LIGHT RAIL, LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT (LRT) or FAST TRAM is urban public transport using rolling stock similar to a tramway , but operating at a higher capacity, and often on an exclusive right-of-way.
There is no standard definition, but in the United States, where the terminology was devised in the 1970s (from the engineering term _light railway _), light rail operates primarily along exclusive rights-of-way and uses either individual tramcars or multiple units coupled to form a train.
A few light rail networks tend to have characteristics closer to
rapid transit or even commuter rail; some of these heavier rapid
transit-like systems are referred to as light metros . Other light
rail networks are tram-like in nature and partially operate on
* 1 History * 2 Definition
* 3 Types
* 3.1 Lower capacity * 3.2 Higher capacity * 3.3 Mixed systems * 3.4 Speed and stop frequency * 3.5 System-wide considerations
* 5 Comparison to other rail transit modes
* 5.1 Typical rolling stock * 5.2 Train operation * 5.3 Floor height * 5.4 Power sources
* 7 Capacity
* 7.1 Efficiency * 7.2 Comparison with high capacity roads * 7.3 Practical considerations
* 8 Safety * 9 Health impact of light rail * 10 Integration with bicycles * 11 Construction and operation costs
* 12 Variations
* 12.1 Trams operating on mainline railways * 12.2 Third-rail power for trams
* 13 See also * 14 References * 15 External links
Many original tram and streetcar systems in the United Kingdom, United States, and elsewhere were decommissioned starting in the 1950s as the popularity of the automobile increased. Britain abandoned its last tram system, except for Blackpool , by 1962. Although some traditional trolley or tram systems exist to this day, the term "light rail" has come to mean a different type of rail system. Modern light rail technology has primarily West German origins, since an attempt by Boeing Vertolto introduce a new American light rail vehicle was a technical failure. After World War II, the Germans retained many of their streetcar networks and evolved them into model light rail systems (_Stadtbahnen_). Except for Hamburg , all large and most medium-sized German cities maintain light rail networks.
The basic concepts of light rail were put forward by H. Dean Quinby in 1962 in an article in _Traffic Quarterly_ called "Major Urban Corridor Facilities: A New Concept". Quinby distinguished this new concept in rail transportation from historic streetcar or tram systems as:
* having the capacity to carry more passengers * appearing like a train, with more than one car connected together * having more doors to facilitate full utilization of the space * faster and quieter in operation
The term LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT (LRT) was introduced in North America in 1972 to describe this new concept of rail transportation.
The first of the new light rail systems in North America began
operation in 1978 when the Canadian city of
Britain began replacing its run-down local railways with light rail
in the 1980s, starting with the
Tyne and Wear Metroand followed by
Docklands Light Railway
Passenger rail terminology
The term _light rail_ was coined in 1972 by the U.S. Urban Mass
Transportation Administration (UMTA; the precursor to the Federal
Transit Administration ) to describe new streetcar transformations
that were taking place in Europe and the United States. In Germany the
The Transportation Research Board(Transportation Systems Center) defined "light rail" in 1977 as "a mode of urban transportation utilizing predominantly reserved but not necessarily grade-separated rights-of-way. Electrically propelled rail vehicles operate singly or in trains. LRT provides a wide range of passenger capabilities and performance characteristics at moderate costs."
The American Public Transportation Association(APTA), in its Glossary of Transit Terminology, defines light rail as:
...a mode of transit service (also called streetcar, tramway, or trolley) operating passenger rail cars singly (or in short, usually two-car or three-car, trains) on fixed rails in right-of-way that is often separated from other traffic for part or much of the way. Light rail vehicles are typically driven electrically with power being drawn from an overhead electric line via a trolley or a pantograph ; driven by an operator on board the vehicle; and may have either high platform loading or low level boarding using steps."
However, some diesel-powered transit is designated light rail, such
_Light rail_ is similar to the
The use of the generic term _light rail_ avoids some serious incompatibilities between British and American English . The word _tram_, for instance, is generally used in the UK and many former British colonies to refer to what is known in North America as a streetcar , but in North America _tram_ can instead refer to an aerial tramway , or, in the case of the Disney amusement parks , even a land train . (The usual British term for an aerial tramway is _cable car_, which in the US usually refers to a ground-level car pulled along by subterranean cables .) The word trolley is often used as a synonym for _streetcar_ in the United States, but is usually taken to mean a cart, particularly a shopping cart, in the UK and elsewhere. Many North American transportation planners reserve _streetcar_ for traditional vehicles that operate exclusively in mixed traffic on city streets, while they use _light rail_ to refer to more modern vehicles operating mostly in exclusive rights of way, since they may operate both side-by-side targeted at different passenger groups.
The difference between
The opposite phrase _heavy rail_, used for higher-capacity,
higher-speed systems, also avoids some incompatibilities in
terminology between British and American English, as for instance in
Metrolink in Manchester city centre, England, is an example of
street-level light rail The
Docklands Light Railway
Due to varying definitions, it is hard to distinguish between what is called light rail, and other forms of urban and commuter rail. A system described as light rail in one city may be considered to be a streetcar or tram system in another. Conversely, some lines that are called "light rail" are in fact very similar to rapid transit ; in recent years, new terms such as light metro have been used to describe these medium-capacity systems. Some "light rail" systems, such as Sprinter , bear little similarity to urban rail, and could alternatively be classified as commuter rail or even inter-city rail. In the United States, "light rail" has become a catch-all term to describe a wide variety of passenger rail systems.
There is a significant difference in cost between these different classes of light rail transit. Tram-like systems are often less expensive than metro-like systems by a factor of two or more.
The most difficult distinction to draw is that between light rail and streetcar or tram systems. There is a significant amount of overlap between the technologies, many of the same vehicles can be used for either, and it is common to classify streetcars or trams as a subcategory of light rail rather than as a distinct type of transportation. The two general versions are:
* The traditional type, where tracks and trains run along the streets and share space with road traffic. Stops tend to be very frequent, but little effort is made to set up special stations. Because space is shared, the tracks are usually visually unobtrusive. * A more modern variation, where the trains tend to run along their own 50' right-of-way and are often separated from road traffic. Stops are generally less frequent, and the vehicles are often boarded from a platform. Tracks are highly visible, and in some cases significant effort is expended to keep traffic away through the use of special signaling, level crossings with gate arms, or even a complete separation with non-level crossings.
At the highest degree of separation, it can be difficult to draw the
line between light rail and metros , as in the case of
Many systems have mixed characteristics. Indeed, with proper
engineering, a rail line could run along a street, then go
underground, and then run along an elevated viaduct. For example, the
Los Angeles Metro
It is even possible to have high-floor rapid transit cars run along a street, like a tram; this is known as _street running _.
SPEED AND STOP FREQUENCY
In some areas, light rail may also refer to any rail line with low speeds or many stops in a short distance. This inherits the old definition of light railway in the UK. Hong Kong's Light Rail is an example of this, although it is also called "light rail" because it is a lower scale system than the rest of the MTR. Sprinter in the San Diego area uses DMUs and is targeted towards a commuter rail audience; however, because of the large number of stops along the line, it is called light rail.
Reference speed from major light rail systems, including station stop time, is shown below.
SYSTEM AVERAGE SPEED (MPH)
Dallas (Red Line) 21
Dallas (Blue Line) 19
Denver (Alameda-Littleton) 38
Denver (Downtown-Littleton) 26
Los Angeles (Blue Line) 24
Los Angeles (Green Line) 38
Salt Lake City 24
However, low top speed is not always a differentiating characteristic
between light rail and other systems. For example, the Siemens S70
LRVs used in the
Many light rail systems—even fairly old ones—have a combination of both on- and off-road sections. In some countries (especially in Europe), only the latter is described as light rail. In those places, trams running on mixed rights-of-way are not regarded as light rail, but considered distinctly as streetcars or trams. However, the requirement for saying that a rail line is "separated" can be quite low—sometimes just with concrete "buttons" to discourage automobile drivers from getting onto the tracks. Some systems such as Seattle\'s Link are truly mixed but closed to traffic, with light-rail vehicles and traditional buses both operating along a common right-of-way.
Some systems, such as the
AirTrain JFKin New York City, the DLR in
Kelana Jaya Line
Historically, the track gauge has had considerable variations, with narrow gauge common in many early systems. However, most light rail systems are now standard gauge . Older standard-gauge vehicles could not negotiate sharp turns as easily as narrow gauge ones, but modern light rail systems achieve tighter turning radii by using articulated cars . An important advantage of standard gauge is that standard railway maintenance equipment can be used on it, rather than custom-built machinery. Using standard gauge also allows light rail vehicles to be moved around, conveniently using the same tracks as freight railways. Another factor favoring standard gauge is that accessibility laws are making low-floor trams mandatory, and there is generally insufficient space for wheelchairs to move between the wheels in a narrow-gauge layout. Furthermore, standard gauge rolling stock can be switched between networks either temporarily or permanently and both newly built and used standard gauge rolling stock tends to be cheaper to buy, as more companies offer such vehicles.
COMPARISON TO OTHER RAIL TRANSIT MODES
With its mix of right-of-way types and train control technologies, LRT offers the widest range of latitude of any rail system in the design, engineering, and operating practices. The challenge in designing light rail systems is to realize the potential of LRT to provide fast, comfortable service while avoiding the tendency to overdesign that results in excessive capital costs beyond what is necessary to meet the public's needs.
Streetcars or trams Conversely, LRVs generally outperform traditional streetcars in terms of capacity and top-end speed, and almost all modern LRVs are capable of multiple-unit operation . The latest generation of LRVs is considerably larger and faster, typically 29 metres (95 ft) long with a maximum speed of around 105 kilometres per hour (65 mph).
Heritage streetcars A variation considered by many cities is to use historic or replica cars on their streetcar systems instead of modern LRVs. A heritage streetcar may not have the capacity and speed of an LRV, but it will add to the ambiance and historic character of its location.
Light metro A derivative of LRT is light rail rapid transit (LRRT), also referred to as _Light Metro._ Such railways are characterized by exclusive rights of way, advanced train control systems, short headway capability, and floor-level boarding. These systems approach the passenger capacity of full metro systems, but can be cheaper to construct due to LRVs generally being smaller in size, turning tighter curves and climbing steeper grades than standard RRT vehicles, and having a smaller station size.
The term _interurban_ mainly refers to rail cars that run through
streets like ordinary streetcars (trams), but also between cities or
towns, often through rural environments. In the period 1900–1930,
interurbans were very common in the US, especially in the
TYPICAL ROLLING STOCK
MANUFACTURER Rohr Siemens Skoda Gomaco Trolley Co.
WIDTH 3.2 metres (10 ft) 2.7 metres (8.9 ft) 2.6 metres (8.53 ft) 2.62 metres (8.6 ft)
LENGTH 22.9 metres (75 ft) 27.7 metres (91 ft) (articulated ) 20.13 metres (66.0 ft) (articulated ) 15.16 metres (49.7 ft)
WEIGHT (EMPTY) TBD 48.6t 28.8t 23.5t
CAPACITY 150 max 72 seats / 220 max 30 seats / 157 max 40 seat / 50 max
TOP SPEED 125 kilometres per hour (78 mph) 106 kilometres per hour (66 mph) 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph) 48 kilometres per hour (30 mph)
TYPICAL CONSIST 8–10 vehicles 2–5 vehicles 1 vehicle 1 vehicle
For more details on this topic, see
Automatic train operation
An important factor crucial to LRT is the train operator. Unlike rail
rapid transit, which can travel unattended under automatic train
operation (ATO), safe, high-quality LRT operation relies on a human
operator as a key element. The reason that the operator is so
important is because the train tracks often share the streets with
automobiles, other vehicles, and pedestrians. If trains were fully
automated on roads, nobody would be there to stop the train if a car
pulled in front of it.
For more details on this topic, see
The latest generation of LRVs has the advantage of partially or fully low-floor design, with the floor of the vehicles only 300 to 360 mm (11.8 to 14.2 in) above the top of the rail, a feature not found in either rapid rail transit vehicles or streetcars. This allows them to load passengers, including those in wheelchairs or strollers, directly from low-rise platforms that are little more than raised sidewalks. This satisfies requirements to provide access to disabled passengers without using expensive and delay-inducing wheelchair lifts, while also making boarding faster and easier for other passengers.
Overhead linessupply electricity to the vast majority of light rail
systems. This avoids the danger of passengers stepping on an
electrified third rail . The
Docklands Light Railway
TRAM AND LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT SYSTEMS WORLDWIDE
Around the world there are many tram and streetcar systems. Some date
from the beginning of the 20th century or earlier, but many of the
original tram and streetcar systems were closed down in the mid-20th
century, with the exceptions of many Eastern Europe countries. Even
though many systems closed down over the years, there are still a
number of tram systems that have been operating much as they did when
they were first built over a century ago. Some cities (such as Los
The table below illustrates the capacity of a light rail train (the Siemens S70) compared to that of a standard car with five seats. The average length of a standard five-seat car is about 4.74 metres. The length of a Siemens S70light rail vehicle is 27.7 meters, approximately the same length as 5.8 cars. The maximum occupancy of a car is five people. The maximum capacity of the Siemens S70is 220 people. This means that one metre in a car has a capacity of one person and one metre in a light rail vehicle has a capacity of almost eight persons, so the capacity of light rail is about eight times higher than that of a car, if only the length of the vehicles is taken into consideration. The average width of an automobile is about 1.77 metres, while the average width of the Siemens S70is about 2.7 metres. The area of a car is about 8.4 m², while the area taken up by a light rail car is about 74.8m². In a car, each square metre has room for only 0.6 persons, while each square metre in a light rail car has room for 2.9 persons. This means that a light rail vehicle is significantly more capacity-effective than a car. Height is not taken into consideration, because it is not normally a problem given minimum-clearance regulations for underpasses.
LENGTH WIDTH AREA MAXIMUM PASSENGERS PERSONS PER SQUARE METER
Car 4.74 m 1.77 m 8.4 m² 5 0.6
Siemens S70 27.7 m 2.7 m 74.8 m² 220 2.9
Energy efficiency for light rail may be 120 passenger miles per gallon of fuel (or equivalent), but variation is great, depending on circumstances.
COMPARISON WITH HIGH CAPACITY ROADS
While the table above compares the maximum capacity of each mode, the _average_ use of a lane might be quite different, based on a number of factors. One line of light rail (requires 25' Right of Way) has a theoretical capacity of up to 8 times more than one 12' lane of freeway (not counting buses) during peak times. Roads have ultimate capacity limits that can be determined by traffic engineering . They usually experience a chaotic breakdown in flow and a dramatic drop in speed (colloquially known as a traffic jam ) if they exceed about 2,000 vehicles per hour per lane (each car roughly two seconds behind another). Since most people who drive to work or on business trips do so alone, studies show that the average car occupancy on many roads carrying commuters is only about 1.5 people per car during the high-demand rush hour periods of the day. This combination of factors limits roads carrying only automobile commuters to a maximum observed capacity of about 3,000 passengers per hour per lane. The problem can be mitigated by introducing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV ) lanes and ride-sharing programs, but in most cases the solution adopted has been to add more lanes to the roads.
By contrast, light rail vehicles can travel in multi-car trains carrying a theoretical ridership up to 20,000 passengers per hour in much narrower rights-of-way , not much more than two car lanes wide for a double track system. They can often be run through existing city streets and parks , or placed in the medians of roads . If run in streets, trains are usually limited by city block lengths to about four 180-passenger vehicles (720 passengers). Operating on two-minute headways using traffic signal progression, a well-designed two-track system can handle up to 30 trains per hour per track, achieving peak rates of over 20,000 passengers per hour in each direction. More advanced systems with separate rights-of-way using moving block signalling can exceed 25,000 passengers per hour per track.
Most light rail systems in the United States are limited by demand
rather than capacity (by and large, most North American LRT systems
carry fewer than 4,000 persons per hour per direction), but Boston's
and San Francisco's light rail lines carry 9,600 and 13,100 passengers
per hour per track during rush hour. Elsewhere in North America, the
A bus rapid transit (BRT) system using dedicated lanes can have a theoretical capacity of 3,600 passengers per hour per direction (30 buses per direction, 120 passengers in articulated buses ). BRT is an alternative to LRT, at least if very high capacity is not needed. Using buses, roads can achieve a much higher commuter capacity than is achievable with passenger cars. To have 30 buses per direction an hour, buses must have priority at traffic lights and have their own dedicated lanes. Buses can travel closer to each other than rail vehicles because of better braking capability. However, each bus vehicle requires a single driver, whereas a light rail train may have three to four cars of much larger capacity in one train under the control of one driver, or no driver at all in fully automated systems, increasing the labor costs of high-traffic BRT systems compared to LRT systems.
The peak passenger capacity per lane per hour depends on which types of vehicles are allowed at the roads. Typically roadways have 1,900 passenger cars per lane per hour (pcplph). If only cars are allowed, the capacity will be less and will not increase when the traffic volume increases.
When there is a bus driving on this route, the capacity of the lane will be more and will increase when the traffic level increases. And because the capacity of a light rail system is higher than that of a bus, there will be even more capacity when there is a combination of cars and light rail. Table 3 shows an example of peak passenger capacity.
CAR CAR + BUS CAR + LIGHT RAIL
Low volume 900 1,650 2,250
Medium volume 900 2,350 3,250
High volume 900 3,400 4,600
(Edson "> suggest otherwise. For example, an analysis of data from the 505-page National Transportation Statistics report published by the US Department of Transportation shows that light rail fatalities are higher than all other forms of transportation except motorcycle travel (31.5 fatalities per 100 million miles).
However, the National Transportation Statistics report published by the US Department of Transportation states that "Caution must be exercised in comparing fatalities across modes because significantly different definitions are used. In particular, Rail and Transit fatalities include incident-related (as distinct from accident-related) fatalities, such as fatalities from falls in transit stations or railroad employee fatalities from a fire in a workshed. Equivalent fatalities for the Air and Highway modes (fatalities at airports not caused by moving aircraft or fatalities from accidents in automobile repair shops) are not counted toward the totals for these modes. Thus, fatalities not necessarily directly related to in service transportation are counted for the transit and rail modes, potentially overstating the risk for these modes."
HEALTH IMPACT OF LIGHT RAIL
Main article: Health impact of light rail systems
INTEGRATION WITH BICYCLES
CONSTRUCTION AND OPERATION COSTS
The cost of light rail construction varies widely, largely depending on the amount of tunneling and elevated structures required. A survey of North American light rail projects shows that costs of most LRT systems range from $15 million to over $100 million per mile. Seattle\'s new light rail system is by far the most expensive in the US, at $179 million per mile, since it includes extensive tunneling in poor soil conditions, elevated sections, and stations as deep as 180 feet (55 m) below ground level. This results in costs more typical of subways or rapid transit systems than light rail. At the other end of the scale, four systems (Baltimore, Maryland; Camden, New Jersey; Sacramento, California; and Salt Lake City, Utah) incurred construction costs of less than $20 million per mile. Over the US as a whole, excluding Seattle, new light rail construction costs average about $35 million per mile.
By comparison, a freeway lane expansion typically costs $1.0 million
to $8.5 million per lane mile for two directions, with an average of
$2.3 million. However, freeways are frequently built in suburbs or
rural areas, whereas light rail tends to be concentrated in urban
areas, where right of way and property acquisition is expensive.
Similarly, the most expensive US highway expansion project was the
Big Dig" in Boston, Massachusetts, which cost $200 million per lane
mile for a total cost of $14.6 billion. Since a light rail track can
carry up to 20,000 people per hour as compared with 2,000–2,200
vehicles per hour for one freeway lane, light rail is comparable in
construction cost to freeways on a per passenger-mile basis. For
Combining highway expansion with LRT construction can save costs by doing both highway improvements and rail construction at the same time. As an example, Denver's Transportation Expansion Projectrebuilt interstate highways 25 and 225 and added a light-rail expansion for a total cost of $1.67 billion over five years. The cost of 17 miles (27 km) of highway improvements and 19 miles (31 km) of double-track light rail worked out to $19.3 million per highway lane-mile and $27.6 million per LRT track-mile. The project came in under budget and 22 months ahead of schedule.
LRT cost efficiency improves dramatically as ridership increases, as
can be seen from the numbers above: the same rail line, with similar
capital and operating costs, is far more efficient if it is carrying
20,000 people per hour than if it is carrying 2,400. The
However, Calgary's LRT ridership is much higher than any comparable
US light rail system, at 300,000 passengers per weekday, and as a
result its capital efficiency is also much higher. Its capital costs
were one-third those of the
San Diego Trolley, a comparably sized US
system built at the same time, while by 2009 its ridership was
approximately three times as high. Thus, Calgary's capital cost per
passenger was much lower than that of San Diego. Its operating cost
per passenger was also much lower because of its higher ridership. A
C-Trainvehicle costs only CA$ 163 (equivalent to $189 in
2016) per hour to operate, and since it averages 600 passengers per
Compared to buses, costs can be lower due to lower labor costs per passenger mile, higher ridership (observations show that light rail attracts more ridership than a comparable bus service) and faster average speed (reducing the amount of vehicles needed for the same service frequency). While light rail vehicles are more expensive to buy, they have a longer useful life than buses, sometimes making for lower life-cycle costs.
TRAMS OPERATING ON MAINLINE RAILWAYS
Some of the issues involved in such schemes are:
* compatibility of the safety systems * power supply of the track in relation to the power used by the vehicles (frequently different voltages, rarely third rail vs overhead wires) * width of the vehicles in relation to the position of the platforms
* height of the platforms
There is a history of what would now be considered light-rail
vehicles operating on heavy-rail rapid transit tracks in the US,
especially in the case of interurban streetcars . Notable examples are
Lehigh Valley Transittrains running on the Philadelphia and Western
Railroad high-speed third rail line (now the Norristown High Speed
Line ). Such arrangements are almost impossible now, due to the
Federal Railroad Administrationrefusing (for crash safety reasons) to
allow non-FRA compliant railcars (i.e., subway and light rail
vehicles) to run on the same tracks at the same times as compliant
railcars, which includes locomotives and standard railroad passenger
and freight equipment. Notable exceptions in the US are the NJ Transit
River Line from Camden to Trenton and Austin's
which have received exemptions to the provision that light rail
operations occur only during daytime hours and Conrail freight service
only at night, with several hours separating one operation from the
THIRD-RAIL POWER FOR TRAMS
Main article: Ground-level power supply
When electric streetcars were introduced in the late 19th century, conduit current collection was one of the first ways of supplying power, but it proved to be much more expensive, complicated, and trouble-prone than overhead wires . When electric street railways became ubiquitous, conduit power was used in those cities that did not permit overhead wires. In Europe, it was used in London, Paris, Berlin, Marseille, Budapest, and Prague. In the United States, it was used in parts of New York City and Washington, DC. Third rail technology was investigated for use on the Gold Coast of Australia for the G:link light rail, though power from overhead lines was ultimately utilized for that system.
In the French city of
Automated guideway transit
List of tram and light rail transit systems
* ^ _A_ _B_ "Fact Book Glossary - Mode of Service Definitions".
American Public Transportation Association. 2015. Retrieved
* ^ "National Transit Database Glossary". U.S. Department of
Federal Transit Administration