Five French Home Truths about Light Rail, Gold Coast Style

I found this list of five key aspects about the French approach to light rail in this article from City Lab: 

 1. They tie cities together. French tram lines typically extend from urban fringe to urban fringe via the city center. 

2. They require high-performance transit vehicles. That means large capacities, all-door entry, train-style off-board fare payment, level boarding, and signal priority. 

3. They have widely spaced stops. Tram stops are spaced far enough apart to improve travel times, but they’re placed at critical transfer points with feeder buses or other major lines. 

4. They reach major destinations. That’s a given for good transit, of course, but French tram lines emphasize access to college campuses, office complexes, health centers, and malls, in addition to major suburbs and downtowns. 

5. They form the core of a larger transit network. Bus lines are reconfigured to serve major tram stops, and fare programs encourage easy transfers from mode to mode. 

As the article says, these lessons aren’t especially innovative. But that’s the point. It’s more like a blend of the existing complete streets movement with some core principles of strong surface transit.

Sounds good to me! And it also sounds a lot like what the Gold Coast Light Rail has done. 


Greg Vann
October 2014


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