Stimulating economic vitality and advancing the Louisville region’s quality of life must be the ultimate goal of the transportation strategy behind Move Louisville, Mayor Greg Fischer‘s in-the-works long-range multimodal transportation plan. To achieve this desired outcome, a “high-line” tram along the city’s riverfront would provide a dynamic, progressive solution for mobility and a connection for Louisville’s waterfront neighborhoods.
Similar in design to circulator systems at international airports, this tram would connect Louisville’s dense Downtown with the city’s highest-density residential neighborhood, Portland. This tram could significantly foster revitalization along the western waterfront where there is tremendous potential for both affordable and upscale housing developments. And, it would allow fast, convenient access for those living in this west-side area into downtown for work, entertainment, restaurant, and other urban destinations.
Elevated to avoid street-level congestion as well as periodic Ohio River flooding, this tram would be a sleek, modern vehicle that would be highly attractive to the younger generation as well as older adults who seek a less-stressful commute.
Above-level trams are being used in distinctive cities such as Portland, Ore., Seattle, Las Vegas, and Sydney, Australia. And the High Line linear park in New York City, which converted an elevated rail trestle into a lush garden, while not a tram, is a comparable people-mover concept.
Transit stations would be positioned at the following primary access points: Slugger Field; the KFC Yum! Center; the Belvedere / Galt House; the West Main Street Museum District; East Portland / Shippingport; McAlpine Lock & Dam; and 22nd / Portland district. It would also extend eastward to Frankfort Avenue, with stops at Waterfront Park, the Big Four Bridge, and planned Waterfront Botanical Gardens. Future extensions could head northward to southern Indiana via the K&I Bridge crossing as well as to the south toward Old Louisville and beyond.
This tram would produce immediate financial impact and provide noticeable livability and health improvements as opposed to any other transportation initiative. Rider fees and tax increment financing can help fund this proposal.
More specific benefits of implementing this high-line tram include: reducing automobile use, which lessens pollution and congestion; revitalizing inner-city affordable housing; encouraging new developments that offer spectacular scenic settings; promoting sustainable, “green” growth; and offering a fun, enjoyable visitor attraction along the waterfront. Residents and visitors could walk, bike, or ride small circulator buses to the tram stations.
This would be an exciting, bold transportation project that would transform Louisville in a very positive, modern manner. A high-line tram would move Louisville forward from a 21st-century vision to a desirable reality, making our community a much better place in which to live, work, and play. Let’s not spend years studying this proposal. This is a very doable project that can be implemented now!
[Top image: An elevated rail line running through Rotterdam, the Netherlands features a distinctive design. (Christopher A. Dominic / Flickr)]