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Garlynn Woodsong
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Actually, there are very real technological differences between streetcars and light rail. You can OPERATE a light rail as a streetcar (ala MUNI in SF or the Green Line in Boston), but it is still technologically a light rail. One, as mentioned above, is that light rail trains can be and generally are linked together as sets. Streetcars in the U.S. don't usually do this. Two, as mentioned above, is vehicle weight. Streetcars weigh a lot less than light rail trains. While you can run a streetcar on a light rail line, you can't run a light rail train on a streetcar line (or, at least, you shouldn't). As a result, the streetcar line can be installed with only a quick removal of the top layer of pavement, installation of the tracks and poles and stations, and surface repaving. Light rail, OTOH, requires a complete rebuild of the streetbed as well as utility relocation. Witness the time difference in Portland between installation of the streetcar on 10th/11th, vs. the installation of the light rail on the transit mall or on N. Interstate Ave, or in downtown Hillsboro. Three, and this is critical, is vehicle width. A streetcar is about 8 feet wide; a light rail vehicle is generally another 6 to 8 inches wide. This allows the streetcar to more nimbly move through mixed-traffic operations. Four, and this is critical for a different reason, is cost. A streetcar system costs less per mile and per vehicle than a light rail system. Sorry to split hairs, but as a Portlander, I know these things and like to make the distinction.
Toggle Commented Nov 19, 2009 on slippery word watch: express at Human Transit
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Nov 19, 2009