ACTION FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORT (NSW) INC.
Light Rail or Bus Planning for Sydney
Points to Consider
ADVANTAGES of light rail
Compared to buses:
- More comfortable ride
- Higher passenger capacity
- Lower operating costs
- Lower noise
- Benefit to other road users where surfaces rebuilt
– i.e. fewer jolts for the buses
- Pollution removed from vehicle
- Can draw on whatever source of electricity is used
- Aesthetic – very well-designed trams are seen as adding
visual appeal to the urban landscape
- Seen as a positive benefit to areas
– part of urban renewal schemes, affecting property values
- Legibility – people including infrequent public transport
users can see where it goes and feel confident something will come
- Integrates well into a pedestrian mall
– eg. Bourke St (Melbourne) or Hay St
- Potential for dual-current vehicles as used in Karlsruhe or Saarbrucken
– can run on LRT and heavy rail routes
- May suit areas where level of demand is between bus and heavy rail
- Symbolic value: owing to the cost and effort required, can be seen as
proof that a government is truly committed to public transport.
DISADVANTAGES of light rail
Compared to buses:
- Higher capital costs
- Generally lower proportion of seats to standees
- Inflexibility of route e.g. in case of breakdown or a temporary street closure due to a special event or parade
- Inflexibility as one tram cannot overtake another
- Disruption to traffic during construction
- Permanent inconvenience to motorists where lanes are lost or
they are required to stop behind passengers getting on and off.
- Cost of construction means that interchanges will be necessary
on some routes or outer ends of routes
- Greater capacity of vehicles may mean reduced frequency compared to buses
- If coal-fired electricity is used, greenhouse emissions per passenger-km
may be higher than buses
- May lead to neglect of bus routes in areas away from LRT
- Aesthetic – overhead wires are disliked by many people
Principles for light rail planning for Sydney:
- LR should always be planned as part of an integrated public transport
system, not as a separate money-making venture.
- Lines should go where the demand is (present or planned), NOT where
there is a disused railway line or other surplus land.
- Some bus service into the city should be maintained. If a bus/LR
interchange is necessary it should be at-grade (i.e. no steps / escalators)
and involve as short a walk as possible.
Frequencies of all services should be good enough that exact timekeeping
and connections are not necessary.
- Where a bus journey into the city is replaced by a feeder bus with
LR interchange, the total journey time should not be increased.
- The cost structure and ticketing should be totally integrated with the
rest of the public transport system.
- There are many possible improvements to existing bus services,
e.g. dedicated lanes, traffic light priority and elimination
of ticket sales by the drivers.
These should be pursued as widely as possible. The healthier bus
patronage is on any route, the more potential for conversion to LR.
- All improvements to bus facilities should be designed with potential
LR conversion in mind.
- New release areas at the edge of Sydney may be suitable for LR as it
can be planned for from the beginning.
This would be dependent on the population density being high enough
to support a line, and that LR would take people to at least a major
centre (e.g. Penrith or Liverpool) without having to change.
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