For the second time in the last ten years, the City of Oakland is initiating a study to look into the feasibility and potential economic-development opportunities that would come from a streetcar line connecting Jack London Square with Oakland's Uptown and MacArthur BART. They got a $300,000 grant from CalTrans last year for the updated study, which repeats similar studies done between 2003 and 2005.
Oakland has repeatedly had a serious problem on their hands when it comes to bringing retail and economic vitality to their languishing downtown and soon-to-be-former Auto Row on Broadway. Also, Jack London Square has never been very accessible by transit, at least for those who dislike buses and who know that one could get old and die waiting for an AC transit bus on any given evening. But critics don't see the point of installing an expensive, old-timey streetcar with tracks which was originally there (the Key Line) but the city saw fit to rip it out several decades back in the name of progress when buses could do the job just fine.
Alas, people like streetcars, and as one of the project's managers put it, "The tracks convey a sense of permanence, so developers are more likely to build and retailers to relocate along a streetcar line." Portland, for instance, has seen a lot of success from the four-mile streetcar line they built in 2001.
But it is sad that the tracks were already there, from like a 100 years ago, and now they'd have to start all over again.