KC Light Rail

Your source for news and information on Kansas City’s light rail progress

Toronto’s streetcar resurgence

A wonderfully written and timely article in yesterday's Toronto Star talks about the modernization of that city's streetcar system. Unlike streetcar systems across Canada and the U.S., Torontonians lobbied to save their system from certain death in the '70s and the 11 remaining routes now carry over 52 million passengers (that's not counting the passengers carried by Toronto's light rail, subway, and commuter rail systems).

We post this story not to fan the flames of streetcar nostalgia or to distract from the Chastain meetings, but to offer a potential low-cost option for obtaining used streetcar equipment in the wake of Toronto's modernization (the city is looking to replace it's entire fleet of 204 units). We'd also like to remind the city and the KCATA that what will make any system successful here is the speed of operation. This quote sums it up perfectly:

Giambrone knows a way to stop that from happening: giving all streetcars their own right of way, like on Spadina, but also giving operators the power to change the traffic lights in their favour.

In other words, in Giambrone's world, if you drive, you can wait. "That's what being a 'Transit City' is all about," he says. "This is why we have to advance the debate."

To that end, an experiment: Giambrone green-lighted a temporary right-of-way on King St. later this year between Yonge St. and University Ave., wiping away taxi lanes and street parking – for a few weeks, at least. "People will see that the world doesn't end," he says. "And then we'll talk about expanding it."

3 Comments so far

  1. James July 16th, 2007 1:55 pm

    You have successfully cut to the core of the issue - SPEED. I used to ride the MAX until I realized it takes significantly longer to reach my destination riding the MAX than if I just drive myself. Why? Because the MAX has no right-of-way and stops at stoplights like any other car, in addition to it’s designated stops. People will not ride transit because they care about the environment. They will ride it because it is fast, convenient, and easy. The key to making it fast is having right-of-way. Whether it’s light rail, streetcar, or trolley coming to KC, we must find a method to give it right-of-way!

  2. mainstream July 17th, 2007 7:37 am

    I agree with the commnets above, but keep in mind that The Max can extend a green light and have some level of control over traffic lights. Part of the Max design was to attempt to create a virtual rightofway.

    Having said that, the criticisms are valid, perhaps primarily because of the stop/start time involved along the route as well.

  3. Dave July 17th, 2007 10:16 am

    the ATA created a virtual right-of-way because they had to… the city wouldn’t dedicate a full lane of main street for MAX (like true BRT). while MAX technically can extend a green light, it rarely happens because the schedule is designed around hitting red lights and not moving until all passengers have paid (again, not by ATA’s choice). anyone who rides MAX regularly can tell you that.

    any light rail system implemented in KC would have to have true priority at as many street lights as possible *and* off-board ticketing. even then, it would never outpace a private vehicle, but would at least be competitive.

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