Light rail in North America
has had a long
history. The term light rail
was coined in 1972 by the
U.S. Urban Mass Transit Association (UMTA) to describe new
streetcar transformations which were taking place in Europe and the
United States. The Germans used the term stadtbahn
to describe the concept, and many in the
UMTA wanted to adopt the direct translation, which is city
. However, in its reports the UMTA finally adopted the
term light rail
History of Streetcar and Light rail
Preserved streetcar in New Orleans,
From the mid-19th century onwards, horse-drawn trams (or
) were used in cities
around the world. In the late 1880s electrically-powered street
railways became technically feasible following the invention of a
system of collecting
current by American inventor Frank
J. Sprague who
installed the first successful system at Richmond,
They became popular because roads
were then poorly-surfaced, and before the
invention of the internal
and the advent of motor-buses
, they were the only practical means of public transport
The streetcar systems constructed in the 19th
centuries typically only ran in single-car setups.
Some rail lines experimented with multiple
configurations, where streetcars were joined together to
make short trains, but this did not become common until later.
were built over longer distances (typically with a single track)
before good roads were common, they were generally called
in most of North America or radial
railways in Ontario.
World War II, seven major North American cities (Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, San
Francisco, Pittsburgh, Newark, and New
Orleans) continued to operate large streetcar
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
In North America, many of these original Streetcar systems were
decommissioned in the 1950s and onward as the popularity of the
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
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
for Hamburg, all large and most medium-sized German cities maintain
light rail networks.
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,
Historically, the rail gauge
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.
Origins of light rail in North America
renaissance of light rail in North American began in 1978 when
Edmonton adopted the German Siemens-Duewag U2 system, followed three
years later by Calgary and San Diego.
These modern light-rail systems are more
systems that operate at street level.
They include modern, multi-car trains that can only be accessed at
stations that are spaced anywhere from a couple blocks to a mile or
more apart. Some of these systems operate within roadways alongside
automobile traffic, and others operate on their own separate
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
Usage of light rail in North America
|Largest city served
||Sistema de Transporte Colectivo Metrorrey
||Toronto Transit Commission
||Massachusetts Bay Tr Auth
||Sistema de Tren Eléctrico Urbano
||San Francisco Muni Rwy
||Los Angeles County MTA
||Tri-County Metro Trp Dist
||San Diego Trolley, Inc.
||Southeastern Penn TA
||Servicios de Transportes Electricos
||Dallas Area Rapid Transit
||Regional Trp District
||New Jersey Transit Corp
||Sacramento Reg Tr Dist
||Bi-State Dev Agency
||Utah Transit Authority
||Salt Lake City
||Metro Tr Auth of Harris Co
||Edmonton Transit System
||Maryland Transit Admin
||Valley Metro Rail, Inc.
||Santa Clara Valley Trp Auth
||Port Auth of Allegheny Co
||Niagara Frontier Trp Auth
||Charlotte Area Transit
||Regional Transit Auth
||Greater Cleveland Reg TA
||OC Transpo/Para Transpo
||North County Transit District
||Memphis Area Transit Auth
||King County Dept of Trp
||Hillsborough Area Reg TA
Note: Ridership figures are in thousands. 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).
- American Public Transportation Association 2Q2009 and
See also: List of
United States light rail systems by ridership
Diesel light rail
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.
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
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.
Alberta having a relatively low population density, the
city's C-Train system has developed into one
of the most successful and busiest light rail systems in North
America with an average of 259,200 boardings per weekday in the
second quarter of 2009. Only the Monterrey
Metro of Monterrey, Mexico, which
carried approximately 403,000 passengers per day in second quarter
of 2009 and the Toronto Transit Commission's light rail system,
which carried 259,700 passengers per day, surpass the Calgary
C-Train passenger load.
The Calgary system was started in 1981 as the result of decisions
to avoid building either downtown freeways or a heavy rail system.
At that time, Calgary had less than half a million people and was
considered too small for rail transit, but when it first opened the
C-Train carried about 40,000 passengers per day. By 2007, Calgary
was twice as big with 1 million people, but the C-Train system was
over three times as long and carried over six times as many
As of 2007 45% of the people working in downtown Calgary took
transit to work, and the city's objective was to increase that to
60%. The reason is that Calgary's downtown core covers only , is
isolated from the rest of the city by two rivers and a railway
line, and was built with relatively narrow streets by North
American standards. In the 1960s planners proposed a comprehensive
freeway system to improve access, but this was rejected due to
intense public opposition. However, subsequent growth exceeded
expectations and by 2006, Calgary had become the second largest
head office center in Canada, with of office space and 120,000
people working in the downtown core. The downtown street system is
at maximum capacity and has no room for traffic growth, but the
city is confident it can add another 60,000 downtown workers in the
next 20 years without making space for more cars. Peak hour travel
by LRT is equivalent to the capacity of about 16 free flow traffic
lanes and allows the city to have fewer than 0.4 downtown parking
places available per worker.
Despite the downtown rush, 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 growing pains. Because population
growth has exceeded expectations and LRT ridership has outpaced
population growth, Calgary has had trouble buying enough new LRT
vehicles and hiring enough new drivers to meet the demand. As a
result, many passengers experience lengthy train waits due to
Despite funding problems resulting from lack of support from the
provincial and federal governments, there are two extensions under
construction. In November 2007, Calgary City Council approved
another two further extensions on the two lines, to be completed by
In addition, on November 20, 2007, Council gave final approval for
the new West Leg of Calgary's LRT, which would be the system's
fourth leg. Construction for the West leg will begin in 2009, with
completion expected in 2012. When the new light rail vehicles
ordered for the extension are finally delivered, the city will have
a total of 223 LRVs.
Besides the ongoing program of extending all station platforms to
100 m to accommodate four-car trains, transportation planners
have identified two additional lines to be constructed within the
next 25 years. They are to the North-Central and South-East
districts of the city. BRT service is in place along the future
North-Central route and the South-East route as of September 1st
2009. Calgary will also one day have to place a tunnel in their
downtown to accommodate one of these new lines, or a combination of
lines, much like Edmonton has already done.
Edmonton's Light Rail in an above
ground station .
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, in contrast with Calgary the Edmonton Transit System
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, but
not nearly as successful as Calgary's: it has attracted only a
sixth of the ridership. Edmonton is building new extensions at grade
that will extend to the TOD Century Park.
According to John Bakker, professor emeritus at the University of
Alberta and one of the original designers of the system, going
underground was a serious mistake. "Going into tunnels is about 10
times as expensive as going on the surface because you have to
relocate utilities", said Mr Bakker. "Edmonton went into tunnels
first, and it really bogged down everything thereafter, because
they didn't have money". Edmonton's system is only 15 km long,
while Calgary's light-rail system covered 42.1 km for about
the same cost. However, a 7.8 km South LRT expansion is
underway, almost all of it at surface, and is expected to be
completed by 2010.
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, 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 over $280 million. Examinations for discovery are expected
to start in the fall, with the trial beginning in 2009. The trial
is expected to be lengthy.
On March 16 2007, the Toronto Transit Commission announced a 120
Kilometre Light Rapid transit web throughout the city. This will be
a 15 year project predicted to have 175 million-users by 2021.
Funding has been announced at the municipal and provincial level,
though not the federal. The plan has been released and can also be
viewed at TransitCity.ca
Toronto is somewhat
difficult to classify, since the city employs several forms of
transit that may or may not be considered "light rail".
legacy streetcar system
still largely in place in the central area and its extensive routes
are intensively served. Some lines even tie into integrated subway
stations without the need for a transfer, and many traffic signals
give priority to streetcars. However, the system as a whole is not
normally considered true light rail because the mixed running with
surface traffic slows travel considerably. Because of the
differences in technology and speed, Canadian transportation
planners do not usually classify historic streetcar systems as LRT,
although they may technically qualify as such. Two streetcar lines
and St. Clair
) have been recently rebuilt
and come closer to meeting light rail standards as they run in
dedicated rights-of-way. However, the largest vehicles used are
articulated double streetcars which are much smaller than most LRT
trains and these use trolley wheels rather than pantographs
to collect electricity.
Streetcar fares must also be paid upon boarding as with a local
Finally, the Scarborough RT
a demonstration project for elevated light rail that served as a
prototype for Vancouver's SkyTrain
and JFK's AirTrain
as well as Pearson Airport's LINK Train
). However, it does not meet the common
definition of light rail either since it supplies electricity to
the trains using two extra power rails (one at +300 VDC and the
other at -300 VDC), uses linear induction motors acting on a metal
plate between the tracks for propulsion, requires a fully
grade-separated right-of-way, and has large stations that have much
more in common with a heavy-rail metro. In Toronto it is usually
mapped as part of the subway system. All of the above is now under
reconsideration as vehicles near the end of their lifespan and the
future size and type of vehicle and trackway is contemplated.
In 1986, Vancouver, British
built the Expo Line of the SkyTrain
.It is the longest automated
light rapid transit system in the world. In addition to using
driverless trains, it uses two energized power rails (one at +300
VDC and the other at -300 VDC) rather than overhead wires to supply
electricity, making it unsafe to operate in the street or use level
crossings. Since it is not conventional light rail it is often
called an advanced
light rapid transit
or light metro system. The network,
including the newer Millennium Line and extension, carries about
73.5 million passengers annually. In August, 2009, a new line, the
, came into operation. It
connects downtown with the airport and the suburb of Richmond.
Another line, the Evergreen Line
, is planned to
be grade-separated automated light rapid transit. Additional
extensions are plannedfor the Millennium Line mostly underground
under Central Broadway to University of British
There is preliminary talk about extending
the Expo Line (although its routing has not yet been
On June 29, 2009, the region of Waterloo approved a major light
rail project for the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge,
Light rail in Mexico
Light rail train at Estadio Azteca
Station in Mexico City
León boasts 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. Combined, they
carried approximately 88.3 million passengers in calendar year
2008. In the first quarter of 2009, following an extension of Line
2, the system carried approximately 328,000 passengers per
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 a single fare bus service from a number
of the lines' terminuses called Transmetro.
system of the city of Guadalajara employs light rail for both of its lines.
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 opened in July 1994, has 8
stations and runs 8.5 kilometers completely underground from the
center of the city to Tetlán
. 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
The Mexico City Metro
exclusively heavy rail
the city's trolleybus agency,
Servicio de Transportes Electricos, operates a light rail
line which runs in the southern extreme of the city from the
southern terminus of the Tasqueña station of Metro Line 2 to Xochimilco.
The single line carries approximately
62,433 passengers per day.
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 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. The
older systems attain higher ridership.
United States use of light rail is low by European standards.
to the American Public Transportation Authority, of the 20-odd
light rail systems in the United States only five (Boston, San Francisco, Los
Diego and Portland,
OR), achieve more than 25 million passenger boardings
per year, and only Boston exceeds the 50+ million boardings per
year of the London Docklands Light Rail system.
Compared with that of Canada, the United States federal government
offers considerably more funding for transportation projects of all
types, resulting in smaller portions of light rail construction
cost to be borne at the local and state levels. This funding is
provided by the Federal
though as of 2004 the rules to determine
which projects will be funded are biased against the simpler
streetcar systems (partly because the vehicles tend to be somewhat
slower). Some cities in the U.S. (e.g. San Pedro, California) have
set about building the less expensive streetcar lines themselves or
with only minimal federal support.
The oldest and busiest light rail system in the United States is
the MBTA Green
in Boston. With 235,300 daily ridership on its of
track, the Green Line is a primary transportation route within
downtown, and is patronized by students and workers from close-in
suburbs like Brighton and Allston.
The subsurface portion of the line was opened in 1897 to alleviate
congestion for street level trolley
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 to
Watertown being abandoned in the late 1960s). Three of today's four
lines, although having their own separate path in the medians of
their respective roads, still have segments without grade-separated
rights-of-way, and consequently wait at traffic lights. The D line,
which runs on a former Boston
and Albany Railroad
right-of-way, is the lone exception.
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
Other work includes many station overhauls that will
improve handicapped accessibility.
Gold Line Maravilla station under
construction as of December 2008.
The Los Angeles County
light rail system comprises three lines: the
, and Blue
lines. Collectively they have
144,900 daily weekday boardings. The Blue line, in particular is
the second-busiest line in the United States with 84,353 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 6-mile extension of
the Gold Line into East Los Angeles is under construction
(scheduled completion late 2009), and a further extension to
Azusa from the other end of the same line is also
Additional extensions of the Gold line to Whittier,
Montclair and possibly Ontario Airport are under study.
line, the Expo light rail line
which will run from Downtown Los Angeles to Culver
City (Phase 1) is currently under construction and is
scheduled for completion in 2010. A further extension
Monica (Phase 2) is currently under study as are other
extensions of the Los Angeles County light rail system.
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 San Francisco
(MUNI) light rail lines are vestigial from
its streetcar days, and it is one of few American cities to
continuously operate light rail from the streetcar era. As a
result, the present-day system has above ground portions running in
mixed traffic, stopping at traffic lights as streetcars, while
buried sections have their own right-of-way like a subway
. Though in other United States cities
in 1950s, the trend was to replace streetcars with bus service,
five heavily used lines traveled through tunnels or otherwise had
private right-of-ways, making bus replacement not viable. About
this time, plans for a subway, the Muni
, were drawn up, opening in 1980. Similar to Boston's
, five separate lines
above ground converge to one subway route, though in the former,
the underground line was constructed first and surface routes
In response to the dot com boom
system became strained and Muni ordered newer, larger vehicles,
which turned out to have their own noise and braking problems. In
1998, a four station extension of the trunk line was built, and in
2007 light rail service began on a new line going south from
downtown, achieving limited success. Plans are underway for a three
station underground light rail line, expected to serve 78,000 daily
riders by 2030. Due to underground routing, the cost for the line
is estimated at $1.5 billion.
Metropolitan Area Express (MAX)
system serves the Portland metropolitan area. It has , comprising four lines: the Blue, Green,
Red and Yellow, and serves about 107,000 daily,
counting the free boarding Fareless Square.
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.
of MAX trains is limited to two cars by the relatively small 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.
Hillsboro/westside line (now also part of 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 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.
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. A planned Orange
Line would be built from the Green Line's downtown terminus at
State University to the southeast suburb of Milwaukie and include a new
bridge across the Willamette
METRO Light Rail is a light rail line operating in the cities of
Phoenix, Tempe, and
Mesa, Arizona and is part of the Valley Metro public transit
Construction began in March 2005; operation started
December 27, 2008.
San Diego Trolley
comprises three lines, the Blue, Orange and Green, collectively
running on of track and achieving a ridership of 107,000. During
the time that the Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB) was
drawing up options for a transit system, Hurricane Kathleen
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
and Southern Pacific petitioned for abandonment. The auspicious
timing of the incident led the MTDB to buy and repair the tracks,
opening a light rail segment on 1981, while also reestablishing
freight service on the same line (the Blue Line runs on shared-use
track). The system has been expanded incrementally ever since.
There are currently plans for an 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.
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
manufactured by Siemens
Philadelphia has a light rail system operated by the Southeastern
Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), which also
operates other transit modes. The Norristown High-Speed Line is
officially 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.
systems consist of the Media-Sharon Hill Lines, which also
begins at 69th Street Terminal, and the SEPTA Subway-Surface Trolley
Lines which run between Philadelphia Center City and the nearby western suburbs.
NHSL, and MSH lines were once owned by the Philadelphia and Western
Suburban Transportation Company
. The Subway-Surface
Trolley Lines share stations with SEPTA's Market-Frankford Line between 30th
Street and Juniper Stations on 13th Street.
St. Louis light rail system, St. Louis
MetroLink, consists of two lines, both running through the
city center with 73.3 kilometers (46 miles) of track.
are terminals across the Mississippi River in western 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
independent right of way, mostly at surface level, but includes
several miles of subways and elevated track as well. St. Louis'
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 station
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. Ridership, at more than 16 million yearly, has always
exceeded expectations. St. Louis' rail system has been lauded one
of the finest light rail systems built in North America.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART)
is the operator of the light rail system that runs in Dallas and three of its suburbs, along with a 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 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 Victory Station, serving
Airlines Center in 2004.
DART currently runs two 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.
continues north to Mockingbird Station before it breaks away from
the Red Line and turns northeast toward Garland, ending its run at Downtown Garland
system is currently under expansion as the Green Line is under
construction and will run from Pleasant Grove in southeast Dallas
to the suburbs Farmers Branch and Carrollton.
It is set to open in two phases, first in
September 2009, then in December of 2010. Other expansions
include the Orange Line, to run from downtown, the Las Colinas in Irving and on to DFW Airport.
Blue Line is set to expand east to Rowlett and south to Interstate 20.
When the latest
expansion round is completed, DART's system will have of LRT.
Salt Lake City
The Utah Transit Authority
(UTA) runs the 19 mile (31 km) light rail system known as
in the Salt Lake Valley
. The system, which opened
in 1999, serves approximately 58,300 people every day and contains
69 vehicles. The system has 2 lines, both of which end
Downtown at Salt
Lake Central Station. One line ends at the University
of Utah, while the other ends in the suburb of Sandy.
Four extensions have recently been approved
and funded, with completion expected by 2014.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas
opened its METRORail
service on January 1,
2004 to very large crowds. The system currently consists of a
single double track line of . 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.
San Jose's light rail network, owned and maintained by the
Santa Clara Valley
, consists of of track across
three different lines.
The Alum Rock - Santa
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
The Twin Cities have one LRT Line, the Hiawatha Line
. This line runs from downtown Minneapolis, next to the 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 will be added at Target Field in the
downtown Minneapolis Warehouse District, and at American Boulevard
in Bloomington. All stations are also being modified to accomodate
3-car trains beginning in 2010. Two other lines are in planning: the
Central Corridor, which
would run from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St.
Paul; and the Southwest Corridor, which would run
Prairie to downtown Minneapolis.
Jersey, New Jersey
Transit provides light rail service along three lines
in different parts of the state.
Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) services Bayonne, the West
Side and Downtown Jersey
City, Hoboken, and the North
Hudson towns in three lines.
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 2000's, and the system was
rebranded again as Newark Light Rail.
Trenton to Camden via Burlington City
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.
is one of only two diesel light rail lines in North America, and
the only one in the United
River Line diesel light rail car in
the Camden yard.
Baltimore Light Rail is a
single line reaching from BWI Airport south of Baltimore, through the city and north to a strip mall and
With of track, the line achieves a daily
ridership of 24,500.
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,
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
The Maryland Transit
has drawn up plans for an additional four lines
which may be light rail, bus rapid
, or heavy rail
to create a
comprehensive city system. As of 2007, only the future of one line
is certain. The Red Line
is in its intermediate planning stages, would be an East-West link
via either bus rapid transit or light rail. Whichever mode is
selected, officials have insisted that the line be underground
through the city center because of Baltimore's narrow streets and
consists of a single 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
Pittsburgh's light rail network, commonly
known as The T, is a light rail system in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania; it functions as a subway in downtown
Pittsburgh and largely as an at-grade light rail service in
The system is owned and operated by the
Port Authority of
(PAT). It is the successor system to the far
more extensive streetcar
operated by Pittsburgh
The current lines, which run south from the downtown into the South
Hills area, were formerly operated by PCC
. 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
. Current expansion
plans include an extension from the downtown subway under the
Allegheny River to connect with
Park and Heinz Field; the North Shore
Connector is slated to open by 2011.
Buffalo has a somewhat unique rail system. While the majority of
the 6.6 miles of track operate as a "heavy" rail, a small section
of the system operates down a fare-free pedestrian mall. Because
cars and pedestrians cross the median where trains pass, the line
uses overhead power. Buffalo opened the metro rail in the 1980s as
a single line that would 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
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
. The Blue and Green Lines
established in 1913, and the Red
was established in 1955.
Seattle - Tacoma
The Seattle - Tacoma Metropolitan area Sound Transit
light rail system consists of
two lines. The first is Tacoma
Link and the other line is Central
Link and runs 16 miles from Seattle-Tacoma International
Airport to downtown Seattle New lines to the north, south,
and east were approved by voters in November 2008.
- United States