Why do some governments see Metros as more prestigious than Light Rail?

A pertinent question posed on one of the Light Rail discussion groups, particularly relevant in relation to Skytrain & the City’s of Surrey and Vancouver.

A selection of answers:

1) Very simple. Because it is more expensive. There is nothing as prestigious as money.
And then there is the tendency of: “The neighbouring community have one. I want one too” The skill is to choose the right system for the right purpose. Metro and Light Rail should not be competitors. They are meant for different purposes.

2) Light & Heavy Metro’s[MRT, MMTS & RTR], Subways & ART LRT systems are built underground or above ground on grade separated alignments. Thus not competing with at-grade road space with the private automobile.
This is seen by the politicians as not only prestigious but a vote winner, specifically with the road lobby. Think Toronto’s Rob Ford; `ending the war on cars’
At-grade Light Rail, LRT, Tramways, Trams & Streetcars compete for road space with other users even if they run on a dedicated tram-bahn alignment.
Factor in population density, planned journey time & projected/actual passenger boardings/loadings and Light Metro whether ART or classic, is more suited to the higher traffic loadings that you get in London, Paris, Moscow and many Asian city’s

3) Like Skyscrapers, Underground is seen as being more prestigious, more of the look at how much money we have.
However in Dublin Ireland the difference between a Metro & a Light Rail Tram System is not simply underground v trams. Dublin currently has 2 Light Rail Tram lines. Dublin also has plans for 2 Metro Projects.
Only one of these Metro Projects is in fact underground this being Metro North, the other one is at grade or grade seperated and called Metro West.
So in Dublin what is the difference between Metro & Light Rail Trams?
Simply the capacity of the system.

4) We have documentation that LRT is almost as fast as Metro in Copenhagen (+/- 1-2 min.) if you count door-to-door and not stop-to-stop.
The fact that LRT generally cost about 1/7 of underground metro systems should only enhance LRT, – but maybe it is other mechanisms at work.
“Mine is more expensive than yours”…

5) Ai??I am still amazed by the knee-jerk ant-LRT reaction in some quarters. One is caught between the proponents of the ‘prestigious’ metro and the ‘bus-can-do-everything-a- LRT can…and a fraction of the price’ headbangers.

There is the fact that a Metro is percieved as something that can be delivered without the political necessity to reallocate road space to walking, cycling and LRT and take it away from the inefficient private motor transport. We all know that this is the way to go, but it is politically difficult to sell the concept to democratic politicians – or the general public.

There is also the political concept that a city has ‘arrived’ when it gets a metro, it has joined the select list of Great World Cities. Indeed under the old, discredited, Soviet system a city with 1m+ inhabitants had to have a metro and the letter instructing you to start the planning process arrived when the population passed 900,000.

I know the arguments about capacity, but given that a full performance LRT only costs about 10% of a metro (except in Edinburgh…) having a metro with double the capacity of an LRT line, rather than having 5+ LRT lines in the conurbation, plus money to spare, would seem to be a better deal.

It all seems to come down do an irrational attitude, proponents of LRT are accused of being ‘blinkered’, whereas the metro, gizmo-bahn and BRT people are ‘rational’. In fact the evidence supports LRT as being the best overall fit in a wide range of circumstances and the data supports this. We need to be far more willing to promote LRT with robust arguments.


One Response to “Why do some governments see Metros as more prestigious than Light Rail?”
  1. Wendy says:

    PLEASE we need something in the Valley, linking the townships……PLEASE give us a way out!!!

    Zweisystem Replies: We are trying our hardest to get this done, but there are many roadblocks including Translink, the City of Vancouver, and the SkyTrain lobby and their surrogates.

Leave A Comment