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Streetcars are more flexible about capacity

Streetcars and buses have different strengths and weaknesses, and are better at accomplishing different goals. Flexibility is often touted as a major strength of buses. Although buses are legitimately more nimble in some ways, when it comes to flexibility of capacity, it's streetcars that have the edge.

Image from the American Public Transportation Association.

It's true that buses have tremendous routing flexibility. Since buses can operate on any normal traffic lane, routes can be reconfigured on a whim and individual buses are free to move around obstacles. These are real benefits, and sometimes they mean that a route is best off using buses.

At the same time, streetcars are customizable for high-capacity service in ways that aren't available for buses.

Streetcars can be longer

In simplest terms, streetcars can be longer than buses. Since streetcars run on tracks, there is no danger of jackknifing. Likewise, since streetcars are powered by overhead wire, there's not a single engine distributing power. Thus there's no physical limit to their length.

For example, streetcar manufacturer CAF offers its Urbos model in options ranging from 60 feet long up to 141 feet long. Bombardier's similar Flexity model comes in any length from 69 feet up to 148 feet.

Portland's famous streetcar is a relatively diminutive 65 feet long, but longer vehicles are beginning to show up in North America. Cincinnati is using a 77 foot long Urbos for its future line, and the first 78 foot long Siemens S70s have already been delivered to Atlanta. In Toronto, 99 foot long Flexities will soon ply the continent's largest streetcar network.

99' long Toronto streetcar. Image by Bombardier.

And that's just single streetcar vehicles. Streetcars can also be coupled into trains of multiple cars, so transit agencies that own shorter vehicles can still get the benefits of extra length without needing new railcars.

Agencies that want to run longer trains do have to provide longer stations, but since streetcar stations are typically simple, that's relatively easy to accomplish.

Ultimately the limiting factor on streetcar length is the size of city blocks. Streetcars can't typically be longer than one city block, lest they block traffic on perpendicular streets. But city blocks are usually hundreds of feet long, so streetcars can still be much longer than buses.

Streetcars can have diverse interiors

Even compared to buses of exactly the same length, streetcars can support a higher passenger capacity. Since gliding along rails is so much more smooth than rumbling along asphalt, and since there's no need for huge wheel wells, it's more practical for streetcars to have a lot of open space that maximizes standing capacity.

Interior of one of DC's streetcars. Photo by BeyondDC.

The 3 streetcars that DC has in storage use this strategy. They're 65 feet long, but they have much more capacity than a 60 foot long articulated bus because of the open floor plan. The trade off, of course, is that they have fewer seats, but only streetcars practically offer the choice.

What kind of flexibility is more important?

Faced with the choice of operational flexibility or capacity flexibility, which one rules?

It depends on the needs of the corridor and the goals of the transit line. Sometimes buses are the correct answer, and other times it's streetcars.

Sometimes it might make sense to use both on the same corridor. For example, streetcars capable of providing very high capacity might serve most passengers along a line, while buses capable of skipping around traffic might serve longer express trips on the same road.

There are 157 WMATA bus routes in the District of Columbia alone, with hundreds more WMATA and non-WMATA routes around the region. The majority of them are probably better served with buses, but some of them are undoubtedly better fits for streetcars.

The key for decision makers is to embrace the differences inherent to each mode, and decide accordingly.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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The ability of streetcars to carry far more passengers in one train is not just a matter of saving money on operators' salaries. It also means that streetcars can carry much higher passenger loads while remaining compatible with urbanism.

If a bus must pass every 30 seconds, you can't allow pedestrians to cross the street freely without interfering with vehicle movement. You effectively need a limited-access highway, which is bad for a city. Streetcars can carry the same number of passengers with one train every 3 or 4 minutes.

If the passenger load gets high enough, you can put the train underground. Underground busways are much more expensive -- they need ventilation and tunnels have to be wider than the vehicles because the bus isn't on tracks.

by Ben Ross on Feb 20, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

It seems like a failure of imagination to think that buses can't have open floor plans.

by ldrks on Feb 20, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

Implications for Col Pike? As density on the Pike (and in Baileys) grows, how do you scale up that particular streetcar? Change the streetcar/bus ratio to increase volumes - then at some point run double streetcar trains - is that feasible on the Pike? Would it be feasible to build an underground "premetro" for the streetcar on a short inner section of the Pike, with it emerging to street running? Youd need a relatively wide place for that, assuming you can't dedicate any space to transit on the Pike.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 20, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

Since buses can operate on any normal traffic lane, routes can be reconfigured on a whim

Unfortunately, as we have seen with the G2, this does not happen in DC.

by Jasper on Feb 20, 2013 12:07 pm • linkreport

I simply cannot fathom a 95m streetcar operating in mixed traffic. Can you imagine trying to turn right while it's coasting along through the intersection in the curb lane? In order to truly use these supersized streetcars you'd need dedicated ROW.

I hate that we keep arguing about the vehicles when it's the ROW that really matters.

by recyclist on Feb 20, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

This is great, but then why are streetcars not being run along high capacity corridors (i.e. 16th st)

by charlie on Feb 20, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

I'm glad you hit on points about platform length & block sizes, but I continue to have great concerns with operating in mixed traffic along highly-trafficked corridors. It only takes one stopped car -- even if temporarily -- to bring service to a standstill. While a bus might have difficulty merging to get around such a stoppage, they nonetheless have that capability.

And an even greater concern with mixed traffic rail service: maintenance operations... if there is a breakdown: single-tracking is difficult under shared lane operations -- *especially* along side-alignments -- and potentially outright infeasible under many circumstances (due to design or where liability can be a weighing issue).

One can keep vehicles well-maintained off-site, but it still stands of whether or not we will; and breakdowns do happen even to the best of vehicles. One can also keep well-maintained rails, but even a proactive well-regarded maintenance program will inherently have to occur on-site; that's not something that can be easily performed off-site and might not always fit within overnight-only periods.

by Bossi on Feb 20, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

You forgot to mention the biggest difference between streetcars and buses -- cost (both capital and operational). Streetcars are likely more cost effective for dense areas with high ridership while buses probably have lower costs per passenger mile for lower ridership routes. Streetcars have higher capital costs but need less maintenance than buses and produce less wear-and-tear on roads. So, streetcars make more sense when you're sure you can spread the higher startup cost over many passenger-rides.

by Falls Church on Feb 20, 2013 12:35 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity -- your "premetro" idea for Columbia Pike seems very appealing. There is probably enough room for the streetcar to operate efficiently above ground at both ends of its route, but the section between, say, Glebe Road and the Navy Annex is narrow and quite congested. A tunnel would allow the streetcar to speed through this area faster than auto traffic. But I have to think the cost would be prohibitive - people are already moaning about the cost to build a normal, above ground streetcar, and it isn't clear if it will get federal funding as proposed. Wouldn't a tunnel increase the cost several times over?

by Mike on Feb 20, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

I'm not suggesting a tunnel now. Its just that I've seen folks saying what Col Pike needs is higher density than currently proposed, and heavy rail rather than a street car. Which is very nice, but almost certainly not happening in the next 30 years. Or 40 years, I suppose.

I'm trying to brainstorm some way that the currently propsed streetcar line could be built, but could then scale up to something suitable for higher density, closer in operating charecteristics to heavy rail, as development proceeds and ridership grows.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 20, 2013 12:54 pm • linkreport

Bossi, Portland's mixed-traffic Streetcar has 99% up-time (and that figure accounts for all service disruptions no matter the cause - double parked cars, power outages, sick passengers, drivers not showing up, etc)

by Chris Slatt on Feb 20, 2013 12:59 pm • linkreport

Adding length to individual streetcars would certainly increase capacity for that one streetcar, but it would reduce the number of streetcars running. Less streetcars means longer wait times for potential passengers. I think longer waiting time is the more pressing problem for most transit users, rather than crowding.

And growing up in Toronto, I'm familiar with what happens when a streetcar breaks down or is involved in an accident- the entire route gets shut down behind the crippled streetcar. That's not a problem for buses.

by Potowmack on Feb 20, 2013 1:05 pm • linkreport

Portland's mixed-traffic Streetcar has 99% up-time

Which is kind of meaningless, depending on what the schedule is. If the schedule is slow and padded to account for potential delays, then hitting that mark doesn't mean you're providing rapid and reliable service.

This is the same issue with Matt's post focusing solely on farebox recovery: you can't look at just one metric to get a true sense of the level of service.

by Alex B. on Feb 20, 2013 1:07 pm • linkreport

If parked cars are your main worry on the streetcar line, let's go Wild West on them and install cowcatchers on the streetcars!

by Thad on Feb 20, 2013 1:11 pm • linkreport

Streetcars are also more efficient than buses because the rolling resistance of steel wheels is much much lower than pneumatic wheels on buses. This is one of main reasons freight trains are more efficient than trucks (the other being speed)

by SJE on Feb 20, 2013 1:12 pm • linkreport

If streetcars are to be the transit option than there needs to be some extra tracks around DC for the purpose of getting around areas that are closed often ( Capitol, Convention Center, White House)

Thinking back a few years when the Convention Center was blocked off cause of the IMF or World Bank; bus were detoured all over the place except for the Circulator which was cut in half. Then they had the nerve to tell people to walk across what about the elderly, disabled who may not be able to walk the distance it is a kick in the ass.

What would happen if the streetcar was running would the route be cut in half, cancelled, or something else. There needs to be tracks around certains to get around areas that are blocked often.

by kk on Feb 20, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

kk - Actually, one advantage of streetcars is that they can go into places where wheeled vehicles are not allowed due to security concerns. Since they can't leave the tracks.

by Ben Ross on Feb 20, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

@ Ben Ross

But are we 100% sure they would be allowed and the route would simply not just end before the blockade

by kk on Feb 20, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

"Thus there's no physical limit to their length."

Are you sure? Is / will the system being built to accomodate unlimited cars, or is this like Metro which now ~35 years after opening has to engage in a billion dollar power system upgrade to use more 8 car trains?

Until 5 or 6 years ago the average DC resident or rider had no clue that you couldn't just have 8 car trains 24/7. The platform accomodates 8 car trains, why couldn't you run them all the time? I suspect streetcar systems are limited in the same way

by Streetcar on Feb 20, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport


When looking at DC streetcar plan on H Street the platform is not even the length of a Metrobus; if you have trains that are more then 4 cars you will have problems with people getting off that are on the last cars that are not side by side with the platform. It will be like when people are trying to get off crowded buses or metrorail trains and are not near a door.

Then there are problems for people in wheelchairs access unless all platforms are built the same; you could have a issue where a wheelchair gets on one train and the platform of station b does not line up with platform a where the person in the wheelchair got on cause the person to travel through 1 or more cars to exit.

by kk on Feb 20, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

Streetcars are not new technology so lots of these questions are easily answered by what has happened for the 100 plus years that streetcars have been in use!

Ddot can ensure that it (or DCDPW) has tow trucks ready to remove illegally or disabled cars in way of the streetcar.
What is going to be tough will be the idiots that collide with the streetcar during its first year or two. Seattle had issues with its light rail and SLUT but that has slowly gone away.

I like the idea of tunnels on Columbia Pike - its like San Francisco's MUNI.

Another limitation for the length of DC streetcars is that there are often mid-block driveways and alleys.Routes and stations would have to be planned to ensure that the streetcars could have as long of a station as possible - and allow for growth.

by andy2 on Feb 20, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

charlie -- one of these days I am going to write about this exact point.

The proposal in Chicago for doing this on Clark Street is a good example (better than DC actually). Of course, there, being Chicago, they have much higher volumes from all the various routes using the buses currently--between 40,000 and 70,000 riders per day.

But 16th St. would be the test case for this in DC, because the S buses now are considered by WMATA to be the line iwth the highest use in DC. (Closer to 20,000 daily riders, higher than the 90s, X2, 70s, I don't know about the 30s, but that's really two routes, the Wisc. Ave. as one, and the M Street-PA Ave. as another.)

I might get to do some work on the Clark Street project. We'll see.

Combine it with HOV2 for that lane + the "bus" cameras that Dan M. wrote about yesterday, and you have a killer combo.

by Richard Layman on Feb 20, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

The only thing missing from the interior picture of the streetcar are the riders crowded in the door with their roll-behind backpacks making sure no one can enter or exit.

by phil on Feb 20, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

Ideally at some point you will get some guts and add some physical separation so the trams run separate from traffic.

For short distance travel, nothing beats a high frequency street tram, even metro tunnels. Once you take into the consideration the time taken to get to an underground platform a high frequency tram will have got you a mile a way.

Tram line 4/6 was a revelation when I visited Budapest last year a 55m tram with its own low platforms that ran along the ring boulevared of the city. Though there were metro lines to chose from the ease of just a simple pedestrian crossing and the knowledge that the next tram was at most 90 seconds away in peak meant a great travel experience.

The capacity of that line was huge, not far off metro line.

So there is plenty you can do with trams. Even ones that run in mixed traffic are not too bad. But whatever you do make them frequently. I'm constantly amazed at the number of american cities that have spent a fortune on a new metro or light rail and then think a train every 15 or 20 minutes makes it rapid transit. Transit is rapid not just because of line speed, but because you don't have to wait long for it.

It's why love travelling in London. Even buses in it's outer suburbs have at least 5 buses an hour during the day and most London streets have multiple bus routes.

by Rational Plan on Feb 20, 2013 2:45 pm • linkreport

Richard, the problem with doing streetcars on 16th Street NW is that the redevelopment/infill investment opportunities that lead to new housing and amenities aren't there. 16th Street is currently historically protected in multiple overlapping historic districts up to the Lion Bridge and is all single family homes and parkland up to Eastern Avenue. There isn't really room for redevelopment anywhere on 16th St. in D.C. Once you cross into Maryland, it's a block and a half on Colesville before you reach the Metro. Dan Reed wrote a piece last week about how the owner of the Blairs is already planning to redevelop and renovate the property. No need for a streetcar to induce development there.

The route streetcar route to connect downtown and Silver Spring remains Georgia Avenue. It's a much wider road because it's already configured for streetcars since they ran there before 1961. The land use opportunities are there too as there isn't wall-to-wall historic districts north of Howard University. Park View has many old, non historic buildings and empty lots that would be redeveloped. Same with Petworth (north of Kansas Ave NW), Brightwood, and the now-abandoned Walter Reed. There are a couple of old dying strip malls adjacent to Shepherd Park and the western reaches of Takoma. You can almost see where the old streetcar stops were by where the decaying old storefronts currently lie.

There just has to be a way to work out a deal with Maryland to extend the Georgia Avenue streetcar to the Silver Spring Metro as that is the most obvious route. There are far, far more amenities that more people would gain access to on both sides of the state line on a Georgia Avenue streetcar than on a 16th Street NW streetcar.

I think that Wisconsin Avenue is a better opportunity than 16th St. because it has more opportunity for redevelopment and infill. The fact that the NIMBYism would be out of this world on that corridor partly makes my point.

by Cavan on Feb 20, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

Cavan -
Last I checked Walter Reed also abuts 16th - which will be the largest mixed-use redevelopment project in DC in recent history.
I don't think we need to pick one street over the other. However, because of the lack of a Metro station on 16th (Where Georgia/7th has FIVE) makes 16th the clear priority.
I also echo your sentiments for returning a streetcar to Wisconsin Ave. Because it is much narrower in Georgetown, curb parking would have to be eliminated - resulting in a big, though winnable, fight.

If dDOT can demonstrate compitence in operating the H-street line - then perhaps voters will trust DC to spend the money to expand streetcars across the city. Neighborhoods like Tenleytown and Cleveland Park may actually fight to get theirs first!

So Mayor Gray and dDOT - don't mess it up anymore than you already have!

by andy2 on Feb 20, 2013 3:41 pm • linkreport

Congratulations on getting it completely wrong.

"In simplest terms, streetcars can be longer than buses. Since streetcars run on tracks, there is no danger of jackknifing. Likewise, since streetcars are powered by overhead wire, there's not a single engine distributing power. Thus there's no physical limit to their length. "

What youve done is simply assume that your local bus = all buses.

Streetcars can be powered by overhead wire, yes. They dont have to be. Some streetcars are diesel. Some are powered by underground systems.

And of course there are electric trolleybuses just as well.

And you can just as well run a 5 articulation bus without danger of jackknifing if the power is distributed properly to all the wheels.

The only limitation to the length of buses is the very same limitation to the length of streetcars - if running in mixed traffic, block sizes, stop lengths and traffic considerations.

by JJJJ on Feb 20, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

Andy, a streetcar, just like a Metro, is a planning tool in addition to a mobility tool. You spend money on streetcars in order to get increased returns from taxes on economic activity. You put lines in where people want to go and spend money or you plan for residences and amenities people will spend money on in the future. 16th Street has no such opportunities for new residences or new amenities. The bus service is already extremely popular. Improve it.

The H St. NE streetcar makes sense because people want to go there AND there are opportunities for further investment. It's a way of saying that the city wants new development there in addition to improving existing mobility.

Georgia Avenue is more like H St. NE than 16th in this respect. There is lots of room for new investment in residences and amenities. The existence of the Metro also makes more sense on Georgia as it will be symbiotic with the streetcar. The streetcar will fill in the distance on Georgia between the Shaw, Petworth, and Silver Spring Metros.

by Cavan on Feb 20, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

@JJJJ Dead right. Author talks about 90 foot streetcars. How about a 101 foot bus?

In any event, he offered no suggestion where a streetcar could be that length locally; certainly not along Columbia Pike.

@recyclist GGW does not acknowledge the validity on any anti-streetcar arguments. You are correct that ROW is what's key.

by Brian M on Feb 20, 2013 5:40 pm • linkreport

Brian, we have safety standards in our country that prevent use of double-articulated buses. The vehicles in places like Curitaba, Brazil usually have three and four sections and that's illegal in the U.S.

However, the author correctly points out why there is no such rule against streetcar car length or how many cars can be trained up.

by Cavan on Feb 20, 2013 5:46 pm • linkreport

This comes from the Daily Mail article about the super-long bus:
Bendy buses in London were banned on several routes in 2009 after they were found to be responsible for many accidents.

London's mayor Boris Johnson struggled to sell the 31 vehicles amid claims they were unsafe, unreliable and encourage fare-dodgers.

They were taken out of service temporarily in 2005 after three caught on fire.

Sounds great.
Mr Johnson said at the time: 'These bulky and ungainly monstrosities were always more suitable for the wide open vistas of a Scandinavian airport than for London.
'I am glad to see the back of them.'
Clearly, London loved 'em.

by David R. on Feb 20, 2013 5:58 pm • linkreport

Brian M,

Complaining about the ROW is an invalid argument because VDOT has outright refused to allow any talk of taking a travel lane. I don't think anyone doubts having dedicate ROW would be better but that's not the reality of it.

Even still rail would be better because streetcars last longer, ride smoother, and is generally a quieter an cleaner vehicle.

by Drumz on Feb 20, 2013 11:25 pm • linkreport

Cavan -- respectfully, you're missing the point about a streetcar on 16th Street. It would be to improve the quality of transportation and to further interdict car traffic, and to increase the number of riders. And doing that, if DC can figure out how to construct streetcar lines cheaply rather than expensively (look at the estimates for costs from _Bring Back Streetcars_ by Weyrich and Lind and of course that paper is old, but the current numbers, not just in DC, are much much higher), is worth doing regardless of the lack of development potential.

Instead, think of 40,000 riders instead of 20,000, with a much more comfortable ride, and way fewer cars on 16th St.

It might not be so bad on 16th St. because it is so wide, but many of the streets that serve as major commuter corridors for the Maryland residents, like Georgia Avenue, but especially North Capitol/Blair Road--I live less than two blocks away from this corridor--absolutely and totally suck for the residents.

So to interdict traffic (I have actually recommended undergrounding a through traffic tunnel for North Capitol/Blair to remove this traffic from the surface, and I know that 10 years ago for me to make such a recommendation would have been unthinkable) streetcars-light rail are worthy additions to the quality of life of the city and worth paying for, whether or not there is much build out potential.

2. Of course, GA Ave. is another story, and note that the ANC4B committee report on "Walmart" for which I was the chief author made the point that proposed streetcar service on GA Ave. was not being planned at all (note that the recent streetscape improvements on GA Ave. include zero accommodations for future streetcar service, unlike what was done on H St.).

The thing is, I used to say something similar to you on 16th St. wrt Dave Murphy's proposed separated yellow line, which has now made it into official planning documents, even if a full alignment hasn't yet been determined, that the build out potential along GA Ave. isn't great enough to justify it.

Anyway, I think heavy rail service makes more sense. And over long periods of time (accepting demolition of the current building stock even though as a historic preservationist this would trouble me some and maybe even potential rezoning of at least one or two blocks on either side of GA Ave. like what ArCo did wrt the Wilson Blvd. corridor) it would pay off.

It would also provide more redundancy for the system and help to interdict more MD to DC traffic. I don't know how far such a line could go up either or both Colesville or GA Ave. I guess Colesville, since GA Ave. has service at both Forest Glen and Wheaton.

by Richard Layman on Feb 21, 2013 6:24 am • linkreport

And clearly David R. should be rallying for the immediate cessation of articulated buses on Georgia Avenue and H Street if they're really unacceptable enough to warrant such sarcasm.

by J.D. Hammond on Feb 21, 2013 8:56 am • linkreport

Re : Bendy Buses
San Francisco's Muni does quite well with articulated buses. The system does have several sizes of shorter buses for lighter loads and routes that snake along the sides of various hills.

Re : Streetcar / LRV length limits
Another limitation on consist length is the power capacity of the overhead wiring. If the trains try to draw too much power they may either [a] not run or [b] blow a fuse. I've seen this happen with a model railroad and have heard that power capacity may be why SFMuni keeps their LRV's in singles and pairs.

by Ted K. on Feb 21, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

Ted K.:

"I've seen this happen with a model railroad..."

I'm not a licensed engineer but I'm certain that the power supplies on a model and on the real thing work very differently.

by Cavan on Feb 21, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

Ted K., as you know single articulated buses are common throughout U.S. transit systems. Buses that have more than one bendy part are against safety regulations for the reasons that David R. cited.

by Cavan on Feb 21, 2013 1:11 pm • linkreport

Richard, if D.C. decides it's worth the price tag to pay for a streetcar up 16th Street to Silver Spring without development opportunities in addition to the one on Georgia, then I'd be happy to use it as I already use the S buses in addition to the Red Line depending on my destination. It would be a good improvement for mobility.

With respect to the separated Yellow Line idea, it would make sense to send it up Colesville to White Oak. There is a major FDA office there and more employment is scheduled to cluster around it. Or, we could at least send it to Four Corners. The problems with those plans is that there isn't really any place for a station between Silver Spring and Four Corners or between Four Corners and White Oak. There wouldn't be much in the way of TOD opportunities.

As for Georgia Avenue between Howard University and Silver Spring, there are plenty of opportunities for land use that would justify heavy rail. D.C. would just need the political will to zone it so. The market wants it. Look at how Petworth is getting new development on what little empty lots they have. While there are plenty of old buildings on upper Georgia, there aren't very many that are historically significant.

by Cavan on Feb 21, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

Ted K. -- yes, the reason that the SF MUNI system doesn't run 3-car light rail consists is because they would draw more power than the overhead wiring infrastructure is capable of providing.

Cavan -- yes, the White Oak opportunities make a yellow line up Colesville more viable than going up GA Ave. Too bad NH Ave. is so far east of GA Ave. up by Walter Reed, because it would be good to have stations north of Petworth (Missouri Ave., Walter Reed) but then, from the standpoint of White Oak, a New Hampshire alignment would make more sense.

by Richard Layman on Feb 21, 2013 6:09 pm • linkreport

Cavan - Basic electrical principles can be cheaply and quickly demonstrated using scaled down models (e.g. a Lionel kit). Also, the issue in London was double-deck omnibus vs. single-articulated to meet a capacity goal. There is NO way they would have even tried a double-articulated on London's streets. The various places that have gone beyond single-articulated tend to avoid tight turns.

My comment was made in an effort to counter-balance London's negative experience with a longer vehicle. Part of what guides my posting is the possibility that someone reading my comments may NOT be a transit geek.

by Ted K. on Feb 22, 2013 6:15 am • linkreport

The thought of a 5 car / 4 bend WMATA bus careening through traffic terrifies me.

by Mike on Feb 22, 2013 9:08 am • linkreport

@Ted K: do you really think that someone would deploy longer trains without checking the capacity of the overhead lines and upgrading if necessary? I would guess that if a system were looking to run longer trains they'd upgrade the wiring at the same time they make the platforms longer. At that point, they'd have flexibility to run different sizes at different times within the constraints of the system. I don't really think anyone was proposing that a driver wake up one morning and say "I think I'll run a 24 car frankentrain today".

by Mike on Feb 22, 2013 9:12 am • linkreport

Richard, your point about running a separated Yellow Line up Georgia to Petworth then up New Hampshire to White Oak could make a ton of sense. There are a lot more opportunities to TOD in between Eastern Avenue and White Oak on New Hampshire than on Colesville between Silver Spring and White Oak. In an ironic twist, there are almost no opportunities for TOD between Georgia Avenue and Eastern Avenue.

Once you cross Eastern Avenue there is a cluster of decaying strip malls. There's another one at the intersection with MD 410. The big opportunity for TOD is at the intersection with MD 193. There's going to be a Purple Line station there and a large bus hub. Langley Park is a huge aging strip mall cluster at present. It's a big edge city that's has about as much land as White Flint.

There's another strip mall cluster just outside the beltway and then there's the FDA at White Oak.

The Georgia Avenue streetcar could fill in the gap between Petworth and Silver Spring. It makes sense. I'll tell Dave Murphy next time I see him that he needs to update his fantasy Yellow Line route ;)

by Cavan on Feb 22, 2013 10:46 am • linkreport

@Ted K: The number of cars in an LRV train are not limited by the electric current the motors of each car collectively draw. Electric consumption-wise, it's no different comparing several multiple-car LRV trains to say; many single PCC cars operating in backed up rush-hour conditions drawing electric current from a common one-quarter mile circuit-breakered overhead electrical section as an example.

by Robspost on Apr 10, 2013 12:47 pm • linkreport

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