Are You A Transit Expert? 15 Questions.

Here are ten questions to test the knowledge of political candidates about LRT & public transit in May’s provincial election. Passing grade is 70%.

  1. What is light rail transit?
  2. What Makes a tram or Streetcar Light Rail
  3. What is a metro?
  4. What is capacity?
  5.  What grade maximum is now industry standard for light rail?
  6. What is the maximum grade that LRT/tram climbs (by adhesion) in revenue service today?
  7. What is the capacity of the Broadway B-Line Express Bus?
  8.  Approximately what percentage of operating costs of a transit system can be attributed to wages?
  9. Approximately how much ridership is lost per transfer?
  10. Are automated transit systems cheaper to operate than non automated transit systems?
  11. What is the maximum capacity of the largest light rail vehicle today, calculated at all seats filled and standing passengers at four persons per square metre?
  12. How many names has  the SkyTrain, as used on the Millennium and Expo Lines, been marketed under?
  13. Before the first subway was built in Toronto, what was the maximum capacity obtained by using trams on the streetcar system?
  14. What is the maximum legal Capacity of the SkyTrain system?
  15. What is considered the maximum capacity obtained by a streetcar or tram route?

A coupled set of PCC cars operating on Toronto's Bloor St.


1) LRT is a transit mode, generally electrically powered, able to operate in mixed traffic, that can economically carry between 2,000 and 20,000 persons per hour per direction.

2) The dedicated or “reserved” rights-of-way, enables a modern tram to have an operation almost on par with a heavy rail metro.

3) Metro is a grade separated transit mode, electrically powered, built for average hourly ridership loads in excess of 15,000 pphpd. LRT can be operated as a metro, though a metro can’t operate as light rail!

4) Capacity is a function of headway and car capacity.

5) 8%

6) 13.8% (Lisbon, Portugal)  – (Correct if one answers 13% or 14%)

7) Based on TransLink’s schedule of peak hour 3 minute headway’s (20 trips per hour per direction) and bus capacity of around 100 persons, the hourly capacity of the Broadway B-line Express bus is around 2,000 per hour per direction.

8 ) 70%

9) 70%

10) No, studies have found that LRT is cheaper to operate, when comparing equal systems.

11) 350 passengers; the 54 metre long ‘Caterpillar’ modular light rail cars used in Budapest, Hungary. (By comparison, four Mk.1 SkyTrain cars have a capacity of 300 persons!)

12) At least six: Intermediate Capacity Transit system (ICTS); Advanced Light Rail Transit (ALRT); Advanced Light metro (ALM); Advanced Rapid Transit (ART); Innovia Light Metro (ILM) ; Movia Automatic Light Metro (MALM).

13) The old Danforth Boor streetcar route, operating coupled sets of PCC cars obtained a peak hour capacity in excess of 12,500 pphpd.

14) The maximum legal capacity of the Expo and Millennium Lines, according to Transport Canada’s Operating Certificate is 15,000 pphpd.

15) Over 30,000 pphpd on Kaiserstrasse in Karlsruhe Germany. Due to the success of its regional TramTrain network, Kaiserstrasse saw peak hour headways of 40 seconds with coupled sets of trams and TramTrains. So congested was the route it was nicknamed the “gelbe wand” or yellow wall by locals (yellow being the predominate colour of the trams). Soon a new subway will replace the route.

The gelbe wand - Karlsruhe, Germany.


5 Responses to “Are You A Transit Expert? 15 Questions.”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Number 4, has an issue, you are forgetting passenger turnover. The reason everyone gets this one wrong is that they want a easy to calculate, simple answer that doesn’t require anything but the most superficial research. Simple does damage in this case.

    They way most everyone does it, like the way you posted it, is wrong because it severely under counts passenger levels in most circumstances and over counts it in a minority of cases. By using this common method, train capacity x maximum frequency, you are essentially making a critically fatal assumption, that no one passenger leaves or can leave the train over the period of an hour.

    This is the problem of simplifying things too much. What is the probability that a single seat or standing space on a vehicle or individual rail transit line, will be occupied by only a single person over the length of an hour. If the line takes less hour to do a complete circuit (starting at one station traveling in one direction and coming around to that same station and direction), and has multiple large passenger destinations the turn over can be extreme. This can cause a severe under count of capacity if you use the simple method.

    Calculating standing spaces on a transit vehicle assumes the method used to calculate took into account what are called “dead spaces” technically open for standing (there is no seat, wheel hub, driver storage and or equipment storage space) but no one in reality would stand there. Like the empty space between passengers legs sitting in a quad cluster of seats, usually facing each other. Many standing room calculations don’t come close to interpretation of these dead spaces. This can actually over estimate the actual amount of standing space and greatly effect the capacity calculation. This is where seating configuration and understanding its limitations and shear number of potential dead spaces is important.

    This is why many car capacity calculations by train builders, usually in fancy brochures or online websites, where they assume a minimum of seats and the maximum possible standing space, get laughed at by transit people but politicians, transit fanboys and fan girls mindlessly parrot those figures. The seating configuration is critical. At one point, behind-the-scenes at the TTC in Toronto, planners would take the capacity of an individual vehicle quoted by the builder and reduce it automatically 10% – 25%, depending on the specfic seating configuration chosen to calculate the actual capacity and then take even more off to allow for a certain percentage of standing space taken up by school bags, shopping bags and other storage devices people generally use, depending on the time of year.

    Number 9, is just plain wrong for 8 to 10 reasons, not just the effect of time it takes to actually transfer on the rate of lost passengers. If 70% of passengers were lost with every transfer or even an average of that then, transfers would have disappeared decades ago. Remember, as cities grow in size and population, the number of transfers grow at a geometric rate. Cities like London, Tokyo, New York and Shanghai it is normal to require 3 to 4 transfers for just the average passenger. In fact, a couple of years ago, there was an exhaustive study by the Transportation Research Board that showed, given clever placement of transfer stations (sealed buildings not bus shelters) and some basic amenities, you can actually increase ridership in some circumstances by stealing passengers from taxis and Ubers.

  2. zweisystem says:

    Zwei replies: As for question #9, the 70% figure actually came from BC Transit in the 1980’s, for an express bus study from the North Shore to Vancouver. I queried at the time but the answers I got was about the same. It may have changed but the Canada Line provides evidence that people do not like transferring. When the Canada Line opened, ridership from south Delta/Surrey was reduced because of the forced transfer from bus to metro.

    Today, TransLink is desperately trying to get back former customers who have found taking the car is just superior to taking the bus, my wife one of them.

    Capacity is a mugs game at best as calculations of capacity vary so radically

  3. Nathan Davidowicz says:

    How much waisted $$ at TransLink every year?

    Zwei replies: We will never know and all levels of government do not want us to know.

  4. zweisystem says:

    Some years ago it was said that TransLink was maybe spending 3 times more than it should for “rapid transit”. As no one bothers with Vancouver anymore because we operate an “orphan system”, any real comparison will not happen because no one cares.

  5. Adam fitch says:

    Zwie, what do you mean by no one bothers with vancouver anymore?

    Zwei replies: TransLink has stated over and over again that Vancouver’s R/T is the cutting edge of tech and the world envies us. In reality, Vancouver operates an orphaned proprietary transit system that no one has copied in over 30 years.

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