of neighborhoods.

In comparison to light-rail, streetcars generally travel shorter distances between stops, are often shorter than light-rail cars, and have slower average speeds (usually between 7-12 mph, after factoring in platform stops and other delays). While streetcars share certain similarities with local bus service, the permanent tracks and platforms help delineate to pedestrians and motorists the route of the streetcar and loading/unloading areas. It is important to note that streetcars should not be seen as a replacement for bus or light-rail service, but instead as a complementary part of a city’s transit system.


Streetcars can encourage the use of transit within cities and foster compact, livable neighborhoods. Secondary effects can include more pedestrian-friendly environments around streetcar stops and increased economic vitality along the streetcar corridor.


• Consideration of bicycle routes and facilities must be incorporated into the early stages of streetcar planning.
• Improvements to the roadway and/or redesign of the public space should be considered when installing streetcar tracks to enhance traffic flow and ensure pedestrian safety.
• For more information on streetcars, see “Portland Streetcar System Concept Plan: A Framework for Future Corridor Planning and Alternatives Analysis,” by the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation. The plan, adopted in 2009, can be found at

Estimated Cost

A streetcar system generally costs from $25 to $50 million per mile. Because installing streetcar tracks involves road reconstruction, it is an opportune time to add pedestrian improvements to the roadway and to accommodate easy access to the streetcar.

Case Studies

Seattle, Washington