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Old Posted Apr 14, 2012, 4:17 PM
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electricron electricron is offline
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Location: Granbury, Texas
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Originally Posted by BnaBreaker View Post
I'm sure this question from laymen like myself has been answered many times in this forum before, and for the repetition I apologize. But I'm curious. What is the technical difference between light rail and streetcar? I see that Cincinnati's U/C system is qualified as streetcar, but in the rendering the cars look almost identical to Houston's, which is qualified as light rail.
Excellent question, because it is sometimes very hard to distinguish any difference. I believe you'll find Salt Lake City's Sugar House streetcar line will be using the exact same light rail cars as their newly opened light rail lines.

The only true common differences between the two are
(1) Light rail trains don't share lanes with other traffic while streetcars will.
(2) Light rail trains can use multiple units while streetcars don't.
(3) Streetcars can turn tighter curves than light rail trains.
And I don't think those common differences are 100% true for every case.

Because light rail are ran in multiple units, they're called trains instead of cars. They can also be used in longer corridors which require larger capacity trains. And because the trains are longer, they require dedicated lanes.

Therefore, it's function of the rail line more than the rolling stock equipment that makes the difference. Because, for all practical purposes, a streetcar is a single light rail unit, or vice versa, a light rail train is two or more streetcars coupled together.
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