The Reserved Rights-of-Way – The Genesis Of LRT

After listening to an very ill informed person on the radio, pontificating on all the ills of light rail, he made one last grand statement, about ” LRT would always get stuck in traffic”.

Of course the person in question was talking about streetcars, or trams that operate on-street in mixed traffic, but that is not light rail.

Light rail is a tram that operates on a dedicated rights-of-way, out of the way of auto traffic, thus not impeded by traffic.

This was realized back in the 1930′s and many tram operators were upgrading their tram lines with portions of ‘reserved R-o-W’s to increase the efficiency of their servcie, able to provide higher capacities and passenger comfort, without buying new trams.

WW 2 and the post war anti-tram movement all but halted upgrades to tram systems world wide and it was not until the resurgence of light rail in the 80′s, did the concept of the reserved R-o-W’s resurface.


A simple yet effective tram reservation in the city centre.

The tracks are slightly raised above the pavement, but still

can allow emergency vehicle access.

The success of the reserved R-o-W lead to dramatic decision, to lawn over the R-o-W, making a the tramway a “Green” linear park.

Courtesy Tramway. com

The lawned R-o-W, making tram routes linear parks.

It is the reserved or dedicated rights-of-way that has made LRT a powerful tool to ease congestion and pollution, by bring metro like service at a fraction of the cost.


A simple reserved rights-of-way, ensures unimpeded access at choke points, such as this bridge.

What is missing from Translink’s Surrey LRT debate, in fact all LRT debates in the region, is the importance of the reserved R-o-W, bringing a SkyTrain like servcie for a fraction of the cost.


12 Responses to “The Reserved Rights-of-Way – The Genesis Of LRT”
  1. tensorflow says:

    I think I know who are you referring to but he was really talking about crossing only (which reserved RoW doesn’t help)

    Although Toronto’s King Street Pilot present us a novel but yet simple way to solve this: no left turn (on a right-hand traffic system) is allowed at crossing. In general, most of the traffic jam & accident are caused by left turn.

  2. J. Marinello says:

    I have been in Calgary and Portland Oregon when the trains came through the road crossings .The traffic signals are linked with the trains, average wait time for a train to go through was about 8 seconds with very little disruption to vehicle traffic . The naysayers need to experience these very efficient systems for moving the people at a much reduced cost than an elevated sky train . I rode the old Interurban in the 50′s that serviced out to Chilliwack and it was a pleasure to ride . South of the Fraser needs a modern and efficient way of transporting people and I’m a firm believer in LRT.
    Regards Jim Marinello

  3. Surrey says:

    The proposed Surrey lrt will not be on a right of way. It will use existing streets. Fraser highway is only 2 lanes through park. Many trees will have to be cut to build it. Makes more sense to extend sky train. Lrt makes sense east of Langley if it uses existing rail right of ways.

    Zwei replies: No you are wrong, the light rail will operated on a reserved R-o-W, using existing streets, there will be very little, if any mixed traffic operation.

  4. Haveacow says:

    @ Surrey,

    The LRT line on the Fraser Highway (stage 2 of the Surrey LRT) will probably never be built. Neither will the Skytrain to Langley unless a very large pot of money falls from the sky. Highway rights of way wether at or above grade are never big on ridership outside of the peak periods. Considering all the other lines needing extensions or in the case of your Expo Line, outright rebuilding, a Skytrain line to Langley costing $3 Billion, or a LRT line that will be overly long and the fact that, both of them will require a satellite light maintenance yards as well as having questionable ridership, makes me honestly believe anything built along here will be very low on the priority list.

    Zwei replies: Yes, my conclusion too, which makes the Leewood Study plan reasonable.

  5. Langley says:

    A skytrain extension to Langley will not cost $3 billion. It will be less than $2 billion. It was built 20 years ago, it would have cost $1billion. Politicians keep delaying which pushes up the cost.

    If LRT is built, what will happen when people have to transfer at king george station to the expo line to finish their trip to downtown. Expo line is at capacity and needs to upgraded.

    If expo line is upgraded to increase capacity then might as well just extend it to Langley.

    No reason to force people to make stupid transfer.

    Only reason Surrey wants LRT is to trap people in Surrey.

    Zwei replies: The cost to build a Langley extension would be over $2 billion + the cost of land acquisition, plus the cost of the bridge over Hwy. 10/CPR tracks (now estimated to be $250 million, including station)+ plus the costs of bridge like foundations through the Serpentine Valley Valley + new cars (if available), then add on the $3 billion rehab of the existing SkyTrain Lines; no it not going to be $3 billion, but almost $6 billion!

  6. Langley says:

    A skytrain extension to Langley will be elevated above ground like it already is from Surrey to Vancouver.

    Take a look at the Millenium line that goes over Highway 1 at boundary road. That goes over the 8 lane highway and a railway. No bridge is needed.

    Expo line needs to be upgraded regardless of whatever system translink chooses.

    Many news websites are reporting that the LRT propasal will cost $2.5 billion.

    Makes more sense to extend skytrain for $2 billion.

    Most people in Langley want skytrain not LRT.

    Zwei replies: Your ignorance of transit is beyond the pale Daryl and I think you better go back reading picture books, they are more your style.

  7. Langley says:

    Translink says 80 new skytrain coming by 2020.

    Zwei replies: Old news.

  8. zweisystem says:

    I had to terminate discussion on this post due to a massive spam attack. Over 300 spam emails in just an hour.

  9. Haveacow says:

    Wow Langley! First, it’s $2.5 Billion for both LRT lines in Surrey.

    Second, if you could build a 17-19km extension of the Skytrain to Langley, most of it built above grade for less than $3 Billion they would probably be already building it. Unless there are long sections of line built at grade in a private right of way, on land you already owned by the side or in the median of the highway, you just can’t build that much Skytrain for $2 Billion.

    Lastly, whether you build LRT or SkyTrain, there will have to be a satellite vehicle storage and light maintenance site on this line. Even a small facility will cost in excess of $250 million because of the necessary design, equipment and land costs. You can’t have one vehicle storage, rapid transit operations and maintenance center at Edmond almost 30 km away from the last station in Langley and make any kind of claim for low cost, efficient rapid transit operations.

    By the way, each new 4 section Skytrain is going to cost $4.1 Million each. This is the current price for the newest order.

    You are going to pay ever increasing costs to build above grade transit lines because structural renforced concrete has been growing in cost at no less than twice the rate of inflation, since the middle of the 1990′s and shows no sign of stopping. When measured in multiple markets across North America, including several in Canada, the price of concrete continent wide had effectively doubled in price from just 2003-2011. It shows no signs of stopping.

  10. Langley says:


    Then build another storage and maintenance site, it doesn’t have to as big as edmonds.

    An LRT will need to build a storage and maintenance site too. LRT requires concrete too for the stations.

    It is normal for cost to increase, it is called inflation. The demand for concrete causes prices to increase higher than inflation if the supply of concrete does not increase. It is called economics.

    It is same with rising price of gas and real estate because supply is restricted.

    Zwei replies: No matter how hard you try, you just dig a bigger pit. You don’t get it and you will never get it Daryl.

  11. Haveacow says:


    A physically segregated surface LRT line uses a order of magnitude less concrete than an above grade Light Metro Line does. I will give you this you are persistent. Question, how much Skytrain can you buy for $5.3 Billion?

  12. Haveacow says:

    Then build another storage and maintenance site, it doesn’t have to as big as edmonds.


    A satellite light maintenance, storage and rapid transit operations yard for $250 million would be a small, bare bones facility. Most of these facilities start around $300-$400 Million and go up from there.

    The Eglinton Crosstown LRT Line in Toronto costs an astounding $5.4 Billion because over 11 of the 19 total km are in a tunnel and its Maintenance/Operations and Storage Yard was around $1.25 Billion. This was due to the high land cost for the property around $350 Million, then another $450 Million to detoxify the sites top soil. Toronto is a lot older than Vancouver, this site has been an industrial and railway site since the late 1840′s.

    The actual LRV facility costs around $525 million and is being built overly spacious so it could be expanded (like Ottawa’s) when the Crosstown line needed more space to store and operate more LRV’s. This would also allow more new lines like the Don Mills and Jane Street LRT’s, which will connect to the Crosstown Line, to be built without a need for each line to have a larger Operations/maintenance and Storage Centre, Thus saving money in the long run..

    The point is that these facilities are very expensive and specialized unfortunately, Translkink has yet to include the cost of even a small facility in its estimates for an extension to Langley. In fact, a Translink planner I was at a conference with this week here in Ottawa admitted that, there many costs not included for a Langley Skytrain extension yet. All cost estimates are at best a Class D cost estimate and therefore could greatly increase in the coming years, No serious engineering studies or site specific planning has even begun for this line yet.