Light Rail on streets

General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

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Light Rail on streets

Postby cyberfool » Sat Feb 03, 2007 6:19 pm

I live in Baltimore and they are discussing putting light rail line in by closing off a lane or two of traffic. Does anyone in the modern world put tracks on travel lanes in streets? What I mean is, does anyone use the streets for cars while the trains aren't using them? Even if the lanes were closed to cars & trucks by traffic lights when a lt rail train was coming, it would be a big savings of land.

I've only seen a few light rail lines, New Orleans & Baltimore, so I don't have a good sense of what else is possible & feasible.



Postby Irish Chieftain » Sat Feb 03, 2007 7:29 pm

Does anyone in the modern world put tracks on travel lanes in streets?

Hudson-Bergen LRT was built using street-running on Essex Street in Jersey City, NJ.

SEPTA's Route 15 (Girard Avenue, Philadelphia PA) was reopened last year as a streetcar line—it had been "bustituted" for years prior to that.

Luas in Dublin, Ireland features some street-running also.
Irish Chieftain

Postby AgentSkelly » Sun Feb 04, 2007 1:32 am

I think you can drive actually on the portion of light rail tracks that go through Downtown Portland.
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Postby BaltOhio » Sun Feb 04, 2007 9:04 am

Most American and European light rail lines have normal street running to one degree or another. Usually it is the only practical way to enter a downtown area. Baltimore's line on Howard St. carries normal traffic, and maybe within a decade or two, it will have a traffic-light pre-emption system in place to move the trains faster. Right now we're in the 15th year of a one-year project to accomplish this, so we may be getting close.
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Postby CHIP72 » Sun Feb 04, 2007 1:23 pm

In Buffalo, the light rail line runs on-street in the downtown area (and as a subway outside the CBD - go figure).

It should be noted this section of on-street running does not allow cars and other vehicles besides the trains to run on them, and from what I've read, this has had a negative impact on the businesses along this stretch of "street" in Buffalo.
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Postby AgentSkelly » Sun Feb 04, 2007 1:58 pm

CHIP72 wrote:In Buffalo, the light rail line runs on-street in the downtown area (and as a subway outside the CBD - go figure).
Yes…the infamous destruction of Main Street…
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Postby pennsy » Sun Feb 04, 2007 2:33 pm

Hi All,

In beautiful downtown Southern California this is normal. The Blue Line and Gold Line in Los Angeles run right down several streets for several miles. They have high level stations, and so cars have to go around them. In San Diego, you have their LRV system which is at street level, and they load and disembark as the old trolley systems did. Personal opinion; High level stations are safer, and handicapped friendly. A wheelchair can easily get on the Blue Line or Gold Line in Los Angeles. Lots of luck in San Diego.
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Clarifyng the Question

Postby cyberfool » Mon Feb 05, 2007 9:54 am

Ok, I'm not asking about having light-rail only lanes, so what Chip72 said is exactly what I'd like Baltimore to avoid as it seeks to add a 2nd light rail line.

As for BaltOhio, Howard St in Baltimore has a lane or two for cars and two lanes for trains. This is also what I'm NOT asking about.
I don't believe that there are any places that it is legal to drive on the tracks, except for crossing over them. The Red Line is what is being considered and it could be a big problem for many neighborhoods if certain streets have a light rail added.

Re: Clarifyng the Question

Postby chuchubob » Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:33 pm

cyberfool wrote:I don't believe that there are any places that it is legal to drive on the tracks, except for crossing over them.
The dashed lines on Delaware Avenue in Camden, NJ imply that automobiles operate in the same lanes as the light rail trains; otherwise they would be solid lines.

Additionally, I can attest from personal experience that auto traffic does in fact use those lanes.

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Postby gt7348b » Wed Feb 07, 2007 9:27 am

This is exactly what is proposed in Atlanta. Will it happen? Who knows.

In Boston, the end of the E-line has shared travel lanes with cars running on the tracks between Brigham's Circle and Heath Street on Huntington and South Huntington Streets. I'll leave discussions about San Francisco to someone more familiar.

Outside of the US, sharing the roadway does happen – the Kustram in Belgium runs along the entire coast and parts of road, particularly around Mariakirche has autos and LRVs in the same lane. Brussels, Gent, and Amsterdam also have portions of their streetcars in shared lanes, in particular Line 92 between Louisa and Fort Jaco in Brussels is almost entirely in a shared lane. (Click on the area in this link that says "Saint Job" and you'll find the Fort Jaco end of Line 92).

Vienna, Prague, Cluj-Napoca (in Romania), Zurich, Munich, Cologne, Heidelberg, Amsterdam, and Dusseldorf all have portions of shared running between rail vehicles and cars that I have personally observed. Granted, most of them area trying to remove cars from those lanes, but that is to improve schedule reliability and running times.
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Postby Paul1705 » Wed Feb 07, 2007 4:23 pm

A lot of the trackage in San Francisco is shared with auto traffic, but most of those lines have been in operation for many decades. The same is true for the light rail lines in West Philadelphia, which date back to the streetcar era.

On the Hudson-Bergen line in Jersey City, the westbound track on Essex Street is shared with cars; the eastbound track is reserved for trolleys.
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Postby pennsy » Wed Feb 07, 2007 6:20 pm

Hi All,

In the metropolitan Los Angeles area, LRV's share the streets with auto and truck traffic. However, due to the problem of cars and trucks getting hit by the LRV's, occasionally a person, measures have been taken to prevent such occurences. There is a low median separating the tracks from the roadway, so that the only way a truck or car can contact an LRV is at an intersection, and it generally is that notorious left turn. Takes a while for the public to realize that there are streetcars near them and that they outweigh them by quite a bit, and so they would lose the fight in a collision. The newspapers and TV have helped by vividly illustrating the results of such arguments.
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Postby jwhite07 » Thu Feb 15, 2007 9:11 pm

Nearly all of Toronto's vast light rail network operates in mixed traffic on streets, including through the central business district. While the more recent additions to the system (Queens Quay and Spadina) do make extensive use of streetcar-only reservations, I believe the latest addition to the system, a short extension from Spadina west on Queens Quay to Bathurst, is street running. As far as the older part of the system goes, the most notable use of reservation is along the Queensway from Roncesvalles to Lake Shore Boulevard beyond Humber Loop.
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Postby Otto Vondrak » Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:02 am

Philadelphia's SEPTA Route 15 is a true streetcar operation that runs down Girard Avenue...
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Postby wigwagfan » Fri Apr 06, 2007 12:19 am


It's illegal to drive in the MAX lanes in downtown Portland (unless you are accesing a driveway, of which there aren't very many of) or in Hillsboro (it is legal to make a left-hand turn out of the MAX lane within a block but not travel down).

It is also illegal to drive on 1st Avenue from the Steel Bridge to Yamhill Street in downtown Portland (not to mention a very bad idea, especially around Skidmore Fountain.)

The only time where autos and MAX are together is eastbound on the Steel Bridge; automobiles may legally travel in the inside lane which is also used by MAX. Westbound, cars cannot access the lane because there is a curb separating the two lanes. The left lane comes out of the Rose Garden TC, so busses and MAX share a lane. However there's a traffic light at the east end that gives priority to MAX trains over busses (although MAX trains have a 10 MPH speed restriction on the bridge, and busses can travel 25 MPH.)

HOWEVER: Portland Streetcar (as a co-worker calls it, Maxine) is nearly entirely within a vehicle lane; the exception being between the Marquam Bridge and the Gibbs Street stop, when the Streetcar runs on a separate alignment to the west of Moody Avenue.
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