1. Bus transit malls--Portland, Minneapolis (Nicollet Mall), Denver
2. Circulator bus services in various iterations--the latest have modern, more comfortable buses, better branded services, and more frequent headways (DC, Baltimore)
3. Various lane priority schemes
4. Monorails (earlier truncated line in Seattle, more modern service in Las Vegas, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and other systems in Asia--Nigel, being in New Zealand, has experience with these systems too, which mostly have a limited number of stations)
5. Heritage streetcar systems (McKinney Street, Dallas, Little Rock, Tampa, etc.)
6. Modern streetcar systems (Portland, Seattle, plans for Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia and many other cities)
Similar to how bus rapid transit is being marketed, by distinguishing the circulator buses with more modern, attractive, comfortable buses versus more traditional, value engineered buses, bus service, at least in the context of circulator service (but not traditional bus service), has been repositioned as a premium service.
Images from the first Bob Firth article, which is primarily a set of illustrations explaining what a Circulator does.
Bus transit malls are good for focusing transit services and making people aware of where to go to catch the bus, but they don't always work out on placemaking considerations, given the noise and exhaust and dominance of the streetscape by many large vehicles. This wasn't helped by early iterations which had "heavy" bus shelters which also overwhelmed the streetscape.
Top photo: Nicollet Transit Mall, Minneapolis. Photo by Jerry Holt of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Bottom photo: Old Portland bus mall shelters. Flickr photo by Jason McNuff.
Focused transit services downtown often start with transit malls, which serve both intra-city and inter-city functions. Circulator bus systems are the next generation of this kind of service, more focused on intra-city service, and a lot cheaper to implement than streetcars.
The question remains however on whether or not bus-based Circulator systems can spark economic development the way that fixed rail transit does. It will be interesting to see how this works in Baltimore as opposed to DC, where it's harder to separate out the impact of subway service on economic development vs. any impact that might come from enhanced bus service.
Top: Las Vegas Monorail photo on Flickr by Richard Pilon. Detroit People Mover photo below by cmu chem prof from Flickr.
People Movers and Monorails haven't really worked out in terms of sparking economic development. The Detroit People Mover never had that much ridership, while the Miami Metromover, with 22 stations, gets more than 30,000 daily riders. The Las Vegas monorail system went through bankruptcy and the Seattle one is truncated, and the above-ground systems, while not impeded by traffic, can be a drag on the viewshed.
The Las Vegas monorail may become successful over time, because of people's desires to get between various casinos in the city--on the other hand, if people stay within their hotel-casino complexes, maybe there isn't that much demand for this kind of service. Given that roughly 2,000 people ride the the monorail daily, maybe that's the case.
Maybe the relative lack of success has to do with their being in the air, just as the skywalks in Minneapolis, while successfully moving people between buildings in bad weather, end up removing people from the street, so success comes at the expense of vitality at the street level.
Streetcars (and bus-based circulators) integrate better into the built environment than monorails and people movers, but their in-street operation creates a lot of opposition (at least by motor vehicle operators) who see the addition of streetcars as a competitor for scarce street space, even though by comparison a streetcar can carry 100 or more people in the same space as 3-5 cars.
Heritage streetcars are a variant, more focused on tourism and out-of-region visitors rather than repositioning an area within the regional landscape for residential choice and commerce. The Little Rock streetcar seems to have had more success in terms of sparking economic development than the Tampa equivalent. Likely this is due to greater focus and integration with economic development revitalization planning in Little Rock versus the planning in Tampa, which provides service to Ybor City, a major entertainment and tourist destination.
Streetcar at the River Market (a newly constructed public market which is also very successful in its own right) in Little Rock, Arkansas. Flickr photo by Skyline Scenes.
Articles about streetcars in Portland and Seattle and how they respectively helped focus redevelopment of the Pearl District in Portland and the South Lake Union district in Seattle, supporting billions of dollars of economic development, are numerous. The experiences there demonstrate that when intra-city transit systems are developed in a purposeful way to promote economic development, placemaking, and the repositioning of the center city as a residential and business location of choice, they can have incredible return on investment.
-- Understanding the Impacts of Transitways The Hiawatha Line: Impacts on Land Use and Residential Housing Value
, Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota, research brief
, full document