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 infrastructural differences between streetcars and light rail.  Streetcars will always work better in dedicated lanes.  They’ll run faster in dedicated lanes and they won’t have to intermingle with automobiles.  Plus, with intelligent street planning and engineering, most urban streets can accommodate dedicated streetcar/transit lanes.  There are a few problems with dedicated lanes in America currently.  For starters, in cities that are just starting to think about streetcars, some of the public might not 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.  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.