APTA Streetcar and
Seashore Trolley Museum Logo
Heritage Trolley Site
Hosted by the Seashore Trolley Museum
Critical Success Factors

[Back to Planning]

Critical Success Factors for a Streetcar Line

Experience of the successful operating streetcar and heritage trolley lines shows that there are a few critical factors that must be in place for supporters plans to be realized. Those planning new systems should devote considerable time to ensuring that these factors, as summarized below, are in place.

Champion in local government

Perhaps the single most important factor contributing to successful implementation of a streetcar line is for a person well placed and well connected in the local government to function as a champion for the project. This person can fill the critical role of winning support from government, business, and community organizations. He or she can also continue to provide momentum to a project when the inevitable roadblocks, setbacks, or other obstacles arise. Without someone filling this role, it is unlikely the resources necessary to implement a project can be obtained, or that the labyrinth of governmental issues can be negotiated.

Sources of capital and operating funding

Creativity and persistence in finding funding for a streetcar project is crucial, as they do not generate sufficient direct revenues to cover their capital and operating costs, and as there is great competition for governmental sources of funding. Successful projects have typically obtained funds from a variety of public and private sources, and have often been very innovative in finding or developing new sources.

Partnerships between government, business, community, and nonprofit organizations

A key factor for most successful streetcar lines has been the collaboration of government, business, and nonprofit organizations in creating and operating the line. The wide level of support such collaboration demonstrates has helped convince funding sources to support the line. As well, the wide variety of skills from a diverse group of supporters has helped accomplish the many tasks necessary. The presence of nonprofit groups with willing and skilled volunteers has helped accomplish many tasks at greatly reduced cost. Virtually all heritage trolley lines have benefited from collaboration of different groups to make them successful.


Experience shows that moving a streetcar idea from conception to operation can take as long as 10 (or even as much as 15) years, given the need to build support, win approvals, secure funding, and complete construction. Thus when launching a project, it is critical to have a realistic, long term view and to have project supporters who will stay with the project for the duration


[Back to Planning]