There are significant advantages to having a highly developed light rail system within a large metropolitan area. For example, it results in less congestion on roads within the city. Light rail is a safer way to travel. And, for the most part, light rail gets people from Point A to Point B quicker.
As the world becomes increasingly focused on addressing climate change, the benefits of public mass transportation become increasingly attractive.
Yet, major metropolitan areas in Canada and Mexico have generally been more successful than cities in the United States in developing light rail systems.
Consider, for example, Boston, MA. Massachusetts’ population growth is 1.5 percent, which is .02 percent below the national rate. Boston, the state’s largest city and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, has gained close to 55,000 residents in the last two years, based on estimates from the 2013 U.S. Census.
Despite this increase in population, and light rail providing transportation for a majority of the city, the rail system itself has not been expanded in more than 50 years.
The MBTA light rail system in Boston leads light rail systems among U.S. cities in ridership, yet it is the only rail system in North America’s top 10 that has not been expanded within the last decade.
Systems such as the Muni Metro in San Francisco and the Metro Rail in Los Angeles, which claim the fifth and sixth spots on the list respectively, have both expanded within the last 7 years.
In North America, the Toronto streetcar system leads all other light rail systems with more than 100,000,000 annual riders. Behind Toronto, the Guadalajara light rail system in Mexico and the C-Train in Calgary. Boston’s MBTA ranks fourth in North America in annual ridership.
The top 10 light rail systems in North America, ranked by annual ridership are:
1. Toronto Streetcar - 100,037,500
2. Guadalajara Light Rail - 89,150,235
3. C-Train (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) - 86,648,100
4. MBTA (Boston) light rail - 72,273,600
5. Metro Rail (Los Angeles) - 63,759,500
6. Muni Metro (San Francisco) - 51,954,400
7. MAX Light Rail (Portland, OR) - 38,371,600
8. San Diego Trolley - 34,448,900
9. Edmonton (Alberta, Canada) Light Rail - 33,128,600
10. SEPTA (Philadelphia) light rail - 32,794,900
geoAMPS, a technology company located in the Columbus, OH, area, offers a software system called dotAMPS that provides an array of efficiencies and other advantages in developing and expanding light rail systems. With dotAMPS, federal, state and local costs in developing light rail can be greatly reduced. With efficiencies gained by conversion to a Web-based central repository of organizational and project information, and process standardization facilitated through the Web platform’s dashboard-focused interface, departments of transportation can achieve up to 35 percent savings in project management costs.
A central database built upon a Web platform offers mobile application for work in the field, detached application when connectivity is unreliable, and GIS mapping that can broaden the use of information that is gathered. The mobile application is a tremendous timesaver for transportation workers and land service agents in the field. With GIS, project planners and agents in the field can track a light rail project at the parcel level through color-codes maps and layers. The GIS application allows real-time analysis capabilities through the overlay of mapping layers.
Organizations gain real-time information and project flexibility. Authorized personnel receive comprehensive project information. Software dashboards help in understanding progress, issues and bottlenecks, which can aid decision-making and the generation of necessary reports to funding agencies.
Bhavesh Kishinchand is Marketing Intern at geoAMPS, a technology company in the Columbus, OH, area that specializes in software solutions to manage land rights and infrastructure assets. For more information on geoAMPS products and services call 614-389-4871 or visit www.geoamps.com. Check out the new Canadian version of our website, www.geoamps.ca.