Light rail in North America
||It has been suggested that Politics of light rail in North America be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since July 2013.|
Light rail is a commonly used mode of rapid transit in North America. The term light rail was coined in 1972 by the U.S. Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) to describe new streetcar transformations which were taking place in Europe and the United States. The Germans used the term Stadtbahn, which is the predecessor of the North American light rail, to describe the concept, and many in the UMTA wanted to adopt the direct translation, which is city rail. However, in its reports the UMTA finally adopted the term light rail instead.
- 1 History of streetcars and light rail
- 2 Politics of light rail in North America
- 3 Usage of light rail in North America
- 4 Diesel light rail
- 5 Light rail in Canada
- 6 Light rail in Mexico
- 7 Light rail in the United States
- 8 List of LRT Systems operating in the United States
- 8.1 Baltimore
- 8.2 Boston
- 8.3 Buffalo
- 8.4 Charlotte
- 8.5 Cleveland
- 8.6 Dallas
- 8.7 Denver
- 8.8 Houston
- 8.9 Los Angeles
- 8.10 Minneapolis-St. Paul
- 8.11 New Jersey
- 8.12 Norfolk
- 8.13 Philadelphia
- 8.14 Phoenix
- 8.15 Pittsburgh
- 8.16 Portland, Oregon
- 8.17 Sacramento
- 8.18 St. Louis
- 8.19 Salt Lake City
- 8.20 San Diego
- 8.21 San Francisco
- 8.22 San Jose
- 8.23 Seattle–Tacoma
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 References
History of streetcars and light rail
From the mid-19th century onwards, horse-drawn trams (or horsecars) were used in cities around the world. In the late 1880s electrically powered street railways became technically feasible following the invention of a trolley pole system of collecting current by American inventor Frank J. Sprague who installed the first successful system at Richmond, Virginia. They became popular because roads were then poorly surfaced, and before the invention of the internal combustion engine and the advent of motor-buses, they were the only practical means of public transport around cities.
The streetcar systems constructed in the 19th and early 20th centuries typically only ran in single-car setups. Some rail lines experimented with multiple unit configurations, where streetcars were joined together to make short trains, but this did not become common until later. When lines were built over longer distances (typically with a single track) before good roads were common, they were generally called interurban streetcars or radial railways in North America.
After World War II, seven major North American cities (Boston, Newark, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto) continued to operate large streetcar systems. When these cities upgraded to new technology, they called it light rail to differentiate it from their existing streetcars since some continued to operate both the old and new systems. Additionally, Cleveland maintained an interurban system (e.g. the Blue and Green Lines) that is equivalent to what is now "light rail", which opened before World War I, and which is still in operation to this day.
In North America, many of these original streetcar systems were decommissioned in the 1950s and onward as the popularity of the automobile increased. Britain abandoned its last light rail system except Blackpool by 1962. Although some traditional trolley or tram systems still exist to this day, the term "light rail" has come to mean a different type of rail system. Modern light rail technology has primarily German origins, since an attempt by Boeing Vertol to introduce a new American light rail vehicle was a technical failure. After World War II, the Germans retained 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 renaissance of light rail in North American began in 1978 when the Canadian city of Edmonton, Alberta adopted the German Siemens-Duewag U2 system, followed three years later by Calgary, Alberta and San Diego, California.
Historically, the rail gauge has had considerable variations, with narrow gauge common in many early systems. However, most light rail systems are now standard gauge. 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 delivered and relocated conveniently using freight railways and locomotives. Another factor favoring standard gauge is that low-floor vehicles are becoming popular, and there is generally insufficient space for wheelchairs to move between the wheels in a narrow gauge layout.
Politics of light rail in North America
Due to lower density of many American cities, LRT speed relative to the automobile, generally lower ridership levels, and questions of cost-effectiveness, the construction of light rail systems has spurred political controversy as a use of public funds. Arguments made against light rail systems often bill it as less practical than equivalent bus systems and less effective than increases in highway capacity. Arguments in favor of light rail point to overall improvements in safety and quality of life in cities supporting rail-based mass transit and long-term sustainability benefits.
Usage of light rail in North America
- Daily ridership figures represent average weekday ridership figures for all cities except those marked with an asterisk (*), where they represent average for all days (i.e. including weekends).
- Ottawa's O-Train and Oceanside's Sprinter, marked with two asterisks(**) suspended service during the second quarter of 2013.
- Newark, New Jersey's NJ Transit figure, marked with three asterisks (***) represents the combined ridership from three geographically separate light rail systems: Hudson–Bergen Light Rail, Newark Light Rail, and the RiverLINE in Trenton-Camden, New Jersey.
- Galveston, marked with a dagger (†), has suspended operation of its system since 2008 when it was shut down due to damage from Hurricane Ike.
- American Public Transportation Association - Transit Ridership Report - Q4 2012.
- American Public Transportation Association - Transit Ridership Report - Q2 2013.
- Banco de Información Económica - Instituto Nacional de Estadísitica y Geografía (INEGI) (Note: INEGI only provides monthly figures - figures in table above are for the Q2 2013 monthly average, then divided by 30 days to get the daily average.)
Diesel light rail
A few recently opened systems in North America use diesel-powered trains, including the River Line in New Jersey (opened in 2004), the O-Train in Ottawa (opened in 2001), and the SPRINTER in northern San Diego County, California (opened in 2008). Diesel operations are chosen in corridors where lower ridership is expected (and thus do not justify the expense of the electric power infrastructure) or which have an "interurban" nature with stations spaced relatively far apart (electric power provides greater acceleration, making it essential for operations with closely spaced stations). Operations with diesel-powered trains can be an interim measure until ridership growth and the availability of funding allow the system to be upgraded to electric power operations.
Light rail in Canada
|Location||Nation||Relevant Wikipedia article||Year Opened||Route
|Stations||Lines||Year Last Expansion||Type|
|Calgary||C-Train||1981||53 km (33 mi)||43||2||2012||Light rail|
|Edmonton||Edmonton Light Rail Transit||1978||21 km (13 mi)||15||1||2010||Light rail|
|Ottawa||O-Train||2001||8 km (5.0 mi)||5||1||n/a||Light rail|
|Toronto[note 1]||Toronto streetcar system||1861||82 km (51 mi)||708||11||2000||Streetcar|
- Toronto also has a metro/rapid transit system, in addition to its streetcar system - see the List of metro systems.
In general, Canadian cities have rates of public transit use which are two to three times as high as comparably sized U.S. cities. Census data for 2006 show that 11.0% of Canadians use public transit to commute to work, compared to 4.8% of Americans. This means that transportation planners must allow for higher passenger volumes on Canadian transit systems than American ones.
As a result of lower government funding, Canadian cities have to recover a much higher share of their costs out of operating revenues. This lack of funding may explain why there is resistance to the high capital costs of rail systems and there are only a few light rail systems in Canada.
Despite that Calgary, Alberta, has a relatively low population density, the city's C-Train light rail system has developed into a successful one, with an average of 259,600 boardings per weekday in the third quarter of 2012. The system was started in 1981, as the result of decisions to avoid building either downtown freeways or a rapid transit system. At that time, Calgary had less than half a million people and was considered too small for rapid transit, but when it first opened, the C-Train carried about 40,000 passengers per day. By 2007, Calgary had twice as many residents, the system was over three times as long and carried over six times as many passengers.
As of 2007, 45% of the people working in downtown Calgary took transit to work, and the city's objective is to increase that to 60%. Calgary's downtown core covers only 1.4 square miles (3.6 km2), and is isolated from the rest of the city by two rivers and a railway line. In the 1960s planners proposed a comprehensive freeway system to improve access, but this was rejected due to intense public opposition. With LRT upgrades the city is confident it can add another 60,000 downtown workers in the next 20 years without making space for more cars and allow the city to have fewer than 0.4 downtown parking places available per worker.
About 25% of the riders during rush hour are counterflow commuters – going out of downtown during the morning and into it during the afternoon. Many of these are students going to educational institutions, who receive deep discounts because they are filling seats that otherwise would be empty, and workers doing crosstown commutes to avoid the lack of freeways. However, as of 2007, the C-Train is suffering lengthy train waits due to overcrowding.
At present, there are 44 stations in operation, with one currently under construction. There are four lines that accommodate two C-Train routes. The lines, in chronological order, are the South (1981), the Northeast (1985), the Northwest (1987), and the newest West (2012) one. Route 201 uses the South and Northwest lines; Route 202 uses the Northeast and West lines. The two routes share most of the downtown line on the 7th Avenue South transit mall. The exception is the Downtown West - Kerby station, which serves only Route 202 and the West LRT line.
Edmonton was the first city in North America with a population of less than one million to build a modern light rail system (Greater Edmonton now has over 1 million people). The route first started construction in 1974, and opened its first segment on April 22, 1978, in time for the 1978 Commonwealth Games. While groundbreaking at the time, the Edmonton Transit System built much of its light rail system underground, which meant that it could not afford to lay as much track to the suburbs. In addition, Edmonton's central business district has less office space and the single line which was built did not reach areas which housed many commuters to downtown. The system is successful by North American standards, with a daily ridership of 93,600 passengers.
The City of Edmonton has focused on LRT expansion plans over the past couple of years, with one new line under construction, plans to extend current lines, and plans to add two additional lines.
In the 1970s and 1980s Ottawa, Ontario opted for grade-separated busways (the Ottawa Transitway) over light rail on the theory that buses were cheaper. In practice, the capital costs escalated from the original estimate of C$97 million to a final value of C$440 million, a cost overrun of about 450%. This is nearly as high as Calgary's C-Train system, which had a capital cost of C$548 million, is about the same length, and carries more passengers. Unfortunately, the Ottawa Transitway has reached capacity, with over 175 buses per hour on the downtown section, and has no cost-effective way to increase the volume.
In 2001, to supplement its BRT system, Ottawa opened a diesel light rail pilot project, (the O-Train), which was relatively inexpensive to construct (C$21 million), due to its single-track route along a neglected freight-rail right of way and use of diesel multiple units (DMUs) to avoid the cost of building overhead lines along the tracks. O-Train has had some success in attracting new ridership to the system (a few thousand more riders), due to its connection of a south end big box shopping mall (South Keys), through Carleton University to the east-west busway (Ottawa Transitway) near the downtown core of the city.
Ottawa produced plans to expand both the Transitway and to open additional rail routes. The intention of the light rail project was to add to the system (although, the denser parts of the city would have been served by buses and streetcars while the suburbs would have had rapid transit) not to replace the existing Transitway. However, in mid-December 2006, the new Ottawa city council voted to cancel the LRT system despite the fact that funding was already in place and contracts were already signed. As of 2008, lawsuits against the city of Ottawa over its canceled light rail system totaled 36.7 million.
In late 2009, Ottawa introduced a revised east-west LRT proposal, including a tunnel through Downtown Ottawa, featuring 3 subway stations. The new LRT would follow part of the existing Transitway corridor from Tunney's Pasture Station in the west to Blair Station in the east. The city is currently looking at the best route for the west extension as well as the possibility of extending the line to Orleans, the largest suburb within the city limits. The current diesel O-Train service is also to be improved by 2014 with service going from every 15 minutes to 8 minutes.
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Light rail in Mexico
|Location||Nation||Relevant Wikipedia article||Year Opened||Route
|Stations||Lines||Year Last Expansion||Type|
|Guadalajara||Guadalajara light rail system||1989||25.0 km (15.5 mi)||29||2||1994||Light rail|
|Mexico City[note 1]||Xochimilco Light Rail||1986||12.8 km (8.0 mi)||18||1||1990||Light rail|
|Monterrey||Monterrey Metro (Metrorrey)||1991||32 km (20 mi)||31||2||2008||Light rail|
- Mexico City also has a metro/rapid transit system, in addition to its light rail system - see the List of metro systems.
Guadalajara's light rail system has two lines, one of which is entirely underground and is thereby is very similar to a metro, as with Monterrey. The north-south line, which replaced a trolleybus line in 1989, has 19 stations, is 15.5 km in length and is only partially grade-separated, in the center of the city. The east-west line 2 opened in 1994, has 8 stations and runs 8.5 km completely underground from the center of the city to Tetlán. Both lines use high-platform boarding at all stations. The two lines combined carry approximately 72.6 million passengers in calendar year 2008 and an average of 208,000 passengers per day in 1Q2009, making it one of the busiest light rail systems in North America.
The Mexico City Metro uses exclusively heavy rail technology. However, the city's trolleybus agency, Servicio de Transportes Eléctricos, operates a 12.8-kilometre (8.0 mi) light rail line which runs in the southern extreme of the city, from Tasqueña metro station (the southern terminus of Metro Line 2) to Xochimilco. The single line carries approximately 62,433 passengers per day.
Monterrey, Nuevo León has Mexico's largest and North America's busiest light rail system. Both of the city's metro lines are light rail, one elevated and the other subterranean. The fact that the entire Metrorrey system is grade-separated makes it different from most light rail systems and closer to being a metro system, as its name suggests. Combined, the two lines carried approximately 153 million passengers in calendar year 2011. In the second quarter of 2012, the system carried approximately 419,400 passengers per day.
The first line of Metrorrey opened in 1991 and as of September 2008, the system included 32 stations and operated 40 high-floor trains on approximately 41 kilometers of routes. The light rail system is complemented by Transmetro, a single-fare bus service from a number of the lines' termini.
Light rail in the United States
The United States has a number of light rail systems in its mid-sized to large cities. In older systems, such as in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Boston, the light rail is vestigal from streetcar days but were spared the fate of other streetcar systems by some grade separation from traffic and high ridership. A number of systems were built in the 1980s, a few more in the 1990s, and many more were opened in lower density cities in the early 2000s.
List of LRT Systems operating in the United States
Legacy light rail transit (LRT)/streetcar systems: 7 (Boston, MA; Newark, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Cleveland, OH; New Orleans, LA; San Francisco, CA)
Second-generation LRT systems: 18 (San Diego, CA; Buffalo, NY; Portland, OR; Sacramento, CA; San Jose, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Baltimore, MD; St. Louis, MO; Denver, CO; Dallas, TX; Salt Lake City, UT; Jersey City, NJ; Houston, TX; Minneapolis, MN; Charlotte, NC; Phoenix, AZ; Seattle, WA; Norfolk, VA)
The Baltimore Light Rail is a single line reaching from BWI Airport south of Baltimore, through the city and north to a strip mall and office park. With 30 miles (48 km) of track, the line achieves a daily ridership of 36,300.
Major efforts toward the creation of the light rail were championed by then mayor William Donald Schaefer, who wanted a transit link to the new baseball park, Camden Yards, about to be built downtown. In order to have the line completed the month that the Baltimore Orioles started playing in Camden Yards in 1992, the system was built entirely without federal money, a rarity in late 20th century U.S. transit projects. Federal funds would later be used to double track the whole system, decreasing headways which had been restricted to 17 minutes.
The light rail line was built entirely at grade, even through downtown's narrow streets. Though the majority of the track's length is grade-separated from acquiring disused railroad rights-of-way, trains run in the streets in some sections downtown. When the system was built, this resulted in vehicles having to wait in traffic lights, though in 2007 a signal preemption system was installed.
The Maryland Transit Administration has drawn up plans for an additional four lines which may be light rail, bus rapid transit, or heavy rail to create a comprehensive city system. As of 2007, only the future of one line is certain. The Red Line, which is in its intermediate planning stages, will be an East-West link light rail. The line will run 14.1 miles from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the western suburbs to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in the eastern part of the city. Stations will link to the existing central light rail line and to the MARC Penn line, a commuter rail line, in two locations. The line will be underground through the city center because of Baltimore's narrow streets and dense traffic, and will run mostly at grade otherwise. The Red Line will be operational in 2021.
The oldest and one of the busiest light rail system in the United States is the MBTA Green Line in Boston. With 235,300 daily ridership on its 25.4 miles (40.9 km) of track, the Green Line is a primary transportation route in the western portions of Boston Metro, and is patronized by students and workers from close-in neighborhoods like Brighton and Allston.
The subsurface portion of the line was opened in 1897 to alleviate congestion for street level trolley cars, with numerous lines from the north and south converging via several portals to Park Street Station. By 1964, the transformation to today's system was nearly complete with the elimination of streetcars entering at Lechmere and Boylston; lines into the four remaining portals would be designated B, C, D, and E (the A line street running to Watertown was abandoned in the 1969). Three of today's four lines, although having their own separate path in the medians of their respective roads, still have segments without fully grade-separated rights-of-way, and consequently must wait at traffic lights. As of 2013[update], traffic signal prioritization has been proposed, but no implementation plan has been approved.
The E line, which formerly ran to Arborway station via a lengthy street running segment, was drastically trimmed to terminate at Heath Street. There remains a short street running segment, comprising four mid-pavement stops, from Brigham Circle to Heath Street. The D line is the lone exception, running completely on a former Boston and Albany Railroad dedicated right-of-way to Riverside station in Newton.
In 2004, the MBTA removed the Causeway Street Elevated portion of the line, and replaced it with an underground tunnel, as a part of Big Dig environmental remediation, leaving the Lechmere Viaduct as the only remaining elevated part of the line. Other work includes many station overhauls that will improve handicapped accessibility.
Buffalo has a somewhat unique rail system. While the majority of the 6.6 miles (11 km) of track operates as an underground, "heavy" rail system, the section within the city center—only about one-fifth of the line's length—operates on the surface, in a fare-free pedestrian mall along Main Street. Buffalo's NFTA opened the Metro Rail in 1984 as a single line that was projected to grow into a large rapid transit system. However, cost overruns and population decline caused expansion plans to be put on hold. The system still serves about 20,000 people daily.
Charlotte's LYNX system consists of a single 9.6-mile (15.4 km) line called the Blue Line. After receiving a positive Record of Decision from the Federal Transit Administration on May 19, 2003, continued preparation and land acquisition would finally result in its groundbreaking in spring 2005. The line is in full operation, at a projected final cost of $462.7 million. This price tag does not include indirect or ancillary costs such as rerouting water and sewer lines to accommodate the line, estimated at an additional $72 million as of April 2006.
The Blue Line's construction is part of a greater comprehensive transit network for the Charlotte metropolitan region. 70.6 more miles of track are planned, though some of these could be constructed as Bus Rapid Transit or streetcar lines.
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The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority owns three main lines in Cleveland, as well as Cuyahoga County. The system was established in the 1970s through a merger between the Cleveland Interurban Railroad and the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit. The Blue and Green Lines, which are considered to be light rail lines, were established in 1913; the Red Line, which is considered to be rapid transit, was established in 1955.
Operated by Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), the DART Light Rail system is, by route miles, the nation's largest light rail network, with a 85-mile (137 km) rail system that serves Dallas and five of its suburbs, complemented by a 34-mile (55 km) commuter rail line that connects to Fort Worth and runs through Irving, a DART member city. The LRT lines began with the opening of the 20-mile (32 km) starter system in 1996. In the first few years after the turn of the century, DART opened several small expansions, culminating in the opening of the Green Line in December 2010.
DART currently runs four LRT lines. The Red Line begins in southwest Dallas at Westmoreland Station and runs northeast to downtown, then runs north through the suburbs of Richardson and Plano to its terminus at Parker Road Station. The Blue line begins in South Dallas at Ledbetter Station and runs north, joining the Red Line at 8th and Corinth Station on its trek to downtown. It continues north to Mockingbird Station before it breaks away from the Red Line and turns northeast toward Garland, ending its run at Downtown Garland Station. The Green line runs from its southern terminus at Buckner Station in Pleasant Grove to the northwest towards Downtown Dallas. The Green Line then continues northeast passing through the suburbs of Farmers Branch and Carrollton ending at North Carrollton / Frankford Station. The Orange Line is a peak-service only line (running concurrently with some of the northern portions of the Green and Red lines) until 2012, when the first phase expansion towards D/FW Airport is completed.
The system is currently under expansion. The Orange line will run from downtown, towards Las Colinas in Irving and on to DFW Airport. The Blue Line is expanding east to Rowlett and south to Interstate 20. When the latest expansion round is completed, DART's system will have 93 miles (150 km) of LRT.
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The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO), opened its METRORail service on January 1, 2004 to very large crowds. The system currently consists of a single double track line of 7.5 miles (12.1 km). The system serves 45,000 passengers daily. Like many other light rail systems in America, METRORail runs in city streets and does not have its own right of way for most of its route. Two-car trains are the maximum on the line due to downtown Houston's city block size.
The Los Angeles County Metro Rail system, which compromises of both heavy rail and light rail,operates four light rail lines: the Green, Gold, Blue and Expo lines. In September 2013, the lines collectively had 201,913 daily weekday boardings, making it the second busiest light rail system in the United States after Boston's. The Blue line, in particular is the busiest with 88,169 average weekday boardings. The Blue and Gold Lines run mostly at grade, with some street-running, elevated, and underground stretches in more densely populated areas. The Green Line is entirely grade separated, running in the median of I-105 and then turning southward along an elevated route.
The Blue Line opened first, in 1990. The Green Line began service in 1995, and the Gold Line entered service in 2003. A 9-mile extension of the Gold Line into East Los Angeles has finished construction and began regular service in November 2009. A further extension to Azusa from the northern terminus of the same line is also planned. Additional extensions of the Gold line to Whittier, Montclair and possibly Ontario Airport are under active study.
The newest line, the Expo light rail line which runs from Downtown Los Angeles to Culver City (Phase 1) opened on April 28, 2012. A further extension to Santa Monica (Phase 2) is currently under construction and will open in 2015. Other extensions of the Los Angeles County light rail system are under study. Among these is the Crenshaw Corridor Line, a light rail line running from the Miracle Mile area to the Los Angeles International Airport primarily along Crenshaw Boulevard.
The Twin Cities currently have one LRT Line, the METRO Blue Line. This line runs from downtown Minneapolis, next to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, near the University of Minnesota campus, to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, then to the Mall of America. This line opened in 2004, and by the end of 2009, two additional stations were added at Target Field in the downtown Minneapolis Warehouse District, and at American Boulevard in Bloomington. All stations were modified to accommodate 3-car trains in 2010. The Central Corridor, or Green Line which will run from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul, is scheduled to begin service in 2014. The Southwest Corridor or Green Line extension which would run from Eden Prairie to downtown Minneapolis is currently being planned and could begin service as early as 2015. Also under consideration is a Northwest Corridor (Bottineau Boulevard) (Blue Line extension) that would run from Maple Grove and Brooklyn Park to downtown Minneapolis.
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Like San Francisco, Newark never fully abandoned its old streetcar system, due to the fact that part of it had a dedicated, underground right-of-way in an old canal bed. Beginning in the 1940s, a system that once extended far into Newark's suburbs was pared down to just the underground route, "Streetcar #7" which was rebilled the Newark City Subway. After decades of cutbacks, the line was finally expanded northward to Belleville in the early 2000s. A second branch running through downtown to Newark-Broad St. station was opened in the mid-2000s, and the system was rebranded again as Newark Light Rail.
Trenton to Camden via Burlington City
The River Line is a diesel light rail line in southern New Jersey, running along, except at its ends, what was previously the Bordentown Secondary, from Trenton to Camden, serving communities along the Delaware River between thee cities. This line is one of only three diesel light rail lines in North America, and one of two in the United States.
Norfolk's light rail line is branded The Tide and is operated by Hampton Roads Transit (HRT). It features an initial line extending 7.4 mi (11.9 km) through Downtown Norfolk connecting Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, and Newtown Road. This light rail is soon to be extended to Virginia Beach.
Philadelphia has a light rail system operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). SEPTA also operates Philadelphia's other transit modes. SEPTA's Norristown High-Speed Line (NHSL) is officially[by whom?] considered light rail, and serves 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby just outside of Philadelphia to the Norristown Transportation Center, located in Norristown, a far-off suburb of Philadelphia. Other light rail systems consist of SEPTA Routes 101 and 102 (aka. the Media-Sharon Hill (MSH) Lines) which also begin at 69th Street Terminal, and the SEPTA Subway-Surface Trolley Lines which run between Philadelphia Center City and the nearby western suburbs. The NHSL, and MSH lines were once owned by the Philadelphia and Western Railroad and Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company. The Subway-Surface Trolley Lines share stations with SEPTA's rapid transit Market-Frankford Line between 30th Street and 13th Street.
METRO Light Rail is a 20-mile (32 km) light rail line operating in the cities of Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa, Arizona and is part of the Valley Metro public transit system. Construction began in March 2005; operation started December 27, 2008.
The Pittsburgh light rail lines are vestigial from the city's streetcar days which lasted well into the 1960s. In the 1960s and 1970s, Pittsburgh began replacing most of its remaining streetcar lines with buses, though streetcar lines that used the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel remained. In the late 1970s, it was decided to transition the remaining streetcar lines to light rail, and the new light rail iteration of Pittsburgh's system debuted on April 15, 1984. Thus, along with San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, New Orleans, Newark, and Cleveland, Pittsburgh is one of the few American cities continuing to operate streetcars/light rail in an uninterrupted evolution from the streetcar era of the early 20th Century.
Pittsburgh's light rail network, commonly known as The T, is the 26.2-mile (42.2 km) light rail system in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; it functions as a subway in both downtown Pittsburgh and on the city's North Shore and largely as an at-grade light rail service in the suburbs. The system is owned and operated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT). As stated above, it is the successor system to the far more extensive streetcar network formerly operated by Pittsburgh Railways.
The current lines, which run south from the downtown into the South Hills area, were formerly operated by PCC streetcars. Beginning in the 1980s PAT reconstructed the lines along the existing right-of-way and ordered new trams from Siemens. PCCs continued to operate in tandem with the new light rail vehicles until 1999 when the last five were retired from service. PAT also constructed a new subway line in the downtown, ending decades of street-running in the Golden Triangle. The most recent expansion of the system, the North Shore Connector, opened in March 2012 – it was an extension of the downtown subway under the Allegheny River to connect with the North Shore in the vicinity of PNC Park and Heinz Field. A further expansion to the Pittsburgh International Airport is in the early planning stages.
The Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) system serves the Portland metropolitan area. It has 52.4 miles (84.3 km), comprising four lines: the Blue, Green, Red and Yellow, and serves about 130,000 daily. Like most modern light rail systems MAX runs along city streets—albeit in reserved lanes—in the city, but has its own right-of-way farther out. The only mixed-traffic street running on the system is along the Portland Transit Mall, in downtown, and light rail trains only share lanes with buses there, not any private vehicles. The length of MAX trains is limited to two cars by the relatively small 200-foot (61 m) blocks in downtown Portland.
The MAX system was born out of funds left over from the canceled Mount Hood Freeway, with the Gresham/eastside line (now part of the Blue Line) opening in 1986. The Hillsboro/westside line (now also part of the Blue Line) opened in 1998, more than doubling the system's size, followed in 2001 by the Red Line connection to Portland International Airport and in 2004 by the Yellow Line, which connects downtown to the Portland Expo Center via Interstate Avenue. Route colors were adopted in 2000. The Green Line is a 6.5-mile (10.5 km) extension that opened in September 2009 and connects a new transit center at Clackamas Town Center to the Gateway Transit Center, from where it follows previously existing MAX lines to downtown. Another major addition in 2009 was a new, second alignment through downtown, along the transit mall; it is used by both the Yellow and Green lines. Construction has begun on the planned Orange Line from the Green Line's downtown terminus at Portland State University to the southeast suburb of Milwaukie and will include the new Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge across the Willamette River.
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The St. Louis light rail system, St. Louis MetroLink, consists of two lines, both running through the city center with 73.3 kilometers (45.5 mi) of track. There are terminals across the Mississippi River in southwestern Illinois, at Lambert St. Louis International Airport, and in the southwestern part of the metro area. The first part of the system (Red Line: Lambert/Shiloh) opened in 1993. The second line of the system (Blue Line: Shrewsbury/I-44) entered service in 2006. All track is in an independent right of way, mostly at surface level, but includes several miles of subways and elevated track as well. St. Louis's light rail system has no street or traffic running trains. The system runs more similar to a heavy rail rail system than most light rail systems in North America. All stations are independent entry and platforms are all flush level with trains providing passengers easy access on/off. In the downtown area, the system uses abandoned railway tunnels built in the 19th century. The downtown subway stations have an ancient appearance with rough-hewn rock walls. The Shrewsbury/I-44 blue line also has a few portions in tunnels, which are large and of modern concrete construction. Since the line opened, expansion has continued, and the transit agency has future lines in planning stages.
Salt Lake City
The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) runs the 44.8-mile (72.1 km) light rail system known as TRAX in the Salt Lake Valley. The system, which opened in 1999, serves approximately 60,600 people every day using 146 vehicles. The system currently has three lines. The Blue Line begins in Draper at the Draper Town Center Station and travels north through the length of the Salt Lake Valley before ending in Downtown Salt Lake City at the Salt Lake Central Station (which is part of the Salt Lake Intermodal Hub). The Red Line starts at the Daybreak Parkway Station in the Daybreak Community in South Jordan (south west Salt Lake Valley) and continues northeast to the Fashion Place West Station in Midvale, where it joins the Blue Line. The two then split just after the Courthouse Station in Downtown Salt Lake City and the Red Line makes its way east toward the University of Utah before ending at University Medical Center Station. The Green Line starts at the West Valley Central Station in West Valley City and heads northeast before joining the two lines at Central Pointe Station in South Salt Lake. The Green Line continues north with the Blue Line until they split just after Arena Station in Downtown Salt Lake City. After it splits, it continues west to the Airport Station and the Salt Lake City International Airport. TRAX integrates with UTA's commuter rail train (the FrontRunner) which connects nearly the entire length of the Wasatch Front. In December 2013 it will also connect with the S Line streetcar (formerly known as Sugar House Streetcar) in southeast Salt Lake City. The S Line connects the TRAX system with the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City.
The San Diego Trolley currently comprises three daily lines, the Blue, Green, and Orange Lines, collectively running on 53.5 miles (86.1 km) of track and achieving average weekday ridership of approximately 90,000-100,000 over the past several years. During the time that the Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB) was drawing up options for a transit system, Hurricane Kathleen (1976) made landfall, damaging many of the tracks operated by the freight carrier, San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway, and cutting them off from the greater Southern Pacific Railroad, so Southern Pacific petitioned for abandonment. The auspicious timing of the incident led the MTDB to buy and repair the tracks, opening a 13.5-mile (21.7 km) light rail segment in 1981, while also reestablishing freight service (the Blue Line and freight run on shared-use track on this same line to the present day). The system has been expanded incrementally ever since. There are currently plans for an 11-mile (18 km) extension to the University City community, connecting the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) campus and University Towne Centre shopping center to the rest of the system.
The North County Transit District also operates a diesel light rail line, called the Sprinter which runs between Oceanside and Escondido. The service began operations in March 2008 and operates with Desiro-class diesel multiple units (DMU) manufactured by Siemens in Germany.
The San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) light rail lines are vestigial from the city's streetcar days, and San Francisco is one of the few American cities continuing to operate light rail in an uninterrupted evolution from the streetcar era. As a result, the present-day system has above-ground segments street running in mixed traffic, stopping at traffic lights as streetcars, while buried sections have their own right-of-way like a subway.
In many other United States cities in the 1950s, the trend was to replace streetcars with bus service. However, five heavily used Muni lines traveled through tunnels or otherwise had private rights-of-way, making bus replacement not viable. Plans for a subway, the Muni Metro, were drawn up, and a new subway section of Muni, operating underneath Market Street, opened in 1980. Similar to Boston's Green Line, the five separate lines above ground converge to one subway route (though in Boston, the underground line was constructed first and surface routes were connected later).
In response to the dot com boom, and the increasing unreliability of the original Boeing equipment, the system became strained. Muni ordered new larger vehicles from Breda, which turned out to have their own noise and braking problems, which took some time to resolve. In 1998, a four-station extension of the trunk line was built, and in 2007 light rail service began on a new branch line going south from downtown along 3rd Street, achieving limited success. Construction is underway on a three-station underground light rail line called the Central Subway, expected to serve 78,000 daily riders by 2030. Due to underground routing, the cost for the 1.7-mile (2.7 km) line is estimated at $1.5 billion.
San Jose's light rail network, owned and maintained by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, consists of 42.2 miles (67.9 km) of track across three different lines.
The Alum Rock – Santa Teresa line serves the eastern, northern, downtown, and southern areas of San Jose. The Mountain View – Winchester line operates between Mountain View and the Winchester neighborhood of San Jose. Both of these lines share the same tracks and stations on First Street between Tasman Drive in northern San Jose and the San Jose Convention Center in downtown. A third line, the Ohlone/Chynoweth–Almaden line, is a three-stop spur that connects the Almaden Valley area to the Alum Rock – Santa Teresa Line.
The Seattle–Tacoma Metropolitan area Sound Transit light rail system consists of two lines. The first line is Tacoma Link, and the other line is Central Link, which runs 16 miles (26 km) from Seattle–Tacoma International Airport to downtown Seattle. New lines to the north, south, and east were approved by voters in November 2008.
- List of North American light rail systems by ridership
- Politics of light rail in North America
- Streetcars in North America
- List of tram and light rail transit systems
- United States
- Transportation in the United States
- List of United States light rail systems by ridership
- List of rail transit systems in the United States
- Rail transit in Boston
- Transportation in Dallas, Texas
- Rail transit in metropolitan Denver
- Transportation in Houston
- Rail transit in Kenosha, Wisconsin
- Transportation in New York City
- Transportation in Hudson Country, New Jersey
- Los Angeles County Metro Rail
- Transportation in Portland, Oregon
- Transportation in Salt Lake City
- Transportation of St. Louis, Missouri
- Public Transportation in San Diego
- Transportation in San Francisco
- Transportation in San Jose, California
- Public transportation in Canada
- A movie of Armour's electric trolley, circa 1897 from Library of Congress
- List of Canadian urban rail systems
- Table of Light Rail Transit Agencies in the United States
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