Mixed Use Lanes Vs. Dedicated Lanes

One of the biggest debates in the rebirth of streetcars is how to intermingle streetcars into traffic.  So I thought I needed to do a reference post on the issue.  First, I need to make a distinction.  Putting a streetcar in dedicated lanes doesn’t automatically make it light rail.  There are many infrastructure differences between streetcars and light rail.  These include weight of the cars and the size of dedicated lanes.  Streetcars will always work better in dedicated lanes.  They’ll run faster in dedicated lanes and they won’t have to intermingle with automobiles.  There are a few problems with dedicated lanes in America currently.  For starters, in cities that are just starting to think about streetcars, the public won’t want to dedicate their traffic lanes for a streetcar system that they don’t know a lot about.  Secondly, streetcars are still politically sensitive.  It is still a fight to get streetcars approved.  If every city included dedicated lanes on their streetcar starter lines, the political fight will get a lot harder.  Thirdly some streets where streetcars are needed are too narrow to accommodate dedicated lanes.  The bottom line is if you can get dedicated lanes on your starter lines, great.  If it’ll be too much trouble politically, wait to do it until the streetcar proves itself and people back it.