LETTER: Flexibility makes light rail the clear choice for Surrey

Those who continually dismiss modern LRT with one excuse or another are not telling the truth, reader says

One reader says light rail's flexibility makes it the clear choice for Surrey.

The Editor,

There is myth being repeated in the media that light rail is slow. Some are saying it is slower than SkyTrain – and even as slow as road traffic.

This needs to be corrected.

Studies have shown that street cars operating in mixed traffic are about 10 per cent faster than buses – but street cars, or trams, are not quite light rail. Modern light rail is a street car or tram that operates on dedicated or reserved rights-of-ways, with priority signalling at intersections. The reserved rights-of-way enables modern LRT to obtain commercial speeds of that of a metro, with commercial speed largely determined by the number of stations per route kilometre.

The optimum station spacing for LRT in an urban setting is about every 500 metres to 600 metres but with light-metro stations (SkyTrain) being so expensive, station spacing for metro tend to be further apart – 1 km to 1.5 km apart. This does give faster commercial speeds but it deters ridership because door-to-door travel times are longer because the transit customer must travel much further to get to transit than he/she would with light rail.

Modern LRT can obtain actual speeds equal to or faster than our present SkyTrain, if need be. In many cities today, modern LRT can also act as a passenger train operating on the mainline railways at mainline speeds.

It is the inherent flexibility of modern LRT, which can operate as a street car (in mixed traffic), as light rail on its own dedicated route  and a passenger train – often on the same route – that made light metro such as ALRT/ART SkyTrain (only seven built in 40 years) and the French VAL obsolete.

Those who continually dismiss modern LRT with one excuse or another are not telling the truth and they never explain why only seven ALRT/ART SkyTrain systems have been built in 40 years and why none have ever been allowed to compete directly against modern light rail.

Could it be that transit authorities around the world do not want to invest in expensive “Edsel” style transit, such as SkyTrain?

Malcolm Johnston, Delta

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