White House Comes Out For Streetcars

Jeff McMahon writes on the Forbes Blog – April 12th


President Obama’s clean-energy campaign hopped onto streetcars this morning with a government-made infomercial and testimonial for United Streetcars, a Portland company, published on the White House and Transportation Department blogs.

The prototype streetcar (tram) built by United...

The testimonial promises streetcars will help America “win the future.” It was penned by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who might have  a second career writing ad copy should the country take a turn toward the right in 2012:

[It's] good news for commuters and their families.  It’s also good news for American workers because, at United Streetcar, they’re manufacturing the first American streetcars in more than 50 years.

And we mean “American.” The cars rolling out of United Streetcar are entirely Buy America compliant. That means United Streetcar’s innovation is creating an economic ripple effect, providing business for an all-American supply chain of more than 200 different vendors in 20-plus states across the U.S.

United Streetcars, a division of Oregon Ironworks, manufactures streetcars for its home city, for Tucson, and is competing for bids, mostly against European companies, in Washington DC, Cincinatti, and Seattle.

Up to 60 American cities have expressed interest in reviving the mode of transportation that thrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Portland has clearly taken the lead. LaHood visited United Streetcar on March 21.

The infomercial, produced by DOT, features a jingle the likes of which will not be unfamiliar to any trade show visitor. It includes carefully worded praise for DOT from United Streetcar President Chandra Brown:

The Department of Transportation has been a true partner as the streetcar industry has developed.  Without their assistance, we could not have made the private investment to make this new industry successful.”

And like Barack Obama, the video puts a big emphasis on job creation, connecting  Obama’s new-energy economy to green technology.

“We’re talking about 60 cities almost interested in buying these,” says Steve Goodman, a welder fabricator. “That’ll put a lot of people to work. In fact we’ve already started putting people to work. I’m gonna need help.”

Transporting America: United Streetcar

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