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Transit Glossary

Hipster Duck

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I was hoping we could have an illustrated dictionary of the different transit modes out there so that when we talk about something, we avoid confusion (Eg: No more confusing S-bahn/RER/regional rail with LRTs!). Feel free to add to this like a wiki article.


Category 1: Buses

Bus

Just your standard, run-of-the-mill city bus.



Examples
anywhere.

Variations: Trolley bus, articulated bus, double decker bus


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Bus on Express Route

A regular bus that runs along an express variant of a regular route, or a short-distance point-to-point route, often connecting a distant suburban area to the central transit network or transport nodes together. Often have limited service hours. May run on expressways for some periods, and can use designated HOV lanes.



Examples
TTC "E" routes (35E, 39E, 96E)
190 series Rocket Routes
Mississauga Transit 100 and 200 series routes

Quality Express Bus

A bus with some perks, such as queue jump lanes, ticketing machines and a greater distance between stops. Often branded differently from regular city buses to connote a premium service. No separated right of ways (ROW). Uses advanced stops, but not actual stations.



Examples

VIVA
Brampton Zum
GRT iXpress
LA Metro 700-series Rapid Routes

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Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

Buses running in dedicated ROWs (aka: a busway) stopping only at designated stations that are built like rapid transit stations.





Examples

Ottawa Transitway
Winnipeg RT
LA Metro Orange Line
Bogota TransMilenio
BRT system in Curitiba, Brazil
U/C Mississauga Busway

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Inter-regional coach buses

Uses coach buses to serve commuters in far-flung exurban regions, or for intra-regional suburban travel along highways between nodes.



Examples
GO bus service
MTA long distance bus service (New York)
Greyhound QuickLink commuter service

===============================================

Category 2: Light Rail systems

Streetcars

Streetcars are single or articulated light rail vehicles that run in mixed urban traffic and are typically fed by overhead catenary at a lower voltage. Before the advent of city buses, streetcars were used in almost every North American city of any size and, indeed, in just about all developed countries at the time. Beginning in the 1930s and reaching a crescendo in the 1950s, almost every city in North America, and many in Western Europe, Japan, China and Australia began abandoning streetcars in favour of city buses as the workhorses of their public transit system.

Variation A: Heritage tramway/trolley
Typically used as a tourist-oriented route, as a start-up, or as a gentrification or development scheme. Uses real or replica historical vehicles on a short, urban operation that is almost always a new or long-abandoned route. Unlike a transit museum, it is part of the local transit system and carries point-to-point passengers. Most common in North America, but elsewhere (Istanbul "nostalgic trams" are a great example of non-NA re-installation of a heritage tram). Examples: Nelson, BC; Edmonton Heritage Streetcar; Old Pueblo Trolley in Tuscon, AZ; Tampa; Memphis; Kenosha.

Variation B: Modern Streetcar
Used as a development tool, like a heritage tram, but with modern equipment on a new, modern alignment. Differs from a light rail system in terms of stop spacing (usually every one or two blocks), vehicle size and route length.
The prime North American example is the Portland Streetcar, but the South Lake Union Trolley in Seattle is another good example. Arguably, the 509 here in Toronto could qualify as it is a new route meant to serve waterfront development.

Variation C: Legacy Street Railway
A classic streetcar operation in continuous operation, with street running. Abandonment not carried out for reasons of cost or practicality (terrain, a tunnel segment, politics). Can be confused for a heritage tramway when older vehicles are used, such as Melbourne or Hong Kong. Examples: Toronto Streetcars, SEPTA Subway-Surface lines, New Orleans Charles St Streetcar, SEPTA (Philly) 15-Girard PCC route.

The Muni F Market and Wharves Route and New Orleans streetcars manage to fall under variations A & C they are partially legacy routes and operate with vintage (MUNI F and NORTA St. Charles Ave) and replica (in the case of NORTA's Canal Street and Waterfront Lines).

Example





Examples (surviving)

Toronto streetcar
Melbourne tram
Amsterdam tram
Zurich tram
Hong Kong Tramways

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Light Rail Transit (LRT) Version 1: Light Rail

Light rail transit was a word that was coined to describe an adaptation of streetcar technology for rapid transit. LRT can come in two forms: the first I will just call "light rail" and the second I will term "Pre Metro". Light Rail in the former case typically involves low-floor streetcars that are articulated but not much larger than a TTC streetcar traveling in separated ROWs with simple station infrastructure (typically low platforms and a minimum of amenities). There are many examples of this throughout the world and increasingly in North America. In some cities in the US, light rail stations are fairly advanced while, in others, notably San Francisco's Muni Metro and Boston's MBTA Green Line, stations are scarcely more than longer transit shelters. If the Spadina or St. Clair streetcar lines used more modern streetcar equipment you could adequately term these lines to be "light rail", although in almost all other cities light rail has signaling priority over other traffic on the road. Transit City, if built, would mostly resemble this form of transit.

It's interesting to note that Light Rail is not a new idea. Many US cities, such as the aforementioned San Francisco and Boston, as well as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Newark used PCC streetcars to run a rapid service on grade separated ROWs well before the war. In many ways, the portion of the 501 streetcar that runs along the Queensway here in Toronto is an LRT line in this vein.





examples
Houston METROrail
Portland MAX
Baltimore LRT
San Francisco MUNI Metro
Manchester Metrolink
Strasbourg tram

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LRT Version 2: Pre-Metros

I use the word "pre metro" to distinguish this form of LRT from its more simple cousin.

A pre metro is a true rapid transit line that uses coupled light rail vehicles. In many cities, this may substitute for a subway because it has a fairly high capacity and offers good speed at less capital cost than building a subway or elevated rail line. I think the best way to tell that it's a pre metro is that, although it uses streetcars, you would never dream of running these suckers on the street. In fact, when they cross the road, signals start flashing and barrier gates come down as if a freight train were about to barrel through.

Here in Canada, we have two very good examples of Pre Metro LRTs in Edmonton and Calgary. Outside of the downtown core, these lines run in their own corridors, usually beside rail lines, and have real high platform stations that aren't far removed from surface subway stations here in Toronto such as those along the Allen or Rosedale. In the core, they either dip underground like a subway (Edmonton) or run in a closed-off street that is inaccessible to both cars or pedestrians (Calgary). Note that the size of these trains has led politicians in Calgary to consider tunneling the downtown portion of the C-train route.




[u]Examples[/u]

Edmonton LRT
Calgary C-train
LA Metro: Green, Blue and Gold lines
Tyne and Wear Metro (Newcastle, UK)
Stuttgart U-bahn
Frankfurt U-bahn
St. Louis MetroLink
Planned Ottawa LRT

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Okay, I have to go back to work, but we will be back with examples of heavy rail systems: subways, S-bahns, commuter rail and intercity rail!

As I said: Please feel free to modify this post like a wiki article if you're a mod and, if you're not, then post your corrections, feedback and additional insights below and maybe the mods can add it in.
 
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Kitsune

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The burying of Calgary's LRT has been on the board since LRT was concieved for the city - to the point where a stretch of it was actually built before money ran out during construction, and theres even a roughed in station at city hall (thats pretty much where the only strech of this "subway" exists). It was raided by Urban Explorers during a 2001 transit strike (a strike that lasted nearly two weeks and shut down the Catholic school board), and has promptly been sealed off. Now, any new buildings going up on 8th avenue must include room for the new burried LRT line, which will likely be done fairly soon (before 2020) as 7th avenue is about to be extremely crowded when the new West Line opens in 2012 I believe.

Also, it should be noted that Calgary is currently updating (all be it slowly) all of its stations to handle 4 car LRT trains. You havnt felt a true cramped train car until you've been on a LRT car in Rush Hour!
 

RedRocket191

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Hipster, you are my hero for starting this thread. I think we should take this one step further and make it a wiki.
 

Hipster Duck

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Category 3: Heavy Rail Systems

Mini-metros/intermediate capacity transit

This broad category is a "catch all" for simple fully grade-separated heavy rail, though it is sometimes referred to as "light rail". There are various propieratary technologies, such as Bombardier's ICTS, or the French VAL (Véhicule Automatique Léger). Invariably, these trains are smaller than full metros and are fully automated.

ICTS-type systems have several characteristics. They can be built relatively quickly and can be quite inexpensive to operate. They are particularly well suited for elevated operation. The speed of construction of the DLR in London is a testament to this. They are well suited to smaller metropolitan areas, or for feeders to metro systems where traffic loads can be high. Automated control allows for very short headways, making up for smaller train capacities. Other uses have included circulators and airport shuttles (Detroit, JFK AirTrain).







Successful Examples
Vancouver Skytrain and Canada Line (ROTEM)
Docklands Light Railway
Lille Metro

Metros - (subways)

Subways and metros around the world may be rubber-tyred, mostly run above ground, use overhead catenary for power, or lack fare control gates but they all share some things in common: they are standalone systems that are not compatible with other commercial railways and they stop only at designated stations that are designed strictly for that metro.

Metros are designed for moving lots of people over short-to-medium length distances, and generally, cars are longer and wider than most LRT vehicles. The tracks also are separated from physical contact from any other form of transportation (with very few exceptions, such as level crossings at the outer ends of the Chicago L system) and almost always has high level platform boarding. Train control relies heavily on block signalisation or automatic control. This is not necessarily the case with LRTs.





examples

Toronto subway
Montreal Metro
NYC subway
Washington DC Metro
Paris metro
Madrid metro
Hong Kong MTR

Regional Metro Variation
A variation on the Metro is the Regional Metro, a hybrid of sorts between a Metro and an S-Bahn. Like a metro, trains have specific stations and run on their own dedicated electrified tracks. Like an S-Bahn, stop spacing is farther apart (but close together in the urban centre) and can run deep into suburban areas. Branching can be used to improve frequencies near the downtown core. While service is provided at most times of the day, there are much higher spikes at peak periods.

While the Washington Metro has some of these characteristics, the best example is BART in San Francisco. The GO-ALRT proposal from the 1980s, if built, would have been a Regional Metro.



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Commuter Rail

Commuter rail is the basic suburban-based rail system. Like buses, commuter trains can come in all shapes and sizes, but in North America, commuter rail is usually locomotive-powered train sets. Train schedules are primarily or solely intended to move day commuters from suburban areas to a central business district for work or school and back again. If there is off-peak service, train service is limited. Trains used are often very high capacity (making bi-level or gallery type double-decker cars popular). Locomotives are usually, but not always, diesel powered. Fares are often priced at a premium separate from local transit and with minimal or no fare integration.

Stations are simple, often consisting of a paved or wooden platform next to the tracks with minimal amenities, such as shelters, a ticket office (or even just a fare machine) and a parking lot.

Examples

GO Transit
NJ Transit (except Northeast Corridor line)
AMT (Montreal)
Metra (Chicago)

Suburban/Regional Rail (S-bahn)

The term "S-bahn" has been kicked around the forum for a while but its meaning is often misunderstood. Regional rail uses commercial railway infrastructure to offer a frequent, intra-regional mass transit system. In other words, a S-bahn train will run on tracks shared with other intercity passenger and freight trains. However, S-bahns are almost always electrified and run trains that resemble subway cars in appearance, and are multiple-unit configuration. Cars often have additional doors than a typical railway coach and while they offer somewhat more comfortable seating than a subway car they are designed with improved flow to accommodate standees. Stations are usually a mix of old downtown railway stations within the various regions and some intermediate stations that were built for the S-bahns themselves. They are usually high platform and often have as many amenities as a typical subway station, although they are built out in the open. Stop spacing may be anywhere from up to 10km at the ends, to subway spacing in the core. Likewise, frequency may range from every half an hour to every two minutes, depending on where the line is in relation to the rest of the system. S-bahns often become trunk lines that replicate subway service through the core and then dissolve into a number of branches that shoot out in a bunch of directions to different suburbs. Fares often feature partial or full integration with local transit.

Just like major league soccer and the metric system, S-bahns are a phenomenon that has long been known to virtually the entire world outside of Canada and the US. Even developing world cities like Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro and Johannesburg have extensive systems that harken back decades. Tokyo managed to keep a metropolitan region of 30 million people tied together largely via an extensive web of these electric regional trains. One should understand that while subways were heavy rail systems that largely shaped municipal growth, S-bahns are heavy rail systems that largely shaped regional growth. They can also be far-reaching. One branch of the Long Island Railroad (NYC and Philadelphia are the only two NA cities with S-bahn systems) extends 160 km out from Penn station in New York to Montauk at the tip of Long Island.

A typical German S-bahn train; Frankfurt, in this case.


A Metro North train pulls into New Rochelle. These tracks are shared with Amtrak and Acela express passenger trains.


Paris RER. Note the high platforms.



CPTM train in Sao Paulo



examples

S-bahn (all major German cities + Zurich, Vienna)
RER (Paris)
TFL London Rail (London) + numerous other companies in the southeast
S-tog
KCRC (Hong Kong)
Cityrail (Australian cities)
JR commuter trains (Tokyo)
MTA Metro North and LIRR; NJtransit NE Corridor line (NYC)
CPTM (Sao Paulo)
etc.

Note: There are odd exceptions to every rule. For example, Cleveland's "heavy rail metro" Red Line shares tracks and stations and overhead power with light rail, and has fare payment on baord during off hours. Chicago's L system has level crossings with roadways on the outer ends of the Pink and Brown lines.
 

Archivist

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Brussels has a pre-metro, and they actually use that term. They have underground platforms already for some of the stations, that could be converted to metro at some point, but which are served by LRT-type trains now.

Question: Where would SkyTrain fit in?
 

RedRocket191

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You could consider GO as the first stage of S-Bahn/Regional Rail/Pendeltåg

Step 1: Rush hour service in commuter direction
Step 2: Limited off-peak service & a few reverse commuter trips
Step 3: Two way service all day at regular intervals
Step 4: Two way service all day at more frequent intervals
Step 5: Pendeltåg
 

RedRocket191

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Except it doesn't fit the high platform definition of S-bahn, so just making it more frequent won't make it S-bahn.
Then it needs its own category because GO won't be seeing high-floor platforms any time soon. It's not enough of a problem to warrant that sort of solution.
 

Hipster Duck

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If I have time today I will put GO trains in their proper place: commuter rail! I will also add a separate definition for DMU rapid transit, such as the O train in Ottawa.

Sean,

thanks for adding the additional bus information. Should I make a separate section for ICTS, or do you think I should just list these examples as metros?
 

ShonTron

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ICTS is enough of a variation that is probably should be in a sub-category under Metro. VAL is another similar technology that could be here - a "light metro".
- Skytrain
- SRT
- Docklands Light Rail
- Lille
- Bangkok
- Kuala Lumpur
 

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