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Author Topic: Why do some people hate light rail so much?  (Read 3524 times)

colinw

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Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« on: November 02, 2010, 04:34:45 PM »
After yet another newspaper feedback battle, I am compelled to ask:

What is it about light rail that polarizes opinion so much?

You propose improved bus services.  Most people nod & agree.  Maybe someone complains about bus lanes.
You propose improved rail services.  Most people nod & agree, a few people bag QR or mention subsidies, and someone from Redcliffe says "Dude, where's my train?".
You propose to build a heavy rail line or busway, and most people are supportive bar a few NIMBYs & those who would have their homes resumed.

BUT ...

You propose light rail, or (horror of horrors) someone actually gets a project up and running, and:

  • Every anti light rail protestor for 100 miles around come out to condemn light rail for a dozen or more different reasons.
  • Traders protest (even though the trams will bring them customers in a renewed & pedestrianised environment).
  • Residents form action groups (stoplightrail.com), and then trot out "expert opinions" condemning light rail
  • Overhead wiring gets condemned as ugly and someone inevitably mentions Bordeaux (which was a very special case to preserve a precious heritage environment)
  • Pro light rail comments get jumped on with a level of vitriol seldom seen elsewhere in the public transport debate.
  • The Personal Rapid Transit & Monorail fans come out of the woodwork and want to run elevated personal pod thingys strung from guideways along all the main roads (but  don't put standard gauge tracks with ugly overhead wires in my road!!!!).

Does light rail have an image problem in this country?
« Last Edit: November 02, 2010, 04:37:36 PM by colinw »

Offline ozbob

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2010, 04:39:03 PM »
I don't think they understand the roles of the different modes, strengths and weaknesses. Plus the majority of them seem to think public transport is unclean or something as well.

When the Gold Coast light rail fires up they will get the message, and will then be blogging 'why haven't we got light rail?' 

 :wi3

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STB

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2010, 04:43:12 PM »
I don't know...

Maybe if light rail was simply known as trams.  I personally get uncomfy with the word 'light rail', but I have no problems with the word 'trams'.  Probably because I think of Melbourne when someone mentions 'trams'.

Offline ozbob

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2010, 04:54:55 PM »
I hear you STB.  I grew up on trams, but I think that trams can actually confuse some. They think of tram lines being plonked along the roads everywhere ala Melbourne trams.  The better systems now are light rail, essentially a dedicated ROW, but even then some light rail systems can transform into tram system within a major CBD area and then convert to light rail for the run out.  Eg. St Kilda line in Melbourne now.
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Offline #Metro

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2010, 04:57:59 PM »
Quote
I don't know...

Maybe if light rail was simply known as trams.  I personally get uncomfy with the word 'light rail', but I have no problems with the word 'trams'.  Probably because I think of Melbourne when someone mentions 'trams'.

Light rail and trams are different things. The defining characteristic that separates a tram system from a light rail system is stop spacing.
Often there is priority or an upgraded right of way and larger vehicles.

Thus most of Melbourne and Toronto DO NOT have light rail, they have a tramway or streetcar system.

It is the same with buses vs BRT. The defining characteristics of BRT is longer stop spacing, and distinctive vehicles/branding and stops.
Thus CityGlider and all BUZ services qualify as BRT IMHO. A BRT system does not have to run on a busway to be BRT.

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STB

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2010, 05:03:05 PM »
Quote
I don't know...

Maybe if light rail was simply known as trams.  I personally get uncomfy with the word 'light rail', but I have no problems with the word 'trams'.  Probably because I think of Melbourne when someone mentions 'trams'.

Light rail and trams are different things. The defining characteristic that separates a tram system from a light rail system is stop spacing.
Often there is priority or an upgraded right of way and larger vehicles.

Thus most of Melbourne and Toronto DO NOT have light rail, they have a tramway or streetcar system.

It is the same with buses vs BRT. The defining characteristics of BRT is longer stop spacing, and distinctive vehicles/branding and stops.
Thus CityGlider and all BUZ services qualify as BRT IMHO. A BRT system does not have to run on a busway to be BRT.



Unless you want to be pendantic and say that route 199 isn't technically BRT as it's an all stops service with stops within 200m of each other along the route, plus it overlaps with many other routes along the corridors of New Farm and West End.

Offline verbatim9

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2010, 05:07:32 PM »
I like Light rail but if the stations are too close together it takes too long to get anywhere. Some lines are going to be converted to light rail here in Melbourne which will be better.

colinw

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2010, 05:09:14 PM »
I actually think it is possible to draw a clear distinction between trams & light rail.

Yes, trams ARE light rail - in that they are light vehicles that run on rail, but - to me at least -

Tram => tracks in the road (either mixed traffic or dedicated lanes in centre of road). Generally single vehicles but can be multiple. Short distances between stops.  Relatively low average speed.  Melbourne is typical in this regard.

Light rail => tracks in dedicated reservation (frequently ballasted), with some on street running.  Usually multiple units.  Longer distance between stops and higher average speeds. May be a converted former heavy rail line. Sydney Light Rail to Lilyfield and (soon) Dulwich Hill, the Glenelg line in Adelaide, and the St Kilda & Port Melbourne lines in Melbourne are examples - and all are former heavy rail lines.

Above light rail things get fuzzy - there is a continuous spectrum from light rail through light metro & metro all the way to heavy rail.  One man's LRT system might look like heavy rail to another - e.g. is the L.A. Blue Line really LRT?

In Australia when you mention light rail I think most people think of a couple of tram tracks slapped down the middle of the street, Melbourne style, with pedestrian refuges & all.  What I don't think they visualise is ballasted reserved track, dedicated stations with low level platforms, and limited use of street trackage (but usually still separated from traffic) to penetrate densely built-up areas.

What we have not seen in Australia yet is light rail that was actually built as such, rather than a conversion of a former heavy rail line.  The Gold Coast is the first of a new breed.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2010, 05:50:20 PM by colinw »

somebody

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2010, 02:47:52 PM »
I think the major distinction between light and heavy rail is that the latter has signaling systems beyond traffic lights.
I have a few reasons for not liking it much. 

Is not flexible like a bus, so must stick to the track.
Has a lower capacity than a train, so generally worse economics (unless you are comparing a DOO tram to a 2 man crewed train)
On street running is annoying for passengers using the stops and motorists alike, except for stops with refuges, which invariably aren't universal.
Low top speed (not sure if it reaches bus levels)

These limitations make it a pretty small target where it is the mode of choice, IMO.  There is also issues with broken down trams, improved reliability of the internal combustion engine which have made trams not really being favoured in most jurisdictions.

I'm sorry, that's just my opinion.

Offline Golliwog

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2010, 03:32:48 PM »
Why wouldn't a tram/LR vehicle be able to get up to the same speed as a bus? I used the light rail in Paris and it kept up with traffic just fine. It was a median running system on the line I used.
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somebody

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2010, 03:44:01 PM »
Why wouldn't a tram/LR vehicle be able to get up to the same speed as a bus?
Don't know, but it doesn't seem to happen.  Perhaps in other parts of the world.

Offline #Metro

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2010, 03:54:38 PM »
Quote
I think the major distinction between light and heavy rail is that the latter has signaling systems beyond traffic lights.

There are some LRT systems that are more like metro systems, and these use signals AIUI.

Quote
I have a few reasons for not liking it much.
Is not flexible like a bus, so must stick to the track.

Yes, but CityFerries and CityCats aren't "flexible" either. By this argument, the CityCat fleet would be scrapped in favour of amphibious vehicles.

The opposite of flexible is reliable, stable, legible, permanent ... all these are all desirable things to have in a transport system.
Some applications require flexibility, some require line haul high capacity work. Light rail can be flexible by branching out into suburbs
if you design it that way (Melbourne LRT runs on old train corridor and then jumps into roads on the way to St Kilda)
and running on both the surface like a tram and underneath like a metro. It can share tracks with heavy
rail, which is useful for cities that have abandoned or lightly used lines (Cairns, Townsville, Adelaide etc).

Quote
Has a lower capacity than a train, so generally worse economics (unless you are comparing a DOO tram to a 2 man crewed train)
Sometimes heavy rail isn't an option or not a good match between capacity needed/job to do.

Quote
On street running is annoying for passengers using the stops and motorists alike, except for stops with refuges, which invariably aren't universal.
This can be true, but we allow buses to run in the street. There are many instances in Brisbane where the bus will just stop in the lane and let
people off, temporarily blocking a lane. But when you consider that there are probably more people on the bus (or LRV) than in the car...
Buses that do this, and trams take ~ 20 seconds or less to open doors, get passengers close them and go.

Quote
Low top speed (not sure if it reaches bus levels)
This depends on the contexts- very strongly and what features you design in. You can get vehicles that go fast, slow or in between, just like buses.
Stop spacing is important here.

Quote
These limitations make it a pretty small target where it is the mode of choice, IMO.  
There is also issues with broken down trams, improved reliability of the internal combustion engine which have made trams not really being favoured in most jurisdictions.

I doubt it is a small target when you consider that three cities in Australia have it and a fourth (Gold Coast) is about to join that rank.
Cross-overs can be used, LRT vehicles can tow or push broken down trams out of the way.

Use the best mode to make the best match for the job at hand. There are many different modes each good for a different job.

Quote
I'm sorry, that's just my opinion.
No need to apologise ;-)
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Offline #Metro

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2010, 04:01:22 PM »
IMHO the reason that some people don't like LRT is

* Because it might work
* Because if there is a pre-existing bus operation and the LRT service is being run by another entity, the management of the bus service might feel threatened
* High initial capital cost scares bean counters (long run costs might be lower though)
* Disruption to roads during construction, which gets the car users upset
* Because of the dimensions of the vehicles, priority is usually given, which means taking a lane- car users and businesses might not like this
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somebody

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2010, 04:17:16 PM »
This can be true, but we allow buses to run in the street.
The point is though, that a bus can always reach the curb unless something else is blocking the lane.  A tram blocks two lanes, generally, when letting people off at a stop without an island.

Offline #Metro

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2010, 04:24:43 PM »
Yes, but the point is being missed here.

We do not dismiss bus systems because they are not flexible enough to run in the Brisbane river.
We do not dismiss LRT systems because they cannot get to the kerb lane. In some cases, yes, you can
put LRT in the kerb lane if you really want to.

The main thing is to get the right match between modes and the service required.
There will always be a need to run surface transport systems and therefore buses. I do not know of any city in the world
that has LRT and no buses. Perhaps some of the smaller cities which have heritage tram operations and no bus.

When I use buses, I still have to cross the street on the return journey because the bus stop is on the other side of the road.
And there are many times I have seen a car or taxi illegally parked in the bus bay.

All good quality transport systems require some effort to design and build. The fact that effort must be expended
and problems solved is not a reason to dismiss them. The buses themselves often have problems with cyclists and yet
we accept their use.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2010, 04:26:58 PM by tramtrain »
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somebody

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2010, 04:51:37 PM »
Yes, but the point is being missed here.
I don't think so.  Let's just leave it at that.  I thought about ignoring this thread.

colinw

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #16 on: November 04, 2010, 09:03:40 AM »
I don't think so.  Let's just leave it at that.  I thought about ignoring this thread.
That's an over-reaction isn't it?

I found your response to the question illuminating, as it sheds light on some of the reasons people (including those on this board) may oppose light rail in some cases.  No need to apologise for having an opinion!

somebody

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Re: Why do some people hate light rail so much?
« Reply #17 on: November 04, 2010, 09:59:20 AM »
Ok, thanks for that colinw.

 

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