I suggest you look at Denver as an example. There was staunch opposition to a rail system in the city, and when it was pushed through, many people decried it as a waste of money.
Now, 10 years later, they need to upgrade the existing system because it's packed like a Tokyo subway every weekday and ridership is strong into the wee hours of the morning . It revitalized a whole portion of downtown, and raised property values along the entire rail corridor.
Now they're building 15 more lines because it turned out (in hindsight) to be such a damn good idea.
Maybe it's just cultural. I have found that in the south, many people often view public transit as "poor people only" territory and regard it as a bit of a status issue if they were to be seen riding a bus or train to work, because, by golly, they can afford an SUV. :-)
Cultural issues aside, well-designed tramways and light rail is actually a GREAT idea, even in the suburban environment of today's western US cities.