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Old February 27th, 2012, 04:33 PM   #201
State of the Union
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Originally Posted by diablo234 View Post
There is no difference between a light rail system and a tram system, they are essentially the same thing.
Not this debate again, LRT systems are NOT in the same class as a tram. I'm sorry, there's just no way I'd put this in the same class as Systems like LA, Seattle, Edmonton, or Salt Lake.

LRT are full sized, semi-low floor/high floor trains. These can have full sized Heavy Rail Metro like stations, grade separations, and speed. Simply put they are "light metro". A tram is nothing but a long verson of Portland/Seattle's streetcar.
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Old February 27th, 2012, 06:02 PM   #202
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Originally Posted by State of the Union View Post
Not this debate again, LRT systems are NOT in the same class as a tram. I'm sorry, there's just no way I'd put this in the same class as Systems like LA, Seattle, Edmonton, or Salt Lake.

LRT are full sized, semi-low floor/high floor trains. These can have full sized Heavy Rail Metro like stations, grade separations, and speed. Simply put they are "light metro". A tram is nothing but a long verson of Portland/Seattle's streetcar.
Regarding the new light rail lines under construction in Houston, the North Line already has one grade separated segment and the University Line will (if built as it is currently designed) also have a grade separated segment that is below grade as well.

Anyways most light rail systems are now switching to low floor vehicles as they make boarding easier and speed up the boarding process.
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Old February 27th, 2012, 08:40 PM   #203
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Originally Posted by diablo234 View Post
There is no difference between a light rail system and a tram system, they are essentially the same thing.
We're pegging Houston's trains as tram due to the predominant way at how they interact with vehicular traffic Again, the San Diego Trolley represents LRT.
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Old February 28th, 2012, 05:14 AM   #204
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We're pegging Houston's trains as tram due to the predominant way at how they interact with vehicular traffic Again, the San Diego Trolley represents LRT.
Most light rail systems interact with vehicular traffic on some level, that does not mean they are NOT light rail. Look at Phoenix, Boston, Minneapolis, and even Los Angeles blue and expo lines as examples.

Also even though the Dublin LUAS system is reffered to as a tram by some here and by locals it too shares many elements with North American light rail systems including having it's own ROW.

So again there is no real difference between the term "tram" and "light rail".
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Old February 28th, 2012, 07:35 AM   #205
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Quote:
Originally Posted by diablo234 View Post
Most light rail systems interact with vehicular traffic on some level, that does not mean they are NOT light rail. Look at Phoenix, Boston, Minneapolis, and even Los Angeles blue and expo lines as examples.

Also even though the Dublin LUAS system is reffered to as a tram by some here and by locals it too shares many elements with North American light rail systems including having it's own ROW.

So again there is no real difference between the term "tram" and "light rail".
If you seriously think this "wee" little tram...


Is the the same thing as this beast, then I don't know what else to tell you.
image hosted on flickr
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Old February 28th, 2012, 07:40 AM   #206
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Although they have the same technology and have the same basic design there are three main components that differentiate a standard tram/streetcar with an LRT vehicle.
The following are what LRT vehicles have that streetcars/trams don't.
1} LRT can be coupled together to form longer trains
2} LRT cars have door on BOTH sides of the vehicle
3} LRT vehilces can be run from both ends of the train
They both may use ROW or not but if the vehicles being used have those components then the system in Light Rail not a standard streetcar route.
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Old February 28th, 2012, 07:45 AM   #207
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Tramways are now included in the wider term "light rail", which also includes segregated systems. Some systems have both segregated and street-running sections, but are usually then referred to as trams, because it is the equipment for street-running which tends to be the decisive factor. Vehicles on wholly segregated light rail systems are generally called trains, although cases have been known of "trains" built for a segregated system being sold to new owners and becoming "trams".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tram
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Originally Posted by ssiguy2 View Post
Although they have the same technology and have the same basic design there are three main components that differentiate a standard tram/streetcar with an LRT vehicle.
The following are what LRT vehicles have that streetcars/trams don't.
1} LRT can be coupled together to form longer trains
2} LRT cars have door on BOTH sides of the vehicle
3} LRT vehilces can be run from both ends of the train
They both may use ROW or not but if the vehicles being used have those components then the system in Light Rail not a standard streetcar route.
Well Houston's rail system has all of those features so if we use your definitions then it means that therefore Houston's light rail is not a tram (not that it really means anything).

Thanks for playing along folks.

Last edited by diablo234; February 28th, 2012 at 07:52 AM.
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Old February 28th, 2012, 08:21 AM   #208
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Well Houston's rail system has all of those features so if we use your definitions then it means that therefore Houston's light rail is not a tram (not that it really means anything).

Thanks for playing along folks.
NOT if we're talking about those CAF trains Houston just bought. The S70 is an LRV by ssiguy's definition. The CAF trains are NOT. You haven't proved anything, and you even have the nerve to use wikipedia.
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Old February 28th, 2012, 08:22 AM   #209
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I don't see the problem of calling it a tram. The word 'tram', for me, conjures up more romantic images than something like 'light rail', which just sounds like an smaller, or even inferior, form of heavy rail.

In Sydney we have a system called 'Metro Light Rail' but the State Government and the majority of the public just call them 'trams', and it's not difficult to see why.







Note the signage, and the low-floor design.

Personally I consider any rail vehicle that shares the road, for any portion, to be a tram or streetcar. 'Light rail', as the name implies, should be reserved for a train system with tram-like carriage size that runs on a dedicated grade-separated track (ignoring level crossings).
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Old February 28th, 2012, 11:39 AM   #210
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I don't care whether you call the trains in Houston trams or LRVs. The fundamental issue is that the system is SLOW. For most of the route length, the speed of the trains will be restricted by the on-street configuration of the tracks. If they had ordered another batch of Siemens S70s, they might have been able to achieve 55 mph on the few grade-separated segments. With the CAF USA vehicles, they will be restricted to 43.5 mph even on those segments that are grade-separated.
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Old February 28th, 2012, 10:53 PM   #211
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The problem here I think is that the term "Light Rail" is too vague. I'd say it's best to classify rail lines by their actual design and drop the "Light Rail" term once and for all. And to me Houston has a tram system because the whole system does mainly street-running and obeys street lights. It's basically a BRT system with rails. And like State of the Union and greg say: with the new CAF USA cars it only proves it more because of speed reduction and the inability to hook up more cars if there's demand for it.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Houston's rail is bad or anything, just stating a point. It looks very good and it's great they're expanding.
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Old February 29th, 2012, 02:32 AM   #212
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Even if I accept the term "light rail" for Houston's system, I still have heartburn. Circa 1990, Houston overtook Philadelphia as the fourth largest city in the United States. Philadelphia has three heavy rail metro lines:

Market-Frankford Line 20.8 km
Broad Street Line 18.5 km
PATCO/Lindenwold-Camden Line 23.3 km
--------------------------------------------
Total 62.6 km

This doesn't include the trolley lines that operate in through downtown in the Market Street Tunnel. It also doesn't include the Norristown High-Speed Line and the Red Arrow Lines, which are light rail lines that operate mostly in right of ways separated from motor vehicle traffic. It also doesn't include the River Line that operates north from Camden across the river, and it doesn't include any of the trolley routes that operate on city streets within Philadelphia.

Compare this to Houston. At build-out, the light rail system will be as follows:

Red Line (Existing) 12.0 km
Red Line (North Extension) 8.5 km
Purple/Southeast Line 10.0 km
Blue/University Line 18.0 km
Yellow/Uptown Line 8.0 km
Green/East End Line 5.0 km
---------------------------------------------
Total 61.5 km

So, Houston will have a total route length for light rail that is similar to what Philadelphia has for heavy rail. The point is that Houston is building a system that is designed from the start to be an adjunct to highways. It will have neither the capacity nor the geographic extent to become the core component of the city's transportation network.

I don't want to make this sound overly negative. I am glad that Houston is building something, and Houston is not the worst offender in building light rail where future demand might require heavy rail. On the latter point, Los Angeles is a far worse offender.
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Old February 29th, 2012, 02:53 AM   #213
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You're saying heavy rail will be better for Houston? In my opinion (sure I've mentioned this before) I would love to see our big car dependent cities go the route of what Chinese cities are doing. They're taking no time to get underground and build high quality subway systems. With all the money the U.S. is spending overseas due to war, I feel the same cash should be spent on helping cities become less car dependent. Obviously there are some people pulling the strings who don't want this to happen.

I'm not sure how well the system in Dallas is doing but it seems like they're the only city out west to make a quality effort at adding rail to their public transportation system. Austin is a fucking joke.
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Old February 29th, 2012, 02:55 AM   #214
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I don't think you could really compare Houston with Philadelphia just in terms of population. Houston is very spread out while Philadelphia isn't as much. It would be extremely difficult for a city like Houston to drop their Freeway network as the core component even with heavy rail lines. The only way to fix that is to start building with density and TOD's, which is exactly what these rail lines are trying to achieve.

On the other hand, I don't think Los Angeles is as bad as you say. Their light rail system could handle the demand of heavy rail, as long as they tunnel or bridge the street running sections and extend platforms to 150 meters to fit 5 car trains some day. A good example of this would be the light rail where i'm from in Guadalajara, Mexico. It uses technology very similar to LA's Light Rail (high floor LRV's) but it runs completely in its own ROW either at grade or underground and has 150 meter long station platforms. It could some day rival big heavy rail lines in terms of ridership and it uses Light Rail technology.

That's why I don't like the term Light Rail. It's so versatile that it could look like a tram or like a heavily used metro.
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Old February 29th, 2012, 06:46 AM   #215
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Quote:
Originally Posted by greg_christine View Post
I don't want to make this sound overly negative. I am glad that Houston is building something, and Houston is not the worst offender in building light rail where future demand might require heavy rail. On the latter point, Los Angeles is a far worse offender.
Woah, Woah, Woah, back up there sir. Atleast we have heavy rail, with a solid plan to build more. Our Light Rail is in a whole another class from houston's. It has it's share of street running, but I would also say that over 80% is either grade separated or in Private ROW. Let's not forget that the green line is completely grade separated and reaches speeds up to 65. The Green Line is basically Heavy Rail with a pantograph.
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Old February 29th, 2012, 12:03 PM   #216
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This thread is about Houston, but the situation in Los Angeles is relevant as an example of what Houston mgiht expect in the future.

In Los Angeles, the light rail Blue Line between downtown and Long Beach is already considered to be at capacity during rush hour. The light rail Expo/Aqua Line between downtown and Santa Monica is presently under construction and is expected to be at capacity during rush hour not long after it is completed. In theory, capacity could be increased by lengthening the trains and/or shortening the headways. In practice, there are major complications.

Lengthening the trains would require lengthening the station platforms. This isn't readily feasible due to the distance between cross streets at some stations. Shortening the headways would result in further disruption of motor vehicle traffic at cross street where trains have signal priority. Signal priority could be abandoned, but that would significantly slow the trains. A further problem is that the Blue Line and Expo/Aqua Line share tracks for the last few blocks into Metro Center Station. The time to reverse the trains for two lines at the same station platforms will be a factor in setting headways.

Eventually, the Red/Purple Line metro will reach Santa Monica, which should ease capacity problems on the Expo/Aqua Line. The eventual completion of the downtown connector will allow the Blue Line to continue through downtown to Pasadena and the Expo/Aqua Line to continue through downtown to East Los Angeles. Not having to reverse trains for two lines at the same station will ease the constraint on headways due to the time to reverse trains, but the issue of the impact that short headways have on traffic at cross streets will remain.

The ultimate solution is to start a program of grade separation, but nothing like that is in present plans.
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Old February 29th, 2012, 09:05 PM   #217
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Quote:
Originally Posted by diablo234 View Post
there is no real difference between the term "tram" and "light rail".
Quote:
Originally Posted by NotTarts View Post
any rail vehicle that shares the road, for any portion, to be a tram or streetcar.
As far my agreeing goes, I guess I'm now finding myself reverting to the rationale I've highlighted within the lower one of the above statements I'm quoting. It doesn't matter to me if 'Houston's current population density doesn't justify separation from vehicular traffic', I still think the city deserves better.
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Old March 1st, 2012, 09:23 AM   #218
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Quote:
Originally Posted by greg_christine View Post
This thread is about Houston, but the situation in Los Angeles is relevant as an example of what Houston mgiht expect in the future.

In Los Angeles, the light rail Blue Line between downtown and Long Beach is already considered to be at capacity during rush hour. The light rail Expo/Aqua Line between downtown and Santa Monica is presently under construction and is expected to be at capacity during rush hour not long after it is completed. In theory, capacity could be increased by lengthening the trains and/or shortening the headways. In practice, there are major complications.

Lengthening the trains would require lengthening the station platforms. This isn't readily feasible due to the distance between cross streets at some stations. Shortening the headways would result in further disruption of motor vehicle traffic at cross street where trains have signal priority. Signal priority could be abandoned, but that would significantly slow the trains. A further problem is that the Blue Line and Expo/Aqua Line share tracks for the last few blocks into Metro Center Station. The time to reverse the trains for two lines at the same station platforms will be a factor in setting headways.

Eventually, the Red/Purple Line metro will reach Santa Monica, which should ease capacity problems on the Expo/Aqua Line. The eventual completion of the downtown connector will allow the Blue Line to continue through downtown to Pasadena and the Expo/Aqua Line to continue through downtown to East Los Angeles. Not having to reverse trains for two lines at the same station will ease the constraint on headways due to the time to reverse trains, but the issue of the impact that short headways have on traffic at cross streets will remain.

The ultimate solution is to start a program of grade separation, but nothing like that is in present plans.
One thing you have to consider though, is that when they built the Blue Line, the car culture was in full swing. If I was building a new rail line from scratch in the car capital of America, I wouldn't expect ridership to get so high. They were expecting ridership levels less than half of what it is now. So much so that they only built the Blue Line with platforms for 2 cars trains, but quickly had to extend the platforms due high ridership growth just a short time later.

People complain about the small Pico Platform during Staple Center events: hello when the line was built there was no staples center. Trust me when I say that if RTD knew the Blue Line would be so popular, the downtown segment would have been grade separated. With that said, it still came out allot better than Houston's.

Last edited by State of the Union; March 1st, 2012 at 09:30 AM.
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Old March 1st, 2012, 11:39 AM   #219
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I agree that the Los Angeles light rail lines are better than Houston's. They are perhaps the best in the nation. They are almost unique in having high-floor platforms that allow level-floor loading of high-floor trains. With upgrades to provide grade-separation, the system could be transformed into a metro.

The growth in the ridership of the Blue Line highlights the need to plan for future capacity needs. When BART and the Washington Metro first opened in the 1970s, three-car light rail trains might have been adequate to carry the passenger load. Anyone who visits Embarcadero Station or L'Enfant Plaza Station during rush hour today would scoff at that notion.
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Old March 5th, 2012, 11:10 PM   #220
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Originally Posted by State of the Union View Post
Normative or not, this is still a tram. Houston is basically building a European style tram system. I argued against this fact before, but these new vehicle just confirm it. You'd never catch a tram like this on an LRT system like Seattle, Los Angeles or Edmonton, just to name a few.
Well maybe they'll hear it better coming from you. I've said this many times over the years that Houston is basically building a 21st century version of a streetcar or tram. Nothing wrong with that as I think it will encourage density anyway. But an actual rapid transit system on its on row, nah. In fact, I believe DC is building the same type of system. They call it a streetcar.
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