Medium-capacity rail transport system

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In rail transport, a "medium-capacity system" (MCS) is a non-universal term coined to differentiate an intermediate system between light rail and heavy rail. As such, it can be regarded as a medium-capacity rapid transit system. The concept is similar to "Light Metro", found in European countries (see section Variants of the term). Since ridership determines the scale of a rapid transit system, statistical modeling allows planners to size the rail system for the needs of the area. When the predicted ridership falls between the service requirements of a light rail and heavy rail system, an MCS project is indicated. An MCS may also result when a rapid transit service fails to achieve the requisite ridership due to network inadequacies (e.g. single-tracking) or changing demographics.

In contrast with most light rail systems, an MCS usually (though not always) runs on a fully grade separated exclusive right-of-way. In some cases, the distance between stations is much longer than typically found on heavy rail networks. An MCS may also be suitable for branch line connections to another mode of a heavy-capacity transportation system, such as an airport or a main route of a metro network.

Defining characteristics[edit]

A Docklands Light Railway train leaving Canary Wharf DLR station heading for Bank DLR station in central London

The definition of a medium-capacity system varies due to its non-standardization. Inconsistencies in international definitions are even reflected within individual countries. For example, the Taiwan Ministry of Transportation and Communications states that each MCS system can board around 6,000–20,000 passengers per hour per direction (p/h/d or PPHPD),[1] while the Taiwan Department of Rapid Transit Systems (TCG) suggests an MCS has a capability of boarding around 20,000–30,000 p/h/d.[2] For comparison, >30,000 p/h/d ridership capacity has been quoted as the standard for metro or "heavy rail" standards rapid transit systems,[3] while light rail systems have been quoted to have passenger capacity volumes of around 12,000-18,000 p/h/d.[3] However, passenger capacity volume is just one possible criterion used to define a medium-capacity rail transit system.

Another criterion that can be used to define a medium-capacity rail system is vehicle type. For example, the train in an MCS may have a shorter configuration than the standard metro system, usually three (though, in some cases, just two) to six traincars, allowing for shorter platforms to be built and used. Rather than using steel wheels, rubber-tyred metro technology, such as the VAL system used on the Taipei Metro, is sometimes recommended, due to its low running noise, as well as the ability to climb steeper grades and turn tighter curves, thus allowing more flexible alignments.

Fully heavy rail or metro systems generally have train headways of 10 minutes or better during peak hours.[4] Some systems that qualify as heavy rail/metro in every other way (e.g. are fully grade separated), but which have network inadequacies (e.g. a section of single track rail) can only achieve lesser headways (e.g. every 15 minutes) which result in lower passenger volume capacities, and thus would be more accurately defined as "light metro" or "medium-capacity" systems as a result.

Variants of the term[edit]

Train on the Copenhagen Metro

"Light Metro" is a common altanative term to describe the system worldwide such as European countries, South Korea,[5] India[6][7] and so on. VAL, also uses this word to define its capacity (up to 30,000 p/h/d[8]), and thus can also be categorized in the medium-capacity rail systems family. A nonprofit organization, Light Rail Transit Association (LRTA) also uses the term.[9] In Hong Kong, MTR's Ma On Shan Line could in some contexts be classified as a MCS, but can attain up to 32,000 p/h/d which is comparable to the passenger capacity of some full metro transit networks.[10]

Advantages and disadvantages[edit]

The main reason to build a light metro instead of a regular metro is to reduce cost, mainly because of shorter vehicles and shorter stations.

Light metros may operate faster than heavy-rail rapid transit systems, due to shorter dwell times at stations, and the faster acceleration and deceleration of lighter trains. For example, express trains on the New York City Subway are about as fast as the Vancouver SkyTrain, but these express trains skip most stops on lines where they operate.

Medium-capacity systems have restricted growth capacities as ridership increases. For example, it is difficult to extend the station platforms once in operation, since this must be done without interfering with traffic, especially for underground railway systems. Some railway systems like Hong Kong and Wuhan may make advance provisions such as longer platforms, so that they will be able to accommodate future trains with more or longer cars. Taipei Metro, for example, constructed extra space for two extra cars in all Wenshan Line and Neihu Line stations. The Ma On Shan Line in Hong Kong has even applied the railway standard (with less car configuration) for a possible link with the other existing heavy rail route without reconstructing the current system.[clarification needed]

List of MCS/light metro systems[edit]

The following is the list of currently-operating MCSs which are categorized as light metros by the Light Rail Transit Association (LRTA),[11] unless otherwise indicated.

Location Country System Lines Year
opened
Comments
Toronto  Canada Scarborough RT
(part of Toronto subway and RT)
1 1985 Categorized by APTA as being "intermediate rail"[12] (i.e. between "heavy rail" and "light rail"), and categorized as a "light metro" by LRTA.
Vancouver SkyTrain 3 1985 Debatable that SkyTrain still qualifies as "medium-capacity" over "rapid transit" as it now often operates with 4- and 6-car trains.
Copenhagen   Denmark Copenhagen Metro 1 2002 Driverless vehicle system. Trains: 3-car config., 39 metres length.
Lille  France Lille Metro 2 1983 VAL people mover system. Trains: 2-car config., 26 metres in length, with a maximum passenger capacity of 208–240 per train (depending on VAL 206 or VAL 208 train).
Paris Orlyval 1 1991 VAL people mover system, using VAL 206 vehicles.
Rennes Rennes Metro 1 2002 VAL people mover system – while trains have 80 second headways, they can only carry 158 people per train.
Toulouse Toulouse Metro 2 1993 Although a VAL system, LRTA defines the system as "Metro." On the other hand, UrbanRail.net describes it as a "light metro VAL system".[13]
Brescia  Italy Brescia Metro 1 2013 Trains: 3-car config, 39 metres length.
Catania Catania Metro 1 1999 Single-tracked at-grade section limits headways to 15 minutes. Not included in list of world metro systems from UITP.[14]
Genoa Genoa Metro 1 1990 Generally considered to be a "light metro" considering its low frequency, limited hours of operation and reduced transport capacity. It is actually categorized as "light rail" by LRTA.
Milan Milan Metro: Line 5 & Line 4 1 2013, (2015) Portion of Line 5 is in operation; Line 4 in under construction. Driverless vehicle system. Trains: 4-car config., 50.5 metres length, capacity for 536 passengers maximum.
Naples Naples Metro 1 1993 Line 6 is categorized as "Light Metro," with only 16 minute headways. Line 1 has a single-tracked tunnel section.
Turin Turin Metro 1 2006 VAL people mover system.
Hiroshima  Japan Astram Line 1 1994 Driverless vehicle system. A small part of the underground section was built as Metro system.
Kobe Port Island Line
Rokkō Island Line
1,
1
1981,
1990
Trains: 4-car config (300 people per train), but the platforms are made for fitting to 6-car config.
Osaka Nankō Port Town Line 1 1981 Trains: 4-car config, but the platforms are designed to apply to 6-car.
Saitama New Shuttle 1 1983 Trains: 6-car config, rubber-tyred and operated manually.
Tokyo Yurikamome,
Nippori-Toneri Liner
1,
1
1995,
2008
Trains: 6-car config, driverless vehicle system.
Trains: 5-car config, driverless vehicle system.
Yokohama Kanazawa Seaside Line 1 1989 Driverless vehicle system.
Busan  South Korea Busan Metro Line 4,
Busan–Gimhae Light Rail Transit
1,
1
2009,
2011
Unmentioned by LRTA, though UrbanRail.net categorizes the line as a "light metro."[15]
Driverless vehicle system. Trains: 2-car config. Unmentioned by LRTA, but the operator calls the system "light rail".[16]
Uijeongbu U Line 1 2012 VAL driverless system. Trains: 2-car config.
Categorized as a "light metro" by LRTA and elsewhere,[5] though there are also articles categorizing it as "Light Rail."[17]
Yongin Everline 1 2013 Uses single-car Bombardier Advanced Rapid Transit vehicles, so is much closer to a traditional people mover line.
Kuala Lumpur  Malaysia Rapid Rail: Kelana Jaya Line 1 1998 Trains: Mixed 2-car, 4-car config. fleet.
Manila  Philippines Manila Light Rail Transit System,
Manila Metro Rail Transit System
1,
1
1984,
1999
Manila Light Rail Transit SystemTrains: LRT-1 Line began with 2-car configuration, reconfigured to 3-car in 2004, and procured new 4-car configurations in 1999 and 2007.[citation needed] LRT-2 has always used 4-car config.
Manila Metro Rail Transit System (MRT-3)Trains: 3-car config., with a max. capacity of 1,182 passengers, and running with 4–5 minute headways. However, line is designed for 23,000 p/h/d capacity.[18]
Categorized as "light rail" by LRTA.
Moscow  Russia Moscow Metro: Line 12 – Butovskaya Line 1 2003 Can carry 6,700 p/h/d.[citation needed] Trains: 3–4-car config.
Mecca  Saudi Arabia Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro 1 2010 Considered a "full" metro system by UITP.[14] Runs 12-car trains when it operates, however it only operates during the Hajj, and thus is not a year-round transit system.
Singapore  Singapore Singapore MRT: Circle MRT Line and Downtown MRT Line 2 2009,
2013
Trains: 3-car config.
Barcelona  Spain Barcelona Metro: Line 8 & Line 11 1 2003 Driverless vehicle system. Trains: 2-car config. LRTA also categorizes Line 8 as "Light Metro."
Málaga Málaga Metro 1 2014 System contains at-grade intersections on surface section of Line 1.[19] Described as a "light metro" by at least one rail publication.[20]
Palma, Majorca Palma Metro: Line M1 1 2007 Mostly underground line operates with just 15-minute headways and two-car trains (306 passengers max.); one reference[21] even categorizes line as "light rail".
Seville Seville Metro 1 2000 Trains: 31 metres length with a max. capacity of 192 passengers.
Valencia Metrovalencia 5 1995 A hybrid metre gauge system of light rail, tram and even commuter rail, all be it with underground metro-like (subway) sections, though also with numerous single track sections,[22] and some at-grade intersections.[23]
Taipei  Taiwan Taipei Metro: Brown (Wenhu) Line:
Wenshan Line & Neihu Line;
Yellow Line
3 1996,
2015
Wenshan LineTrains: Rubber-tire system; 4-car config; categorized as a part of the "metro" by LRTA.
Neihu Line – Extension of the Wenshan line.
Yellow Line, that will open in 2015, will use AnsaldoBreda Driverless Metro vehicles, and is categorized as a "light metro" by LRTA.
Ankara  Turkey Ankaray Light Metro (A1 Line) 1 1996 Trains: 3-car config, approx. 90 metres length. Categorized as a "light rail" by LRTA, though Current capacity: 27,000 p/h/d.[24]
Istanbul Istanbul Metro:
M1 Line (Istanbul Hafif Metro)
1 1989 Trains: 4-car config. "Hafif Metro" literally translates as "Light Metro". Categorized as a "light rail" by LRTA.
Glasgow  United Kingdom Glasgow Subway 1 1896 Gauge: 4 ft (1,219 mm). Trains: 3-car config.
London Docklands Light Railway 7 1987 Driverless vehicle system. Trains: generally 2–3-car config. Categorized as a "light rail" by LRTA.
Newcastle upon Tyne Tyne and Wear Metro 2 1980 Hybrid 'heavy rail'/'light rail' system – e.g. multiple at-grade intersections (like light rail); also shares some track with regional diesel train services (any track sharing is, by definition, not "metro"). Also categorized as a "light rail" by LRTA, and not included in the list of world metro systems from UITP.[14]
Detroit  United States Detroit People Mover 1 1987 Considered to be a "people mover".
Miami Metromover 3 1986 Considered to be a "people mover".
New York City Airtrain JFK 3 2003 Considered to be a "people mover".
Philadelphia Norristown High Speed Line
(part of the SEPTA rail system)
1 1907 Has been categorized by APTA as being "Light rapid rail transit"[25] (i.e. between "rapid transit (heavy rail)" and "light rail").
Maracaibo  Venezuela Maracaibo Metro 1 2006 Trains: 3-car trainset config, ~58 metres length (originally designed for Prague Metro). Categorized as a "light rail" by LRTA.
Valencia Valencia Metro 1 2007 Trains: 2-car Siemens SD-460 config, ~55 metres length. Categorized as a "light rail" by LRTA.

Former examples[edit]

The following is the list of former-MCSs that either developed into a full rapid transit system, or which are no longer in operation:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Inline citations[edit]

  1. ^ "Transportation term definition" (in Chinese). Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC). Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  2. ^ "Comparison between high capacity and medium capacity systems" (in Chinese). Taiwan Department of Rapid Transit Systems, TCG. Retrieved 2008-06-30. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons: Transport Committee, ed. (2005). Integrated Transport: The Future of Light Rail and Modern Trams in the United Kingdom. The Stationery Office. p. 216. Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  4. ^ Schwandl, Robert (2007). "What is a metro?". UrbanRail.Net. Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  5. ^ a b "Korean city opens automatic light metro". Rail Journal.com. Retrieved 2014-11-24. 
  6. ^ "Kerala opts for light metro, not monorail". business-standard.com. 2014-10-24. Retrieved 2014-11-29. 
  7. ^ "BJP promises light metro in Bhopal and Indore". dnaindia.com. 2014-11-21. Retrieved 2014-11-29. 
  8. ^ "VAL and NeoVAL". Siemens TS. Archived from the original on 2008-06-26. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  9. ^ Michael Taplin (March 2013). "Index of Countries + Totals for each Country". Light Rail Transit Association (LRTA). Retrieved 2014-11-28. 
  10. ^ "MTR train frequencies of railway lines in different periods, number of cars on each train, train carrying capacity, train loading rates and number of seats" (pdf). MTR. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  11. ^ Michael Taplin (March 2013). "A world of trams and urban transit - A complete listing of Light Rail, Light Railway, Tramway & Metro systems throughout the World". Light Rail Transit Association (LRTA). Retrieved 2014-11-28. 
  12. ^ "APTA Ridership Report - Q2 2013 Report" (pdf). American Public Transportation Association (APTA) (via: http://www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Pages/RidershipArchives.aspx ). August 2013. p. 32. Retrieved 2013-09-26. 
  13. ^ "Toulouse". UrbanRail.net. 2004. Retrieved 2014-11-29. 
  14. ^ a b c "Metros: Keeping pace with 21st century cities". uitp.org. International Association of Public Transport (French: L’Union internationale des transports publics (UITP)). Retrieved 2014-08-07. 
  15. ^ "Busan". UrbanRail.net. 2007. Retrieved 2014-11-30. 
  16. ^ Busan-Ginhae Light Rail Transit
  17. ^ "Uijeongbu Light Rail Transit, South Korea". Railway-technology.com. Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  18. ^ "About Us - Background". Metro Rail Transit. Retrieved June 8, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Malaga metro problems - before work's even started". EuroweeklyNews. 27 March 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-30. 
  20. ^ Puente, Fernando (30 July 2014). "Malaga light metro network opens". International Railway Journal. Retrieved 2014-07-30. 
  21. ^ "Mallorca Rail Development, Spain". Railway-Technology.com. Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  22. ^ Robert Schwandl (2012). "Valencia". UrbanRail.net. Retrieved 2014-08-07. 
  23. ^ Robert Schwandl (4 January 2013). "Valencia". UrbanRail.net (Blog). Retrieved 2014-08-07. 
  24. ^ "TEKNİK ÖZELLİKLER" [TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS] (in Turkish). Ankaray LRT. Retrieved 2014-05-24. 
  25. ^ "American Public Transportation Association - A MULTIMODAL TOUR OF THE DELAWARE VALLEY". American Public Transportation Association (APTA). June 1, 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-10. 

Online resources[edit]

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