Say "street car" and people think of the Tennessee Williams play or picture San Francisco's little cable cars "climbing halfway to the stars" spewing Rice-A-Roni into the air as they go along.
In other words, there's something antiquated and charming in the notion of street cars. We miss them the way we fondly remember passenger trains.
Now, Salt Lake City, Ogden and other cities around the West are hoping to climb back on board again with street car systems.
In his recent budget, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said he was setting aside $100,000 so the city could partner with South Salt Lake and the Utah Transit Authority to get things rolling for Sugar House street cars. He said he didn't know the final form of the thing it might even be quaint and antique though chances are it would look more like the sleek, modernistic versions found in Miami and Birmingham, Ala. When told the city already had the historical Trolley Square where the things could be housed, Becker mused that driving the things 20 blocks out of the way might be asking a bit too much.
Still, as Utahns cut back on buying gas (consumption is down 20 percent), it means other ways of getting around must come into high relief. And street cars seem to fill the bill.
In a nation where everything old tends to become new again, the idea of street cars moving about the city streets sounds both historic and futuristic at the same time which isn't a bad motto for city planners to follow.
The appeal of the cars is they are lighter and share the road with cars. They are energy-efficient. And the street cars have a positive image in the minds of shoppers, retailers and city leaders. They feel "human friendly." At last count, more than two dozen American cities had installed them.
And so far, the track record for street cars is impressive. According to USA Today, Little Rock's trolleys have been so successful that an expansion was called for. Portland's Pearl District is now known for its street cars. And in Tucson, the street cars are now a part of local lore Old Town.
In short, now is a good time for Utah to join the trend.