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Subways Vs. Light Rail and Rapid Bus Lines – The Where, When and How Much of High Order Transit
Activity Code: S696
Date: Saturday, April 13
In large North American cities and metro areas, the debate has been intense in the past few decades about whether to build full-scale subways, versus light rail transit (LRT) or bus rapid transit (BRT) lines. What are the pros and cons of serving a broader swath of a city or metro area with LRT and BRT, versus providing fewer, but more efficient, high-capacity subway lines? LRT and BRT projects cost much less per mile and are faster to construct, increasing the likelihood that they will actually get built. But LRTs and BRTs compete for limited space with cars, and with public realm amenities such as sidewalks and landscaping. Their carrying capacities and lower operating speeds can easily frustrate riders that have to travel longer distances on a daily basis through dense and emerging urban areas. Subways have long construction time lines and require tremendous capital resources that are hard to come by in these times of fiscal austerity. But subways and other heavy rail transit move large volumes of commuters quickly and efficiently across longer distances, with much less impact on the public realm, and have the additional benefit of supporting the highest of urban development densities. And as if these realities don’t make the choices hard enough, politics have a way of confounding the most sound and well considered transit visions. Come join the lively debate and learn how North American cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto have made these choices, and in some cases are still grappling with them!