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Light rail transit (LRT) is a form of passenger
urban rail transit Urban rail transit is an all-encompassing term for various types of local rail systems providing passenger service within and around urban or suburban areas. The set of urban rail systems can be roughly subdivided into the following categories, whi ...
characterized by a combination of
tram Preserved Kraków, Poland">Trams in Kraków">Kraków, Poland A tram (in North America streetcar or trolley) is a rail vehicle that runs on tramway track public urban streets; some include segments of segregated right-of-way. The lines or n ...
and
metro Metro, short for metropolitan, may refer to: Geography * Metro (city), a city in Indonesia * A metropolitan area, the populated region including and surrounding an urban center Public transport * Rapid transit, a passenger railway in an urban a ...
features. While its
rolling stock The term rolling stock in the rail transport industry refers to railway vehicles, including both powered and unpowered vehicles, for example locomotives, railroad cars, coaches, private railroad cars and wagons. A connected series of railway vehi ...
is more similar to a traditional tram, it operates at a higher capacity and speed, and often on an exclusive
right-of-way Right of way is "the legal right, established by usage or grant, to pass along a specific route through grounds or property belonging to another", or "a path or thoroughfare subject to such a right". A similar ''right of access'' also exists on l ...
. In many cities, light rail transit systems more closely resemble, and are therefore indistinguishable from, traditional underground or at-grade subways and heavy-rail metros. There is no standard definition, but in the United States (where the terminology was devised in the 1970s from the engineering term ''
light railway#REDIRECT Light railway#REDIRECT Light railway {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...
''), light rail operates primarily along exclusive rights-of-way and uses either individual tramcars or multiple units coupled to form a train that is lower capacity and lower speed than a long
heavy-rail Various terms are used for passenger railway lines and equipment; the usage of these terms differs substantially between areas: Rapid transit A rapid transit system is an electric railway characterized by high speed (~) and rapid acceleration. ...
passenger train pulling passenger cars in Nevada, United States File:World railway network.png, Map of world railway network A train is a form of rail transport consisting of a series of connected vehicles that generally run along a railroad (or railway) ...
or
metro Metro, short for metropolitan, may refer to: Geography * Metro (city), a city in Indonesia * A metropolitan area, the populated region including and surrounding an urban center Public transport * Rapid transit, a passenger railway in an urban a ...
system. A few light rail networks tend to have characteristics closer to
rapid transit Rapid transit or mass rapid transit (MRT), also known as heavy rail, metro, subway, tube, U-Bahn, metropolitana or underground, is a type of high-capacity public transport generally found in urban areas. Unlike buses or trams, rapid transit s ...
or even commuter rail; some of these heavier rapid transit-like systems are referred to as
light metro – Kelana Jaya Line – Wenhu Line A medium-capacity system (MCS), also known as light rapid transit or light metro, is a rail transport system with a capacity greater than light rail, but less than typical heavy-rail rapid transit. MCS’s tr ...
s. Other light rail networks are tram-like in nature and partially operate on streets. Light rail systems are found throughout the world, on all inhabited continents. They have been especially popular in recent years due to their lower capital costs and increased reliability compared with heavy rail systems.


History

The world's first electric tram line operated in
Sestroretsk Sestroretsk (russian: Сестроре́цк; fi, Siestarjoki; sv, Systerbäck) is a municipal town in Kurortny District of the federal city of St. Petersburg, Russia, located on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, the Sestra River and the ...
near
Saint Petersburg Saint Petersburg ( rus, links=no, Санкт-Петербург, a=Ru-Sankt Peterburg Leningrad Petrograd Piter.ogg, r=Sankt-Peterburg, p=ˈsankt pʲɪtʲɪrˈburk), formerly known as Petrograd (1914–1924) and later Leningrad (1924–1991), is th ...
, Russia, invented and tested by
Fyodor Pirotsky Fyodor Apollonovich Pirotsky ( ukr, Федір Аполлонович Піроцький; russian: Фёдор Аполлонович Пироцкий; - ) was a russian engineer and inventor of the world's first railway electrification system and ele ...
in 1880. The second line was the
Gross-Lichterfelde tramway The Gross Lichterfelde Tramway was the world's first electric tramway. It was built by the Siemens & Halske company in Lichterfelde, a suburb of Berlin, and went in service on 16 May 1881. Overview Werner von Siemens had presented the first e ...
in
LichterfeldeLichterfelde may refer to: * Lichterfelde (Berlin), a locality in the borough of Steglitz-Zehlendorf in Berlin, Germany * Lichterfelde West, an elegant residential area in Berlin * Lichterfelde, Saxony-Anhalt, a municipality in the Stendhal District ...
near Berlin in Germany, which opened in 1881. It was built by
Werner von Siemens Ernst Werner Siemens (von Siemens from 1888; ; ; 13 December 1816 – 6 December 1892) was a German electrical engineer, inventor and industrialist. Siemens's name has been adopted as the SI unit of electrical conductance, the siemens. He founde ...
who contacted Pirotsky. This was world's first commercially successful electric tram. It initially drew current from the rails, with
overhead wire An overhead line or overhead wire is used to transmit electrical energy to electric trains, trolleybuses or trams. It is known variously as: * Overhead catenary * Overhead contact system (OCS) * Overhead equipment (OHE) * Overhead line equipment (O ...
being installed in 1883. The first
interurban The Interurban (or radial railway in Europe and Canada) is a type of electric railway, with streetcar-like electric self-propelled rail cars which run within and between cities or towns. They were very prevalent in North America between 1900 a ...

interurban
to emerge in the United States was the Newark and Granville Street Railway in Ohio, which opened in 1889.


Postwar

Many original tram and streetcar systems in the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shortha ...
,
United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, 326 India ...
, and elsewhere were decommissioned starting in the 1950s as the popularity of the car increased. Britain abandoned its tram systems, except for
Blackpool Blackpool is a large town and seaside resort on the north west coast of England. The town is on the Irish Sea, between the Ribble and Wyre estuaries, west of Preston, north of Liverpool, northwest of Bolton and northwest of Manchester. At ...
, with the closure of
Glasgow Corporation Tramways Glasgow Corporation Tramways were formerly one of the largest urban tramway systems in Europe. Over 1000 municipally-owned trams served the city of Glasgow, Scotland with over 100 route miles (160 route kilometres) by 1922. The system closed in 1 ...
(one of the largest in Europe) in 1962.


Revival

Although some traditional trolley or tram systems exist to this day in
San Francisco cable car system The San Francisco cable car system is the world's last manually operated cable car system. An icon of San Francisco, the cable car system forms part of the intermodal urban transport network operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway. Of th ...

San Francisco cable car system
and
streetcars in New Orleans Streetcars in New Orleans have been an integral part of the city's public transportation network since the first half of the 19th century. The longest of New Orleans' streetcar lines, the St. Charles Avenue line, is the oldest continuously operat ...
, 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 Vertol Boeing Rotorcraft Systems (formerly Boeing Helicopters and before that Boeing Vertol) is the former name of an American aircraft manufacturer, now known as Vertical Lift division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. The headquarters and main ro ...
to 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 en, Hamburgian(s) , timezone1 = CET , utc_offset1 = +1 , timezone1_DST = CEST , utc_offset1_DST = +2 , postal_code_type = Postal code(s) , postal_code ...
, 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
Edmonton, Alberta Edmonton () is the capital city of the Canadian province of Alberta. Edmonton is on the North Saskatchewan River and is the centre of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, which is surrounded by Alberta's central region. The city anchors the north ...
, adopted the German Siemens-Duewag U2 system, followed three years later by
CTrain CTrain is a light rail rapid transit system in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It began operation on May 25, 1981 and has expanded as the city has increased in population. The system is operated by Calgary Transit, as part of the Calgary municipal gove ...
Calgary, Alberta Calgary ( is a city in the western Canadian province of Alberta. It is situated at the confluence of the Bow River and the Elbow River in the south of the province, in an area of foothills and prairie, about east of the front ranges of the Cana ...
, and
San Diego, California San Diego (, ; ) is a city in the U.S. state of California on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and immediately adjacent to the United States–Mexico border. With an estimated population of 1,423,851 as of July 1, 2019, San Diego is the eighth ...
. The concept proved popular, and there are now at least 30 light rail systems in the United States and over 40 in North America. Britain began replacing its run-down local railways with light rail in the 1980s, starting with the
Tyne and Wear Metro The Tyne and Wear Metro is a publicly-owned rapid transit system serving the metropolitan boroughs of Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and the City of Sunderland (together forming Tyne and Wear). The network opened i ...
and followed by the
Docklands Light Railway The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is an automated light metro system serving the redeveloped Docklands area of London, England. First opened on 31 August 1987, the DLR has been extended multiple times, and now reaches north to Stratford, south ...

Docklands Light Railway
(DLR) in London. The historic term
light railway#REDIRECT Light railway#REDIRECT Light railway {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...
was used because it dated from the British
Light Railways Act 1896 The Light Railways Act 1896 (59 & 60 Vict. c.48) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (as it then was). Before the Act each new railway line built in the country required a specific Act of Parliament to ...
, although the technology used in the DLR system was at the high end of what Americans considered to be ''light rail''. The trend to light rail in the United Kingdom was firmly established with the success of the
Manchester Metrolink Manchester Metrolink (branded locally simply as Metrolink) is a tram/light rail system in Greater Manchester, England. The network has 99 stops along of standard-gauge track, making it the most extensive light rail system in the United Kingd ...
system, which opened in 1992.


Definition

The term ''light rail'' was coined in 1972 by the U.S. Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA; the precursor to the
Federal Transit Administration The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is an agency within the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) that provides financial and technical assistance to local public transportation systems. The FTA is one of ten modal administrations ...
) to describe new streetcar transformations that were taking place in Europe and the United States. In Germany the term ''
Stadtbahn A ' (; German for "city railway"; plural ') are types of rail transport. One type of transport originated in the 19th century, firstly in Berlin and followed by Vienna, where rail routes were created that could be used independently from other tr ...

Stadtbahn
'' (to be distinguished from ''
S-Bahn 206px, Part of Hackescher Markt station, while the other two tracks are for other train types, which do not stop at this station. Compare with photo of Vesterport station in Copenhagen below. The concept is the same. The S-train is a type of hyb ...
'', which stands for ''Stadtschnellbahn'') was used to describe the concept, and many in UMTA wanted to adopt the direct translation, which is ''city rail'' (the Norwegian term, ''bybane'', means the same). However, UMTA finally adopted the term ''light rail'' instead. ''Light'' in this context is used in the sense of "intended for light loads and fast movement", rather than referring to physical weight. The infrastructure investment is also usually lighter than would be found for a heavy rail system. The
Transportation Research Board The Transportation Research Board (TRB) is a division of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, formerly the National Research Council of the United States, which serves as an independent adviser to the President of the United ...
(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 The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit group of approximately 1,500 public and private sector member organizations that promotes and advocates for the interests of the public transportation industry in the United Stat ...
(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 oleor a
pantograph A pantograph (Greek roots παντ- "all, every" and γραφ- "to write", from their original use for copying writing) is a mechanical linkage connected in a manner based on parallelograms so that the movement of one pen, in tracing an image, ...
; 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 as the
O-Train The O-Train is a light rail transit system in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada operated by OC Transpo. The system has two lines, the electrically-operated Confederation Line and the diesel-operated Trillium Line. Currently, Stage 2 construction has tempora ...

O-Train
Trillium Line The Trillium Line (french: Ligne Trillium), also called O-Train Line 2 (french: Ligne 2 de l'O-Train), is a diesel light rail transit (DLRT) service in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, operated by OC Transpo. The line is part of the O-Train light rail ...
in
Ottawa, Ontario Ottawa (, ; Canadian ) is the capital city of Canada. It stands on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of southern Ontario. Ottawa borders Gatineau, Quebec, and forms the core of the Ottawa–Gatineau census metropolitan a ...

Ottawa, Ontario
, Canada, the River Line in
New Jersey New Jersey is a state in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions of the United States. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York; on the east, southeast, and south by the Atlantic Ocean; on the west by the Delaware R ...
, United States, and the Sprinter in
California California is a state in the Western United States. With over 39.3million residents across a total area of approximately , it is the most populous and the third-largest U.S. state by area. It is also the most populated subnational entity in N ...
, United States, which use diesel multiple unit (DMU) cars. ''Light rail'' is similar to the
British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect of the English language as spoken and written in the United Kingdom. Variations exist in formal, written English in the United Kingdom. For example, the adjective ''wee'' is almost exclusively use ...
term ''
light railway#REDIRECT Light railway#REDIRECT Light railway {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...
'', long-used to distinguish railway operations carried out under a less rigorous set of regulation using lighter equipment at lower speeds from mainline railways. ''Light rail'' is a generic
international English International English is the concept of the English language as a global means of communication in numerous dialects, and the movement towards an international standard for the language. It is also referred to as Global English, World English, ...
phrase for these types of rail systems, which means more or less the same thing throughout the
English-speaking world#REDIRECT English-speaking world ...
. 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 Preserved Kraków, Poland">Trams in Kraków">Kraków, Poland A tram (in North America streetcar or trolley) is a rail vehicle that runs on tramway track public urban streets; some include segments of segregated right-of-way. The lines or n ...
, but in North America ''tram'' can instead refer to an
aerial tramway Aerial may refer to: Music *''Aerial'' (album), by Kate Bush *''Aerials'' (song), from the album ''Toxicity'' by System of a Down Bands *Aerial (Canadian band) *Aerial (Scottish band) *Aerial (Swedish band) Performance art *Aerial silk, appar ...
, 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 British English and American English terminology arose in the late 19th century when Americans adopted the term "street railway", rather than "tramway", with the vehicles being called "streetcars" rather than "trams". Some have suggested that the Americans' preference for the term "street railway" at that time was influenced by German emigrants to the United States (who were more numerous than British immigrants in the industrialized Northeast), as it is the same as the German term for the mode, ''Straßenbahn'' (meaning "street railway"). A further difference arose because, while Britain abandoned all of its ''trams'' except
Blackpool Blackpool is a large town and seaside resort on the north west coast of England. The town is on the Irish Sea, between the Ribble and Wyre estuaries, west of Preston, north of Liverpool, northwest of Bolton and northwest of Manchester. At ...
after World War II, eight major North American cities (
Toronto Toronto is the capital city of the Canadian province of Ontario. With a recorded population of 2,731,571 in 2016, it is the most populous city in Canada and the fourth most populous city in North America. The city is the anchor of the Golden ...
,
Boston Boston (, ), officially the City of Boston, is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States and 21st most populous city in the country. The city proper covers with an estimated population of 692, ...
,
Philadelphia Philadelphia, colloquially Philly, is a city in the state of Pennsylvania in the United States. It is the sixth-most populous city in the United States and the most populous city in the state of Pennsylvania, with a 2019 estimated population o ...
,
San Francisco San Francisco (/ˌsæn fɹənˈsɪskoʊ/; Spanish for "Saint Francis"), officially the City and County of San Francisco, is a cultural, commercial, and financial center in Northern California. San Francisco is the 16th most populous city in ...
,
Pittsburgh Pittsburgh ( ) is a city in the state of Pennsylvania in the United States and the county seat of Allegheny County. An estimated population of about 300,286 residents live within the city limits as of 2019, making it the 66th-largest city in th ...

Pittsburgh
, Newark,
Cleveland Cleveland ( ), officially the City of Cleveland, is a major city in the U.S. state of Ohio, and the county seat of Cuyahoga County. It is located along the southern shore of Lake Erie, across the U.S. maritime border with Canada and approximate ...
, and
New Orleans New Orleans (,New Orleans
Portland, Oregon Portland (, ) is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Oregon and the seat of Multnomah County. It is a major port in the Willamette Valley region of the Pacific Northwest, at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia riv ...
, has built all three types of system: a high-capacity
light rail system Light rail transit (LRT) is a form of passenger urban rail transit characterized by a combination of tram and metro features. While its rolling stock is more similar to a traditional tram, it operates at a higher capacity and speed, and often o ...
in dedicated lanes and rights-of-way, a low-capacity streetcar system integrated with street traffic, and an aerial tram system. 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 comparing the
London Underground The London Underground (also known simply as the Underground, or by its nickname the Tube) is a rapid transit system serving Greater London and some parts of the adjacent counties of Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom ...
and the
New York City Subway The New York City Subway is a rapid transit system owned by the City of New York and leased to the New York City Transit Authority, an affiliate agency of the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Opened on October 27, 1904, the ...

New York City Subway
. Conventional rail technologies including high-speed, freight, commuter, and
rapid transit Rapid transit or mass rapid transit (MRT), also known as heavy rail, metro, subway, tube, U-Bahn, metropolitana or underground, is a type of high-capacity public transport generally found in urban areas. Unlike buses or trams, rapid transit s ...
urban transit systems are considered "heavy rail". The main difference between light rail and heavy rail rapid transit is the ability for a light rail vehicle to operate in mixed traffic if the routing requires it.
People mover Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit A people mover or automated people mover (APM) is a type of small scale automated guideway transit system for personal rapid transit. The term is generally used only to describe systems serving relatively small ...

People mover
s and
personal rapid transit#REDIRECT Personal rapid transit#REDIRECT Personal rapid transit {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
are even "lighter," at least in terms of capacity.
Monorail A monorail is a railway in which the track consists of a single rail or a beam. The term is also used to describe the beam of the system, or the trains traveling on such a beam or track. The term originates from joining "mono" (meaning one) and ...
is a separate technology that has been more successful in specialized services than in a commuter transit role.


Types

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 Rapid transit or mass rapid transit (MRT), also known as heavy rail, metro, subway, tube, U-Bahn, metropolitana or underground, is a type of high-capacity public transport generally found in urban areas. Unlike buses or trams, rapid transit s ...
; in recent years, new terms such as
light metro – Kelana Jaya Line – Wenhu Line A medium-capacity system (MCS), also known as light rapid transit or light metro, is a rail transport system with a capacity greater than light rail, but less than typical heavy-rail rapid transit. MCS’s tr ...
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.


Lower capacity

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
right-of-way Right of way is "the legal right, established by usage or grant, to pass along a specific route through grounds or property belonging to another", or "a path or thoroughfare subject to such a right". A similar ''right of access'' also exists on l ...
, 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 crossing , Merseyside, England, UK with a train passing A level crossing is an intersection where a railway line crosses a road or path, or in rare situations an airport runway, at the same level, as opposed to the railway line crossing over or unde ...
s with gate arms, or even a complete separation with non-level crossings.


Higher capacity

At the highest degree of separation, it can be difficult to draw the line between light rail and
metro Metro, short for metropolitan, may refer to: Geography * Metro (city), a city in Indonesia * A metropolitan area, the populated region including and surrounding an urban center Public transport * Rapid transit, a passenger railway in an urban a ...
s. The London
Docklands Light Railway The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is an automated light metro system serving the redeveloped Docklands area of London, England. First opened on 31 August 1987, the DLR has been extended multiple times, and now reaches north to Stratford, south ...

Docklands Light Railway
would likely not be considered as "light rail" were it not for the contrast between it and the
rapid transit Rapid transit or mass rapid transit (MRT), also known as heavy rail, metro, subway, tube, U-Bahn, metropolitana or underground, is a type of high-capacity public transport generally found in urban areas. Unlike buses or trams, rapid transit s ...
London Underground The London Underground (also known simply as the Underground, or by its nickname the Tube) is a rapid transit system serving Greater London and some parts of the adjacent counties of Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom ...
. In Europe and Asia, the term ''light rail'' is increasingly used to describe any rapid transit system with a fairly low frequency or short trains compared to heavier mass rapid systems such as the
London Underground The London Underground (also known simply as the Underground, or by its nickname the Tube) is a rapid transit system serving Greater London and some parts of the adjacent counties of Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom ...
or Singapore's
Mass Rapid Transit Mass is both a property of a physical body and a measure of its resistance to acceleration (rate of change of velocity with respect to time) when a net force is applied. An object's mass also determines the strength of its gravitational attra ...
. However upon closer inspection, these systems are better classified as
light metro – Kelana Jaya Line – Wenhu Line A medium-capacity system (MCS), also known as light rapid transit or light metro, is a rail transport system with a capacity greater than light rail, but less than typical heavy-rail rapid transit. MCS’s tr ...
or
people mover Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit A people mover or automated people mover (APM) is a type of small scale automated guideway transit system for personal rapid transit. The term is generally used only to describe systems serving relatively small ...

people mover
s. For instance, Line 1 and Line 3 in
Manila Manila ( , ; fil, Maynila, ), officially the City of Manila ( fil, Lungsod ng Maynila ), is the capital of the Philippines, and its second most populous city. It is highly urbanized and as of 2019 was the world's most densely populated city pr ...
are often referred to as "light rail", despite being fully segregated, mostly elevated railways. This phenomenon is quite common in East Asian cities, where elevated metro lines in
Shanghai Shanghai (, , Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four direct-administered municipalities of the People's Republic of China, governed by the State Council. The city is located on the southern estuary of the Yangtze River, with ...
,
Wuhan Wuhan (, ) is the capital of Hubei Province in the People's Republic of China. It is the largest city in Hubei and the most populous city in Central China, with a population of over eleven million, the ninth-most populous Chinese city and one of ...
, and
Dalian Dalian is a major sub-provincial port city in Liaoning province, People's Republic of China, and is Liaoning's second largest city (after the provincial capital Shenyang) and the fourth most populous city of Northeast China. Located on the so ...
in China; and
Jakarta Jakarta (; ), officially the Special Capital Region of Jakarta ( id, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta), is the capital of Indonesia. It lies on the northwest coast of Java (the world's most populous island). Jakarta is the centre of the economy, ...
,
Greater Jakarta The Jakarta metropolitan area, or Greater Jakarta known locally as Jabodetabek, Jabodetabekjur, or Jabodetabekpunjur (an acronym of Jakarta–Bogor–Depok–Tangerang–Bekasi–Puncak–Cianjur), is the most populous metropolitan area in Indone ...
and
Palembang Palembang () is the capital city of the Indonesian province of South Sumatra. The city proper covers of land on both banks of Musi River on the eastern lowland of southern Sumatra. It has an estimated population of 1,662,893 in mid 2019. Palemb ...
in Indonesia are called light rail lines. In North America, such systems are not usually considered light rail.


Mixed systems

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 Rail's L Line "light rail" has sections that could alternatively be described as a tramway, a light metro, and, in a narrow sense, rapid transit. This is especially common in the United States, where there is not a popularly perceived distinction between these different types of urban rail systems. The development of technology for low-floor and catenary-free trams facilitates construction of such mixed systems with only short and shallow underground sections below critical intersections as the required clearance height can be reduced significantly compared to conventional light rail vehicles. It is even possible to have high-floor rapid transit cars run along a street, like a tram; this is known as ''
street running EMU street-running on Michigan City’s 11th Street; United States, in 2009 On-street running or street running is the routing of a Track (rail transport), railroad track or tramway track running directly along public streets, without any grade sep ...
''.


Speed and stop frequency

In some areas, "light rail" may also refer to any rail line with frequent low speeds or many stops in a short distance. This inherits the old definition of
light railway#REDIRECT Light railway#REDIRECT Light railway {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...
in the UK. Hong Kong's
Light Rail Light rail transit (LRT) is a form of passenger urban rail transit characterized by a combination of tram and metro features. While its rolling stock is more similar to a traditional tram, it operates at a higher capacity and speed, and often o ...
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. However, low top speed is not always a differentiating characteristic between light rail and other systems. For example, the
Siemens S70 The Siemens S700 and its similar predecessor the S70, also known as the Avanto, is a low-floor light-rail vehicle (LRV) or streetcar manufactured by Siemens Mobility, a division of Siemens AG. The S70 and S700 are built for the United States mar ...
LRVs used in the
Houston Houston ( ) is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Texas, fourth-most populous city in the United States, most populous city in the Southern United States, as well as the sixth-most populous in North America, with an estimated 2019 popu ...
METRORail METRORail is the light rail system in Houston, Texas (United States). As of 2015, the METRORail has an average weekday ridership of 56,600 and total annual ridership of 18.335 million. After Dallas's DART Light Rail, METRORail ranks as the second ...
and other North American LRT systems have a top speed of while the trains on the all-underground
Montreal Metro The Montreal Metro (french: Métro de Montréal) is a rubber-tired underground rapid transit system serving Greater Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The metro, operated by the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), was inaugurated on October 14, 1 ...

Montreal Metro
can only reach a top speed of .
Los Angeles Metro The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), commonly branded as Metro, is the agency that plans, operates, and coordinates funding for most of the transportation system in Los Angeles County. The agency directly operate ...
light rail vehicles have higher top and average speeds than Montreal Metro or
New York City Subway The New York City Subway is a rapid transit system owned by the City of New York and leased to the New York City Transit Authority, an affiliate agency of the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Opened on October 27, 1904, the ...

New York City Subway
trains. The main difference is that Montreal Metro and New York City Subway trains carry far more passengers than any North American LRT system, and the trains have faster acceleration, making station-to-station times relatively short in their densely populated urban areas. Most light rail systems serve less densely populated cities and suburbs where passenger traffic is not high, but low cost combined with high top speed may be important to compete with automobiles.


System-wide considerations

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 JFK AirTrain JFK is an elevated people mover system and airport rail link serving John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK Airport) in New York City. The driverless system operates 24/7 and consists of three lines and ten stations within the New ...
in New York City, the
DLR
DLR
in London, and
Kelana Jaya Line The LRT Kelana Jaya Line is the fifth rail transit line and the first fully automated and driverless rail system in the Klang Valley area and forms a part of the Klang Valley Integrated Transit System. Servicing 37 stations, the line has 46.4  ...

Kelana Jaya Line
in
Kuala Lumpur , anthem = ''Maju dan Sejahtera'' , image_map = , map_caption = , pushpin_map = Malaysia#Southeast Asia#Asia , pushpin_map_caption = , coordinates = , subdivision_type ...
, have dispensed with the need for an operator. The
Vancouver Vancouver ( ) is a major city in western Canada, located in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia. As the most populous city in the province, the 2016 census recorded 631,486 people in the city, up from 603,502 in 2011. The Greater Vanc ...
SkyTrain was an early adopter of driverless vehicles, while the
Toronto Toronto is the capital city of the Canadian province of Ontario. With a recorded population of 2,731,571 in 2016, it is the most populous city in Canada and the fourth most populous city in North America. The city is the anchor of the Golden ...
Scarborough rapid transit operates the same trains as Vancouver, but uses drivers. In most discussions and comparisons, these specialized systems are generally not considered light rail but as
light metro – Kelana Jaya Line – Wenhu Line A medium-capacity system (MCS), also known as light rapid transit or light metro, is a rail transport system with a capacity greater than light rail, but less than typical heavy-rail rapid transit. MCS’s tr ...
systems.


Track gauge

Historically, the
track gauge In rail transport, track gauge or track gage is the spacing of the rails on a railway track and is measured between the inner faces of the load-bearing rails. All vehicles on a rail network must have running gear that is compatible with the tra ...

track gauge
has had considerable variations, with
narrow gauge A narrow-gauge railway (narrow-gauge railroad in the US) is a railway with a track gauge narrower than standard . Most narrow-gauge railways are between and . Since narrow-gauge railways are usually built with tighter curves, smaller structure g ...
common in many early systems. However, most light rail systems are now
standard gauge A standard-gauge railway is a railway with a track gauge of . The standard gauge is also called Stephenson gauge (after George Stephenson), International gauge, UIC gauge, uniform gauge, normal gauge and European gauge in Europe. It is the most ...
. 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 car Articulated cars are rail vehicles which consist of a number of cars which are semi-permanently attached to each other and share common Jacobs bogies or axles and/or have car elements without axles suspended by the neighbouring car elements. ...
s. 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 Accessibility in the sense considered here refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments so as to be usable by people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design and practice of accessible development ensures bo ...
laws are making
low-floor tram A low-floor tram is a tram that has no stairsteps between one or more entrances and part or all of the passenger cabin. The low-floor design improves the accessibility of the tram for the public, and also may provide larger windows and more airspace ...
s 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.


Capacity


Efficiency

Energy efficiency Energy efficiency may refer to: * Energy efficiency (physics), the ratio between the useful output and input of an energy conversion process ** Electrical efficiency, useful power output per electrical power consumed ** Mechanical efficiency, a rat ...
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

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 (a
traffic jam Traffic congestion is a condition in transport that is characterised by slower speeds, longer trip times, and increased vehicular queueing. Traffic congestion on urban road networks has increased substantially, since the 1950s. When traffic dema ...
) if they exceed about 2,000 vehicles per hour per lane (each car roughly
two seconds ''Two Seconds'' is a 1932 American pre-Code crime drama film directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Edward G. Robinson, Vivienne Osborne and Preston Foster. It was based on a successful Broadway play of the same name by Elliott Lester. The title ...
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 A rush hour (American English, British English) or peak hour (Australian English) is a part of the day during which traffic congestion on roads and crowding on public transport is at its highest. Normally, this happens twice every weekday; onc ...
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 Right of way is "the legal right, established by usage or grant, to pass along a specific route through grounds or property belonging to another", or "a path or thoroughfare subject to such a right". A similar ''right of access'' also exists on l ...
, not much more than two car lanes wide for a
double track A double-track railway usually involves running one track in each direction, compared to a single-track railway where trains in both directions share the same track. Overview In the earliest days of railways in the United Kingdom, most lines ...
system. They can often be run through existing city streets and parks, or placed in the median (road), 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 railway signalling, moving block signalling can exceed 25,000 passengers per hour per track.


Practical considerations

Most light rail systems in the United States are limited by demand rather than capacity (by and large, most 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 Calgary C-Train and Monterrey Metro have higher light rail ridership than Boston or San Francisco. Systems outside North America often have much higher passenger volumes. The Manila Light Rail Transit System is one of the highest capacity ones, having been upgraded in a series of expansions to handle 40,000 passengers per hour per direction, and having carried as many as 582,989 passengers in a single day on its Line 1. It achieves this volume by running four-car trains with a capacity of up to 1,350 passengers each at a frequency of up to 30 trains per hour. However, the Manila light rail system has full grade separation and as a result has many of the operating characteristics of a metro system rather than a light rail system. A capacity of 1,350 passengers per train is more similar to heavy rail than light rail. Bus rapid transit (BRT) is an alternative to LRT and many planning studies undertake a comparison of each mode when considering appropriate investments in transit corridor development. BRT systems can exhibit a more diverse range of design characteristics than LRT, depending on the demand and constraints that exist, and BRT using dedicated lanes can have a theoretical capacity of over 30,000 passengers per hour per direction (for example, the Guangzhou Bus Rapid Transit system operates up to 350 buses per hour per direction). For the effective operation of a bus or BRT system, buses must have priority at traffic lights and have their own dedicated lanes, especially as bus frequencies exceed 30 buses per hour per direction. The higher theoretical of BRT relates to the ability of buses to travel closer to each other than rail vehicles and their ability to overtake each other at designated locations allowing express services to bypass those that have stopped at stations. However, to achieve capacities this high, BRT station footprints need to be significantly larger than a typical LRT station. In terms of cost of operation, 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 BRT systems compared to LRT systems. BRT systems are also usually less fuel-efficient as they use non-electrified vehicles. 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 higher 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.


Safety

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."


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. Link Light Rail, 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 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. 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. For example, in Boston and San Francisco, light rail lines carry 9,600 and 13,100 passengers per hour, respectively, in the peak direction during rush hour. 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 Project rebuilt 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 of highway improvements and 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 Calgary, Alberta, C-Train used many common light rail techniques to keep costs low, including minimizing underground and elevated trackage, sharing transit malls with buses, leasing rights-of-way from freight railroads, and combining LRT construction with freeway expansion. As a result, Calgary ranks toward the less expensive end of the scale with capital costs of around $24 million per mile. 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 typical C-Train vehicle costs only per hour to operate, and since it averages 600 passengers per operating hour, Calgary Transit estimates that its LRT operating costs are only 27 cents per ride, versus $1.50 per ride on its buses. 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 number 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.


Health impact


Integration with bicycles

Light rail lines have various policies on bicycles. Some fleets restrict bicycles on trains during peak hours. Some light rail systems, such as the St. Louis MetroLink, allow bicycles on the trains, but only in the rear sections of cars. Some light rail lines, like San Francisco's, allow only folding bicycles on board. In some systems dedicated bike parking is available at select stations and others are integrated with local bike share systems.


Variations


Trams operating on mainline railways

Around Karlsruhe, Kassel, and Saarbrücken in Germany, dual-voltage light rail trains partly use mainline railroad tracks, sharing these tracks with heavy rail trains. In the Netherlands, this concept was first applied on the RijnGouweLijn. This allows commuters to ride directly into the city centre, rather than taking a mainline train only as far as a central station and then having change to a tram. In France, similar tram-trains are planned for Paris, Mulhouse, and Strasbourg; further projects exist. In some cases, tram-trains use previously abandoned or lightly used heavy rail lines in addition to or instead of still in use mainline tracks. 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 railway platform, platforms * height of the platforms There is a history of what would now be considered light rail vehicles operating on heavy rail
rapid transit Rapid transit or mass rapid transit (MRT), also known as heavy rail, metro, subway, tube, U-Bahn, metropolitana or underground, is a type of high-capacity public transport generally found in urban areas. Unlike buses or trams, rapid transit s ...
tracks in the US, especially in the case of interurban streetcars. Notable examples are Lehigh Valley Transit trains 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 Administration refusing (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 (New Jersey Transit), River Line from Camden, New Jersey, Camden to Trenton, New Jersey, Trenton and Austin's Capital MetroRail, which have received exemptions to the provision that light rail operations occur only during daytime hours and Bordentown Secondary#Today, Conrail freight service only at night, with several hours separating one operation from the other. The
O-Train The O-Train is a light rail transit system in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada operated by OC Transpo. The system has two lines, the electrically-operated Confederation Line and the diesel-operated Trillium Line. Currently, Stage 2 construction has tempora ...

O-Train
Trillium Line The Trillium Line (french: Ligne Trillium), also called O-Train Line 2 (french: Ligne 2 de l'O-Train), is a diesel light rail transit (DLRT) service in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, operated by OC Transpo. The line is part of the O-Train light rail ...
in Ottawa also has freight service at certain hours.


Third-rail power for trams

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, D.C. Third rail technology was investigated for use on the Gold Coast, Queensland, 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 Bordeaux, the Bordeaux tramway, tramway network is powered by a Ground-level power supply, third rail in the city centre, where the tracks are not always segregated from pedestrians and cars. The third rail (actually two closely spaced rails) is placed in the middle of the track and divided into eight-metre sections, each of which is powered only while it is completely covered by a tram. This minimises the risk of a person or animal coming into contact with a live rail. In outer areas, the trams switch to conventional Overhead lines, overhead wires. The Bordeaux power system costs about three times as much as a conventional overhead wire system, and took 24 months to achieve acceptable levels of reliability, requiring replacement of all the main cables and power supplies. Operating and maintenance costs of the innovative power system still remain high. However, despite numerous service outages, the system was a success with the public, gaining up to 190,000 passengers per day.


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.


Typical rolling stock

The BART railcar in the following chart is ''not'' generally considered to be a "light rail" vehicle (it is actually a heavy rail vehicle), and is only included for comparison purposes.


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. Light rail trains are actually very sturdily built for passenger safety, and to reduce damage from impacts with cars.


Floor height

The latest generation of LRVs has the advantage of partially or fully low-floor design, with the floor of the vehicles only 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.


Power sources

Overhead lines supply 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 The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is an automated light metro system serving the redeveloped Docklands area of London, England. First opened on 31 August 1987, the DLR has been extended multiple times, and now reaches north to Stratford, south ...

Docklands Light Railway
uses an inverted third rail for its electrical power, which allows the electrified rail to be covered and the power drawn from the underside. Trams in Bordeaux tramway, Bordeaux, France, use a Ground level power supply, special third-rail configuration where the power is only switched on beneath the trams, making it safe on city streets. Several systems in Europe and a few recently opened systems in North America use Diesel engine, diesel-powered trains.


Tram and other light rail transit systems worldwide

Around the world there are many extant tram and streetcar systems. Some date from the beginning of the 20th century or earlier such as Toronto streetcar system, 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 Angeles and Jersey City) that once closed down their streetcar networks are now restoring, or have already rebuilt, at least some of their former streetcar/tram systems. Most light rail services are currently committed to articulated vehicles like modern LRVs, i.e. trams, with the exception of large underground metro or rapid transit systems. A number of UK cities have substantial light rail networks including Nottingham,
Manchester Metrolink Manchester Metrolink (branded locally simply as Metrolink) is a tram/light rail system in Greater Manchester, England. The network has 99 stops along of standard-gauge track, making it the most extensive light rail system in the United Kingd ...
and a line between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, with plans to extend out as far as Coventry. File:Trendelacosta.JPG, The Tren de la Costa in Greater Buenos Aires File:KRMetrotram.jpg, Metrotram in Kryvyi Rih (Ukraine) was separated from the streets, but later it was upgraded to be compatible with common tramways File:StreetcarToronto.jpg, A light-rail vehicle, a part of the Toronto Transit Commission, TTC Toronto streetcar system, streetcar system in
Toronto Toronto is the capital city of the Canadian province of Ontario. With a recorded population of 2,731,571 in 2016, it is the most populous city in Canada and the fourth most populous city in North America. The city is the anchor of the Golden ...


See also

* Cater MetroTrolley * Capa vehicle * General Motors streetcar conspiracy * H-Bahn * Light rail in North America * List of modern tramway and light rail systems in the United Kingdom * List of rail transit systems in the United States * List of town tramway systems (all-time lists) * List of tram and light rail transit systems
(operational systems ''only'') * Medium-capacity rail transport system * Passenger rail terminology * Railway electrification system * Rubber-tyred trams * Streetcars in North America * Tram and light rail transit systems


References


External links


Light Rail Transit Committee
of the
Transportation Research Board The Transportation Research Board (TRB) is a division of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, formerly the National Research Council of the United States, which serves as an independent adviser to the President of the United ...
(US)
Light Rail Transit Association
(UK-based, international organization)
Light Rail Now!
(US) A pro-light rail web site, opposing monorails, Bus Rapid Transit (busways), and other less common transportation systems
Light Rail Netherlands
(NL) in English, Nederlands, Русский, Deutsch, Français, Español
"This Is Light Rail Transit"
(PDF) brochure by the
American Public Transportation Association The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit group of approximately 1,500 public and private sector member organizations that promotes and advocates for the interests of the public transportation industry in the United Stat ...
(APTA) (2000; updated 2003)
Photo gallery of the world's light rail
{{Public transport Light rail, Sustainable urban planning Tram transport