Many industry experts consider light rail transit to be the modern day streetcar.
rail is a hybrid of heavy rail and express bus service. Like the former, light
rail has stations, a train-like exterior, can carry more passengers than a bus,
and runs on a fixed guideway. It operates like an express bus service
because it can run on exclusive rights-of-way or along streets. Its
ability to operate in a variety of traffic settings makes light rail a very
attractive option for urban and dense suburban settings.
Photo Courtesy of Michael
Compared to the $50-$250 million per
mile cost of heavy rail, light rail costs only $20-$60 million per mile.
Eliminating the heavy track, mandatory right-of-way, and third rail
construction significantly reduces the price of a light rail system. Traveling
at an estimated 20-60 mph, light rail systems can move an average of 20,000
people per hour, while cars move significantly less – only 2,000 cars per lane,
country, there are 33 light rail systems in place, with several more in the
planning phases. A light rail system inSeattle, for example, expects to bring in over
20,000 jobs by 2020 because of the connectivity the system will provide. The
Seattle Times described the impacts of light rail as a way to recharge
“sleepy business districts.”
In 1991, Monterrey, Mexico opened the country’s first light rail
system outside of Mexico
City – the Metrorrey light rail network. The initial
line connected the city east to west and ran on a combination of underground and
elevated independent track. Its
success allowed city officials to expand the system an additional 11 miles to
service the University of Monterrey and other major job corridors.
By 2007, more than 66 million passengers were traveling along the light rail
To create a renewable energy source
to power the system, Monterrey converts methane from its landfills
into electricity. As this region begins to look for alternative ways to power
our transportation infrastructure, Monterrey provides new sustainable approaches
to help reduce gas emissions and improve the city’s waste
Not only can light rail help meet
the need for today’s growing public transit demands, it also can be the catalyst
for environmentally sound and energy-independent initiatives. The investment in
light rail is significantly less than heavy rail and light rail systems can
provide greater access and mobility for residents in traditionally underserved
This article was featured in Talking
Transit, MPC’s bi-weekly e-newsletter. To receive the newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org
with ‘Subscribe’ in the subject line.