Light Rail Fits In

Light Rail And Compatibility With Street Traffic


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This page looks at two topics concerning light rail when travelling on the public roadway; interacting with parked vehicles (below) and coping with the issue of passenger access to stops / stations when the tracks are often located in the middle of the road.

Not all of the solutions shown on this page will please the British politicians and transport planners who see the introduction of trams as excuses to impose blanket bans on other vehicles parking.

Stops / Stations

Especially for newer installations it is usual to design the system so that all stops have proper 'safe' platforms. In many cases it is also possible to upgrade older systems to similar standards, and these first pictures show examples of how this can be achieved. Many of these ideas would also be suitable for new lines too.

Incidentally, if the idea of crossing half the road to reach a road-centre stop sounds dangerous, remember that no-one thinks twice of crossing all of the road if the bus stop is on the other side of the road. Surprisingly experience has shown that far more passengers have accidents when they jump off a bus at a kerbside bus stop and immediately pass behind / in front of it and start crossing both traffic streams (without even thinking to look and see if it is safe) than happens with trams which call at unprotected stops in the middle of the road.

Light rail / trams / streetcars calling at stops located within the street environment. Light rail / trams / streetcars calling at stops located within the street environment.
Essen, Germany, route U17. An island platform serves LRV's travelling in both directions; locating the tracks in the outer traffic lanes allows off-peak shoppers to park at the kerbside without delaying services. (Parking is allowed during the off-peak hours only).
Light rail / trams / streetcars calling at stops located within the street environment. Light rail / trams / streetcars calling at stops located within the street environment.
Berlin, Germany - staggered platforms (with the trackage forming an 'S' shape to keep it within the same road width) facilitates the provision of island platforms in a street where there not enough space for 'opposite' platforms. Melbourne, Australia, street based island platforms are protected by a 'Safety Zones' system designed to help ensure that road vehicles travel on the correct side of the stop.

Basle, Switzerland; a solution used in several locations for low floor accessible vehicles at locations where it has not proven possible to provide safe 'kerbside' or 'island platform' stopping facilities. The examples shown here do not provide true "easy access" no-step level boarding, but by reducing the height of the section of road reserved for the public transport by the same amount equivalent to a kerb-stone the entry / exit gap (step) between the ground and the LRV floor is reduced to a more "cope-able" amount.

Special needs easy access (for all types of transport) is more fully covered on the Easy Access page.

Light rail / trams / streetcars calling at stops located within the street environment. Light rail / trams / streetcars calling at stops located within the street environment.
Left: Usually the lower traffic lamp flashes amber, but as a LRV approaches the lights change to red halting the traffic and providing passengers with a safe route between the vehicle and the kerb. Note that the cyclist is also obeying the red traffic signal.

Right: and below (both) - although the stop is located in the middle of the road it is still possible to create a 'platform effect' by depressing the tracks slightly compared to the rest of the road surface. These three views come from the suburb of Reinach Dorf where a segregated light rail line rejoins the public highway for a short distance. As with the other location there are traffic signals which hold back the traffic on the approach of the LRV although they are not seen here.
Light rail / trams / streetcars calling at stops located within the street environment. Light rail / trams / streetcars calling at stops located within the street environment.
click me for video To better demonstrate the principle and reasons behind using traffic signals to protect passengers at light rail stops a short video called Light Rail Pedestrian Crossing Safety Signals has been placed on the 'youtube' file-sharing website and can be watched (in a new window) by clicking either the projector icon or here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGHyGQn98Z4.
Light rail / trams / streetcars calling at stops located within the street environment. Light rail / trams / streetcars calling at stops located within the street environment.
Another solution - if the trams cannot go to the kerb, then bring the kerb to the trams! This image from Helsinki, Finland shows sections of kerb which have been extended out in the roadway to meet the tracks. Sometimes the roads are so narrow that the tracks are simultaneously in the middle of the road and near the kerb! See text below for further image information.

The Stuttgart image above right shows a light rail stop in the street environment designed for 'high floor' type vehicles. Note how the platform fully encompasses the footpath (with sloped and not stepped access on either side). Locating the tracks for the other direction in the middle of the road leaves space for one lane of kerbside parked vehicles too.

Most of the Stuttgart light rail network comprises of upgraded former street tramway and their light rail vehicles are of a design which dates from before the advent of low-floor technology, so nowadays the whole system has been designed this type of 'high floor' platform.

One possible caveat with the locating of platforms in a way which sees them which fully incoporate the footpath is that the ticketing system needs to recognise that not everybody using that section of footpath will also be using the transport. This is especially an issue with systems where ticket validating is performed 'off-vehicle' using validators located on the platform, rather than by passengers once they have boarded the transport - using validators located inside the vehicle (be it light rail or bus).

In some cities despite the presence of wider roads they still locate their tram services along the inside edge of the road, ie: next to the kerb; in these cities calling at kerbside stops will be a normal feature.

Light rail / trams / streetcars calling at stops located within the street environment. Light rail / trams / streetcars calling at stops located within the street environment.
Left: This image from Sheffield, England shows how with kerbside tramlines the trams can call at kerbside stops - which to discourage illegal parking is also part of a bus and tram lane. In Britain it is usual for buses and trams which travel along the same roads to use different stopping points. Also note how the platform extends out towards the roadway, this is done to comply with British regulations that stipulate the maximum distance between the tram and platform (both width and height) at tram stops.

Right: This image comes from Turin, Italy, where a significant proportion of the city's tram system is located 'kerbside'. This stopping point is shared with buses too - making interchange between the different transports somewhat easier. Note how the kerb edge has been raised slightly to create what effectively is a low-level 'easy access' platform.


Parking

When considering parking it is important that the legitimate needs of both local shops and other road users are taken into account. This includes the needs of these shops to receive deliveries - at a time of day that does not require smaller 'proprietor' businesses to be staffed at unreasonable hours - and with the delivery vehicle being able to park reasonably close. A five minute hike pushing a heavy delivery trolley is simply not appropriate. (If the traffic planners and politicians disagree, let them try it themselves - preferably when it is cold, wet and windy). In Britain there are many older premises that do not benefit from rear entrances through which deliveries can be made.

As most of the images (below) demonstrate, given the will and a positive 'can-do' attitude parked vehicles and light rail can co-exist with ease.

However, one of these images shows that sometimes there can be 'issues'. In this instance a large freezer was being delivered to an ice-cream parlour, and for safety whilst in transit the freezer was in a wooden crate that had to be opened upon delivery. Even with many hands this item was still a difficult delivery; although there is a bay in George Street, Croydon, it was full, plus with an item as big and heavy as this it is quite reasonable that the delivery vehicle should park as close as possible. To avoid identification of the white vans' ownership all company names / contact details and the number plate have been rendered illegible in this picture, which is dated to a short while before Tramlink actually opened for passengers.

Stuttgart LRV passing parked lorry. Delivery vehicles parked partly on footpath violating 'swept path' of tramline.
Stuttgart, Germany:
This lorry is in a bay designed to allow vehicles to park without blocking the rail lines.
Croydon, England:
Delivery vehicles parked partly on footpath violating 'swept path' of tramline.
(See text above for reason why).
Demonstrating the benefits of painted road markings which delineate the swept path of a street tramway. Demonstrating the benefits of painted road markings which delineate the swept path of a street tramway.
Basle, Switzerland:
Green lines painted on the road surface can delineate the safe area in which vehicles can park without disrupting light rail services.
Croydon, England:
This time there are no delivery vehicles blocking the tram line, whose path is delineated by a row of yellow dots which have been painted on the road surface; however as the loading bay was full (possibly because it is too small?) the van is still parked on double yellow lines.
Italian style parking on a road also used by trams. Demonstrating the benefits of painted road markings which delineate the swept pat of a street tramway.
Turin Italy:
A wide road with parking along the centre (of the road) and the kerbside lanes, then a tram & bus lane and also one lane (per direction) for the general traffic.
Wolverhampton, England:
A row of yellow dots which have been painted on the road surface delineate the tram's 'swept path' outside of which vehicles are allowed to park.
Italian style parking on a road also used by trams. Italian style parking on a road also used by trams.
Turin Italy:
In narrow streets the physical presence of the transport can also aid traffic flow by ensuring that at least one lane (in each direction) always remains clear. (The road on the right is for one way traffic only).

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