APTA Streetcar and
Seashore Trolley Museum Logo
Heritage Trolley Site
Hosted by the Seashore Trolley Museum
Capital Funding

Back to Planning]

Capital Funding

Sample Streetcar System Costs and Benefits

The below table shows summaries of capital costs and in some cases identified benefits for modern and heritage streetcar systems:

Potential Sources of Capital Funding for Streetcar Lines

FTA New Starts

Portland’s heritage cars and maintenance facility were paid for by 80% UMTA funding as part of the Banfield Light Rail project. New starts money is one of the best potential sources of capital funding, however resources are limited and many cities are competing to receive such funding for light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit, or other transit projects.

FTA Small Starts

The reauthorization of the highway bill (TEA-LU) enacted by Congress in 2005 introduced a new source of funding for streetcar projects referred to as "Small Starts." Inspired by the success of the Portland Streetcar and other downtown heritage or new streetcar systems, the program is aimed at smaller projects than traditional regional light rail projects and includes economic redevelopment as a means of justifying such projects. The following link is to a PDF version of a presentation introducing the Small Starts program given by Jeff Boothe of the Community Streetcar Coalitioni at the APTA Heritage Trolley and Streetcar Subcommittee meeting in Dallas in September, 2005:

Transportation Enhancement funding

Some of the Federal Highway/Transit funding legislation has included what became known as Transportation Enhancement Funding. This funding could cover historic preservation or other projects not directly related to the large scale highway/transit funding normally covered by the legislation. The availability of this funding varies with each reauthorization. However, the Dallas heritage trolley operation received grants of $5.5 million in 1994 from this source. (See The Streetcar Renaissance in Dallas)

Build track and wire at same time other infrastructure work being done (street reconstruction, sewers, other buried utilities)

In Dallas voters passed a bond bill to finance street improvements along the proposed extension of the heritage trolley line, and officials planned to build track as part of the project. (See The Streetcar Renaissance in Dallas) In Washington, DC and Charlotte streetcar track was included as part of major street reconstruction projects before a complete program to introduce streetcars was formulated or funded.

Sale of naming rights to stations, cars

Used in Tampa (for an operating endowment—see Tampa Project Description) and Portland (See Portland’s New/Old Trolleys)

Municipal assessments on developers

As developers stand to reap financial benefits from a streetcar or heritage trolley system, a city government may opt to require a contribution toward the system in return for the right to develop along the line.

Voluntary investment by developers of parcels along line

In Dallas, developers of Cityplace contributed $1 million toward extension of the heritage trolley line to serve their complex  (See The Streetcar Renaissance in Dallas)

Development of adjacent land

Conceivably the organization building a streetcar line could be given the right to develop parcels along the line, using profits to help pay for the line.

Foundation grants

In Galveston, the local match for federal funding used to build the heritage line was contributed by two foundations, one of which later funded the entire cost of an extension of the line. (See Heritage Trolleys in Memphis and Galveston).

Park funding – if line passes through park

If a streetcar line passes through a national or state park, funding from park service sources may be available to help with the line. This approach is being pursued in Lowell (MA), where the National Park Service owns the current heritage trolley line, and may be pursued in San Francisco, where proposed a heritage trolley extension would pass through another national park.

Hotel/motel tax

In New Orleans, part of the 20% local funding to match FTA new starts money for reintroduction of streetcars to Canal Street came from extending a local sales tax to the hospitality industry. The hotel and motel operators supported the measure as they felt the streetcar line would be an added tourist draw, as has been the case with the other two streetcar lines in New Orleans.

Donations from private sources

One quarter of the $6 million cost of the New Orleans Riverfront line opened in 1988 came from private sources. (See New Orleans Prepares for the Past)

In Portland (OR) heritage trolley service along the downtown portion of the light rail line was funded initially by business taxes, business sponsorships, and other private monies, plus farebox revenues. This included interest from a city trust fund established in the middle of the 1980s through a Local Improvement District tax of businesses along the route. Four businesses have already agreed to be “car sponsors” by paying $100,000 each ($20,000 a year over a course of five years) for the right to advertise (or sell advertising) on and inside their designated car. In addition, eight other businesses have made donations of $30,000 each as “station sponsors” in exchange for recognition in Vintage Trolley literature and in signage at stops along the route.(See Portland’s New/Old Trolleys)

Donations for local match

Private sources may provide contributions in kind rather than cash contributions. In New Orleans, an oil industry firm donated oil pipe worth more than $1 million to be used as overhead wire support poles on the Canal Street route. This donation counted as part of the local match to FTA funding.


[Back to Planning]