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What is Light Rail?


What form of transport allows you to travel about town smoothly, comfortably, quietly, looks great, doesn't spew out noxious fumes over pedestrians, reaches right into city centre pedestrianised areas, doesn't need parking, is economical to use, runs so frequently you don't need a timetable, and generally makes city life that bit more civilised when everything else is making it less civilised?

There - you knew the answer all along - Light Rail!

The modern term "Light Rail" embraces tramways but goes further - and faster - than traditional tramways - and so much more smoothly and even with style and "pizazz".

Light Rail - Linz, Austria Light Rail - Grenoble, France

Light Rail - Stuttgart, Germany

These are all Light Rail!!

Light rail is

Most modern light rail systems -

Photos: Top left - Linz, Austria; Top right - Grenoble, France; Bottom - Stuttgart, Germany

An F.A.Q. (Frequently Asked Question) - What's the difference between tramways and light rail?

Mike Taplin, the LRTA's Chairman answers: First, when we say tramway we mean streetcar in the American way of using words. For instance, there is a streetcar line in Seattle running from the Waterfront to the train depot. In Portland they have a light rail line running from the city centre to the eastside (and now a new line to the westside). These lines are light rail because they are mostly segregated from other traffic, passengers get on and off at stations rather than in the street, and the cars run faster. However there is no definite border line between streetcar and light rail - they merge gradually from one to another, and as a streetcar system gets upgraded it becomes light rail. A lot of this is to do with planning jargon; streetcars are seen to be old fashioned whereas light rail is trendy!

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