News   Sep 20, 2019
 665     3 
News   Sep 20, 2019
 564     1 
News   Sep 20, 2019
 1.4K     0 

Terminology

Coruscanti Cognoscente

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Apr 24, 2007
Messages
7,734
Reaction score
221
Location
Imperial City
Lately I've grown quite frustrated with people using the term "subway" as a synonym for "underground" rather than the more common and accepted "HRT".

The worst offender in this regard is Metrolinx who went out of their way to claim that the Eglinton line is a "subway"...it's just also an LRT with at-grade sections that stop at red lights.

Failing that, we could just ban the term in transit discussions and either all something HRT or LRT or grade-separated LRT or at-grade LRT in a ROW.

If we want to have a meaningful discussion, we need to agree to terms meaning one thing and not get everything all confusing by using non-standard/archaic terminology.

I propose that if we mean "underground" we say "underground" and not "subway" which has come to mean grade-separated heavy rail transit.

We could theoretically use a term like "metro", but seeing as this is a Toronto-based site, it makes little sense to do so.

LRT is a little difficult to define as well. Is Spadina an LRT? Is Queen? Is St. Clair? Is Eglinton? Are they all?

BRT is similarly difficult to define. Are Express buses BRT? Is VIVA? Are the GO buses using highway shoulders BRT?

There's a lot of disagreement over these terms and a lot of confusion and this confusion leads to further arguments and everything just becomes a big mess.
 

hbl33

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jul 9, 2009
Messages
388
Reaction score
0
Location
Mississauga, ON
Lately I've grown quite frustrated with people using the term "subway" as a synonym for "underground" rather than the more common and accepted "HRT".

The worst offender in this regard is Metrolinx who went out of their way to claim that the Eglinton line is a "subway"...it's just also an LRT with at-grade sections that stop at red lights.

Failing that, we could just ban the term in transit discussions and either all something HRT or LRT or grade-separated LRT or at-grade LRT in a ROW.

If we want to have a meaningful discussion, we need to agree to terms meaning one thing and not get everything all confusing by using non-standard/archaic terminology.

I propose that if we mean "underground" we say "underground" and not "subway" which has come to mean grade-separated heavy rail transit.

We could theoretically use a term like "metro", but seeing as this is a Toronto-based site, it makes little sense to do so.

LRT is a little difficult to define as well. Is Spadina an LRT? Is Queen? Is St. Clair? Is Eglinton? Are they all?

BRT is similarly difficult to define. Are Express buses BRT? Is VIVA? Are the GO buses using highway shoulders BRT?

There's a lot of disagreement over these terms and a lot of confusion and this confusion leads to further arguments and everything just becomes a big mess.
Aright, let me straighten out, through my experience.

Subway: A heavy-capacity rail transit, on any rail-specific railways. Can be light or heavy rail, but must have its own traffic right with minimal or no contact of street traffic.
Streetcar: A light-capacity rail transit, intended to serve as an alternative of bus preferably by means of electrification on light rails. Can be applied to rails on street median, dedicated lanes or on any part of the street. Can count grade-separate lines or in non-street surface. But must obey street traffic.
LRT: Light Rail Transit. Rapid rail service with limited stops by means of light rail vehicles. Must be grade-separated.
HRT: Heavy Rail Transit. Rapid rail service with limited stops by means of heavy rail vehicles. Must be grade-separated.
LRV: Light rail vehicle.
HRV: Heavy rail vehicle.
BRT: Bus rapid transit. Rapid bus service with limited stops by means of buses specially designed for express routes on bus-exclusive lanes. Must be grade-separated or have its own dedicated road access, with minimal traffic contact.
Express bus: Limited-stop bus routes, with little distinguishes on travelling by means of ROW or grade-separate roadways.
Bus: Just another bus you see in your area.

All BRTs are Express buses, but not all express buses are BRTs. In my own experience, subways are fine as either LRT/HRT. Streetcars are slow, have no dedicated right of way or have exclusive road access. It can't bypass the street traffic. That is not rapid transit. It should be called "local rail-bus".
 
Last edited:

hbl33

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jul 9, 2009
Messages
388
Reaction score
0
Location
Mississauga, ON
fanoftoronto: I'd say partially exclusive or completely exclusive ROW [agreed, but must add], with minimal street traffic contact. Then that will apply the same for HRT.
 

hbl33

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jul 9, 2009
Messages
388
Reaction score
0
Location
Mississauga, ON
But HRT is never affected by traffic signals, which is not the case for LRT in a partially exclusive ROW.
HRT and LRT are categorized by capacity and rail spec, rather than whether which one is affected by traffic signals. And yes, HRT can be affected by traffic signals, if implemented in a way the streetcars operate today. See one of this:



As I said earlier, it doesn't matter that having light rail or heavy rail makes it a subway. Keeping it ROW (partial or complete), with minimal stops and contact with street traffic makes it a rapid transit. Queensway ROW and Spadina is not rapid transit. Maybe the word "subway" is too much a stretch, so let's replace that with "metro".

Sorry, forgot to add this in addition:

[video=youtube;3w287WySNA0]http://www.youtube.com/watch?hl=en&v=3w287WySNA0&gl=US[/video]
 
Last edited:

golodhendil

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jan 25, 2009
Messages
674
Reaction score
1
Location
Boston
I basically agree with hbl's definitions. Regarding CC's original point, while I agree the terminologies can lead to confusion, seeing that North America has had a century-old tradition of using "subway" to describe any underground rail, be it HRT or LRT (Boston, Philadelphia, Newark, SF and Pittsburgh; older, in fact, than the use of this term for HRT subways), and the corresponding term U-bahn has been used for decades to describe both HRT and LRT subways in Europe, I don't see how this usage is such a cardinal sin. While this is a Toronto-centric forum, obsessing with a Toronto+NYC-centric terminology really doesn't render everything else "non-standard and archaic".
 

Justin10000

Banned
Member Bio
Joined
Jul 3, 2008
Messages
1,069
Reaction score
0
I would define each mode based on capacity, vehicles and operating environment, and stop spacing. Power collection can be added if need be. I am limiting the definitions to North American usage. I personally do not understand the fuss over definition. Most transit experts will tell you the definitions have been blurred over the decades, and people have their own.Here is what I normally use:

REGIONAL RAIL: High Speed, High Capacity Transit with stops 2km or greater outside a city centre, and between 800M to 1000m in the city centre. Can utilize own ROW, or existing freight lines. Trains can be Diesel or electric loco-hauled trains, or multiple units. Can also be called Commuter Rail, or S-Bahn.

SUBWAY: North American term to describe high speed, high capacity rail transit in fully grade-separated ROW, mostly in tunnel with some elevated, or open cut sections. Trains are always electric powered, and can run either as single vehicles or mutliple units. Can be called a Metro, or U-Bahn. Speed is high. Stop spacing varies between 500m to 1600m

LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT - Medium to High Capacity rail transit that utilizes its own ROW. The ROW can vary from a reserved surface ROW with signal priority to fully grade-separated elevated or tunnel ROW. Vehicles can be electric, or diesel powered and run as a single vehicle or coupled into a train. Speed can vary depending on operating environment. Stop spacing varies between 500m to 1000m

STREETCAR - Low to medium capacity rail transit that usually runs in mixed transit with no signal priority, but is able to run in surface ROW. Vehicles are always electric powered, single vehicles. Can be coupled together if necessary. Speed can vary depending on environment. Stop spacing can vary between 300m to 600m. In Philidelphia, Streetcars are called TROLLEYS.

BUS RAPID TRANSIT - Medium to High Capacity bus transit that utilizes it's own ROW. The ROW can vary from a reserved ROW to fully grade separated elevated or tunneled sections. Vehicles can be electric or diesel powered, and will always run as single vehicles. Vehicles tend to be higher quality buses with amenities. Speed varies depending on operating environment. Stop spacing varies between 500m to 1000m.

HIGHER ORDER BUS - Low capacity bus transit that runs in mixed traffic, and may utilize queue jumps lanes and signal priority at stops, and some reserved bus lanes. Buses are normally branded to distinguish from local bus routes. Can also be called limited stop routes.
Stop spacing varies between 500m to 1000m

LOCAL BUS - Low capacity transit that runs in mixed traffic with no signal priority. Stop spacing is usually 250m to 500m.
 

hbl33

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jul 9, 2009
Messages
388
Reaction score
0
Location
Mississauga, ON
I would define each mode based on capacity, vehicles and operating environment, and stop spacing. Power collection can be added if need be. I am limiting the definitions to North American usage. I personally do not understand the fuss over definition. Most transit experts will tell you the definitions have been blurred over the decades, and people have their own.Here is what I normally use:

REGIONAL RAIL: High Speed, High Capacity Transit with stops 2km or greater outside a city centre, and between 800M to 1000m in the city centre. Can utilize own ROW, or existing freight lines. Trains can be Diesel or electric loco-hauled trains, or multiple units. Can also be called Commuter Rail, or S-Bahn.

SUBWAY: North American term to describe high speed, high capacity rail transit in fully grade-separated ROW, mostly in tunnel with some elevated, or open cut sections. Trains are always electric powered, and can run either as single vehicles or mutliple units. Can be called a Metro, or U-Bahn. Speed is high. Stop spacing varies between 500m to 1600m

LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT - Medium to High Capacity rail transit that utilizes its own ROW. The ROW can vary from a reserved surface ROW with signal priority to fully grade-separated elevated or tunnel ROW. Vehicles can be electric, or diesel powered and run as a single vehicle or coupled into a train. Speed can vary depending on operating environment. Stop spacing varies between 500m to 1000m

STREETCAR - Low to medium capacity rail transit that usually runs in mixed transit with no signal priority, but is able to run in surface ROW. Vehicles are always electric powered, single vehicles. Can be coupled together if necessary. Speed can vary depending on environment. Stop spacing can vary between 300m to 600m. In Philidelphia, Streetcars are called TROLLEYS.

BUS RAPID TRANSIT - Medium to High Capacity bus transit that utilizes it's own ROW. The ROW can vary from a reserved ROW to fully grade separated elevated or tunneled sections. Vehicles can be electric or diesel powered, and will always run as single vehicles. Vehicles tend to be higher quality buses with amenities. Speed varies depending on operating environment. Stop spacing varies between 500m to 1000m.

HIGHER ORDER BUS - Low capacity bus transit that runs in mixed traffic, and may utilize queue jumps lanes and signal priority at stops, and some reserved bus lanes. Buses are normally branded to distinguish from local bus routes. Can also be called limited stop routes.
Stop spacing varies between 500m to 1000m

LOCAL BUS - Low capacity transit that runs in mixed traffic with no signal priority. Stop spacing is usually 250m to 500m.
Agree with all, except the stop spacing. Really, who would care about the station distance between one to another? While most stop spacings as you mentioned are norm, there is really no official definition of how long each mode of transit must travel before it makes a stop. The GRT I-Express "BRT" is really has longer stop spacings than 1km.

For HRT/LRT, a real rapid transit is to have minimal traffic contact, regardless of capacity or environment. What to me a "Shep E. LRT" is, really nothing more than a "highly polished halo" in an attempt to masquerade streetcar as a "rapid transit". Or Spadina streetcar. Queensway streetcar would have been a true LRT, if there was fewer contact with street traffic and complete ROW throughout its leg from Lake Shore and underground through Queen. The transition from street surface at Eglinton West, underground in midtown and street surface again beyond Don Mills really kills the rule of LRT.

One extra correction: Higher order bus could mean in any capacity (from low to high capacity). Route 110 [University-Clarkson-403] in MT is an high-order express bus using a mix of regular size and articulated fleets.

As for rest of the terminology you defined, I concur, but I'll pretend that I didn't see stop spacing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So I'll update my glossary.

Commuter rail: A heavy-capacity rail transit on existing railways. Must be complete ROW, or use freight lines. Has transit signal priority. Trains can be DMU, EMU or mixed multiple unit.

Metro (Subway): A heavy-capacity rail transit, on any rail-specific railways. Can be light or heavy rail, but must have its own traffic right with minimal or no contact of street traffic. Called subway in T.O; in Montreal, it's called Metro.

Streetcar: A light-capacity rail transit, intended to serve as an alternative of bus preferably by means of electrification on light rails (though diesels may apply). Can be applied to rails on street median, dedicated lanes or on any part of the street. Can count grade-separate lines or in non-street surface. But must obey street traffic.

LRT: Light Rail Transit. Rapid rail service with limited stops by means of light rail vehicles. Must be partial or complete ROW, with minimal contact with street traffic.

HRT: Heavy Rail Transit. Rapid rail service with limited stops by means of heavy rail vehicles. Must be partial or complete ROW, with minimal contact with street traffic.

LRV: Light rail vehicle.

HRV: Heavy rail vehicle.

BRT: Bus rapid transit. Rapid bus service with limited stops by means of buses specially designed for express routes on bus-exclusive lanes. Must be partial or complete ROW, with minimal contact with street traffic.

Express bus: Limited-stop bus routes, with little distinguishes on travelling by means of ROW or grade-separate roadways.

Bus: Just another bus you see in your area.
 
Last edited:

SimonP

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jan 6, 2009
Messages
572
Reaction score
0
APTA, the American Public Transportation Association, has a glossary of transit terms. Here is what they have for HRT and LRT:

Heavy Rail is a mode of transit service (also called metro, subway, rapid transit, or rapid rail) operating on an electric railway with the capacity for a heavy volume of traffic. It is characterized by high speed and rapid acceleration passenger rail cars operating singly or in multi-car trains on fixed rails; separate rights-of-way from which all other vehicular and foot traffic are excluded; sophisticated signaling, and high platform loading.

Light Rail is a mode of transit service (also called streetcar, tramway, or trolley) operating passenger rail cars singly (or in short, usually two-car or three-car, trains) on fixed rails in right-of-way that is often separated from other traffic for part or much of the way. Light rail vehicles are typically driven electrically with power being drawn from an overhead electric line via a trolley or a pantograph; driven by an operator on board the vehicle; and may have either high platform loading or low level boarding using steps.

They have no definition for subway, the larger glossary just says "Subway: see Rail, Heavy"
 

hbl33

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jul 9, 2009
Messages
388
Reaction score
0
Location
Mississauga, ON
Ah, finally APTA agrees with my terminology on most parts.
Really, no subway? Strange...
I didn't know LR would include streetcars regardless of speed. Noticing that LR is not defined as rapid transit, TC is no rapid transit at all! Metrolinx is a hell-bent organization that wrongfully defines underground streetcar as a subway!
Apparently, the HRT in North America conforms to APTA definitions. Asia is quite different, but generally agreeable in basics; not so sure about in Europe or elsewhere.
 

SimonP

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jan 6, 2009
Messages
572
Reaction score
0
The APTA definitions are still vague for some of the planned Toronto lines. What is the "capacity for a heavy volume of traffic?" I know that APTA considers the Scarborough RT to be heavy rail. If it is, then replacing the RT with Flexities that would have a higher capacity should also qualify as heavy rail.

The same goes for Eglinton. With a capacity of 10,000 pph the underground section could qualify as high volume and thus could be called a subway even if the at grade sections of the line could not.
 

hbl33

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jul 9, 2009
Messages
388
Reaction score
0
Location
Mississauga, ON
My glossary still stands: as long as the rail transit (light or heavy) is on separate grade/ ROW on street with minimal traffic interaction it's still a rapid transit.

Flexies are LRV right? If implemented in SRT tracks, would the rail gauge be changed to accommodate the train vehicle?

To me, having Eglinton underground, dedicated ROW at aboveground and maximal isolation from other vehicular traffic aboveground stands as a true RT. Which really is not.
 

Long Island Mike

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Apr 25, 2007
Messages
2,178
Reaction score
12
This topic should be along with the Transit Glossary up above...

Everyone: I read thru this section and I then remembered posting definitions of transport modes in the past - I was prepared to search this section going back a couple of years and then I noticed the sticky TRANSIT GLOSSARY just above-I looked and found my posts concerning transit modes there-I feel that this topic is actually an extension of the definitions mentioned above
and again there is really informative commentary and input on what the describing definitions of what transit services are.

Thoughts from LI MIKE
 
Top