Let’s face it: driving sucks.
Car traffic is bad for everyone and a lot of American cities have caught on to this. As a result, more light rail is being built throughout the USA, recently Pheonix residents voted to back more light rail with a tax hike.
What’s pushing this? It turns out that the awfulness of the commute, more cities adopting good public transit policy, and increased urbanization.
The future of light rail looks bright!
“Light rail” is a broad term that means a passenger rail system with tram-style cars—as opposed to “heavy rail” subways, as in New York and Washington, D.C.—that runs on its own right of way, usually at street level. Light rail cars typically run at 30 to 40 miles per hour at top speed, much less than a heavy rail subway.
In many cities, the building of light rail lines represents only one aspect of broader efforts to solve the public transportation puzzle. Cities are increasingly connecting light rail lines with major nodes of activity and other transportation modes such as expanded express bus services or bike lanes. Phoenix’s light rail connects downtown with Arizona State University in Tempe and Sky Harbor Airport. Charlotte has a light rail system and is now adding a streetcar. Atlanta and Miami have traditional heavy rail transit systems but are investing in other technologies such as streetcars and bus rapid transit. Las Vegas has a monorail along the Strip but is talking about a rail line to the airport.