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Michael D. Setty

The problem with the "in the street" option is lack of level boarding possibilities for the disabled. I'd rather see center island platforms for streetcars, LRT and BRT with buses having doors on both sides, a la Eugene's EmX.


I like the "table". It combines the spontaneity of just plain street boarding with the level boarding of a safety island, assuming you have low floor trams. It also takes up less space than a safety island, since you don't need to give any width for the dedicated waiting area. I imagine that this would work best on a narrow four lane street that has exclusive streetcar lanes in the center, and car lanes on the outside. The problem is that there platform edge becomes something of a hazard, but I'm sure that can be dealt with too (shorter platforms perhaps, with only one designated door having level boarding?)

Cap'n Transit

A solution that's slightly different from the ones you mention is the "offset bus lane" that is currently proposed for New York's Select Bus Service; you can see it on page 29 of this PDF (the picture is actually Amsterdam Avenue, not First or Second).

In that scenario, there would be parking between the transit vehicle (a bus in this case) and the sidewalk, except at stops, where a "bus bulb" extends across the curb lane. It's similar to the "Wiener table" except that cars aren't allowed to drive past the stop in the curb lane.


We've already solved the problem for school busses. (And church busses in the US, and a few other special applications).

Flashing red (and yellow) lights, which stop traffic. No need for extra street infrastructure--when the bus or train comes to a stop to unload, the flashers go on, and vehicles are required to stop behind the vehicle. On roads without a median, traffic in both directions must stop.

Granted, there may be some blowback from motorists, especially in places like the US where auto drivers think they own the world. When Tri-Met here in Portland added electronic "yield" signs to the back of the busses, to give busses pulling out from a stop priority over traffic in the street, some folks complained. But motorists already know what flashing lights on a bus means.

Why transit doesn't do this, I don't know.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Yes, bulbs should be standard in cases where the bus is in the lane adjacent
to the parked cars. My focus on this post is a larger road with two traffic
lanes in each direction, where transit for speed and reliability reasons
needs to be one lane out from the curb. So a bus bulb doesn't help us


That example you provided for Melbourne is the exception, rather than the rule.

On most tram routes, traffic has to stop behind the tram to allow passengers to alight and board. Islands are used on high volume tram routes where this road rule would severely hamper any traffic on the road. (The pic you posted is in the CBD, not a suburban single route tram stop.....)

That being said, I think more island stops are gradually being provided in the suburbs for disabled access.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Remember this post is about situations with two lanes of traffic each way
with the tram in the fast lane. My recollection in Melbourne is that there
are always boarding islands in this case. Please point me to some

Alon Levy

No offboard fare collection? Oh well.


Tables in the US would be vetoed by emergency services who don't want to slow down their vehicles for them. We've seen speed control tables on streets that emergency service vehicles customarily use have to be split so there's two gaps -- the distance between them being the distance between a firetruck's wheels.

Max Headway

Melbourne's island stops are usually placed between 2 lanes of general traffic in either direction, and track in reservation. It may take substantial political will to require cars in both lanes to stop whenever a tram pulls in, esp. along St Kilda Rd. That being said, a lot of stops could simply be cone away with, leaving a stop spacing of 600-800 metres.

Alon Levy

Why do emergency vehicles have to use the slow lane? Can't they use the same lane as the streetcars?

Louis Haywood

The Boston Green Line "E" Branch uses "STOP" signs on its doors while street-running down Huntington Street. All Green Line LRVs have these STOP signs, but they are only applicable on the E line. Cars must, and usually do, stop behind the trolley when its doors are open. The LRVs do run down the fast lane of the 4-lane street.


Huntington Avenue, rather.

Also interesting is that the STOP sign is only on the front right door (the boarding door) even though passengers may alight from the rear 2 doors as well, which are closer to the cars in the right-hand lane. Oh well.

21st Century Urban Solutions

I think it depends on the speed of the street. A table would work on a slower street with lots of stops anyway, but a separate island would probably be better for a faster street. Maybe the center lane isn't really even worth it? As you've written about before, the principal goal of streetcars isn't necessarily to speed up service, and I wonder if a properly-managed outer lane would work just as well anyway? Portland mainly uses the outer lanes since they're cheaper to build and much easier to blend into the existing street layout, and doesn't seem to have too many problems with service speed.

San Francisco's Muni Metro also often lacks street treatments for LRT stops. These stops would be poor by bus standards--no benches, no clear signs marking a stop, most of the time just a yellow strip around a lightpole. But, they're not a complete catastrophe because the streets that they're on often have frequent stop signs and are slow enough that people don't get pancaked when they're exiting the vehicle. Here's an example from the L-Taraval line:


The E line ONLY opens the front door when running in the street.


While most of Melbourne's inner-city tram stops have platform stops in the middle of the road, or old-style safety-zones (a narrower spot in the middle of the road, without a platform, but with protective fencing eg http://www.flickr.com/photos/54815426@N00/241557301/ ), at many suburban locations (on roads with two lanes each way) motorists are expected to stop to allow passengers to board and alight, eg http://tdu.to/13932.att?s=toorak&size=o

What you describe as a table is being tested in some areas of Melbourne, under the name Easy Access stop, eg http://www.bv.com.au/file/inform/stop_with_bike_lane_mock_up_web.jpg (Note this pic has a mocked-up bike lane added; I can't find a decent picture of one of these stops elsewhere)

For a network the size of Melbourne's, obviously providing level access is a big challenge.

Jeffrey Bridgman

Alon has a point...

In Nagasaki, Japan emergency vehicles often use the streetcar's dedicated ROW to bypass traffic. Works pretty well in my opinion.

Assuming level access, the Vienna table model would have only the traffic lanes raised and the transit ROW would be level, so I assume it wouldn't slow emergency vehicles... unless of course a transit vehicle is making a stop. In which case...oops :p

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

I disagree that the Portland Streetcar doesn't have problems with service speed. It's slow by design and will become slower and less reliable as traffic increases on the streets it uses. Its slowness downtown will also become a limitation if it's ever used as the initial segment of a Portland-Lake Oswego rail line.

Portland's new draft Streetcar System Concept Plan advises us to expect an average speed of 7-12 mi/hour for local-stop service (p 12) running in the outside or "slow" lane (like the current Portland Streetcar). Report is at: http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=46134

The study emphasises the need for a new "fast streetcar" product that will run in the faster lane, hence the issue raised in this post.

You are right that on low-traffic streets like San Francisco's Taraval this isn't much of a problem. But I'm focused on getting high quality transit to where densities are high, and those tend to be busier streets where the problem discussed in this post is very much an issue.


Another option, when possible, is to put the streetcar on one street -- with high foot traffic and low motor traffic -- and the cars on an adjacent street, with high motor traffic and low foot traffic.

This is only possible in street grids with tight spacing where the businesses aren't completely centered around a single street.

In other grids, with pairs of one-way streets which have parking only on the right side, there's another, probably ideal option. Put the streetcar in the left lane of *both* streets in a one-way pair, and have it open the *left-side* doors at level platforms on the sidewalks. The entire block in between becomes one big station :-)

Unfortunately I think that only applies to rather specific street layouts, but they're more common layouts than you might think. Portland, with an alternating one-way grid, could have done this in many places.


Portland DID do exactly that, with the Yamhill/Morrison couplet on MAX. Of course, MAX runs in a reserved (no autos) lane and you may be talking about mixed traffic streetcar, but that's how the did the east/west downtown segment.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Specialization of parallel streets is an important tool, but note that if we
want transit to be much faster than walking, it can't be continuously mixed
with pedestrians over the whole length of the street. This kind of mixture
works well for a short distance going through a public square for example,
but not for the whole length of a long street.

jason murphy

Melbourne has heaps of tram stops where the tram just stops in the middle of a 4-lane road (Smith St and Toorak Rd are two examples that come to mind). The tram doors have little stop signs on them that swing out when the doors open. Motorists are generally very aware, and do not go past in the kerbside lane.

There is a need for passengers to be vigilant, however.

Outisde the CBD, major atrterials and light rail, I'd say it is the most prevalent kind of stop.

These stops have downsides - people with special needs do not get any elevation to help them board, and there is often no seating on the roadside. A few times, trams have just barelled past as i tried to signal them. Passengers are much more visible at island stops.
I find I like the island stops a lot more.



here's a good example of people waiting in the rain at a deficient kerbside stop, for one of Melbourne's classic W-class trams.


Daejeon, South Korea did something really interesting. They painted a signs in the far left lane of one of the busiest streets saying that lane was bus only during rush hour. I am not aware of any enforcement efforts backing this up, but since the signs were painted, single occupant cars avoid that lane. Not just during rush hour, but all day.

This cost almost nothing, politically or financially, and buses actually run faster.

Eugen Schilter

Personally I favour kerbside routing for trams. However I am currently promoting centre line for lines planned on streets that have substantial road surface used as direction dividers. A normal gauge tram corridor is slightly wider than a motor traffic lane and direction dividers are no more needed when the semi segregated trams corridor is in the road centre, thus providing that extra width. Better use of the street surface is achieved by this and should make it (?) politically more palatable.

Tom West

Toronto streetcars have a de facto #3 in operation, because vehicles (including cyclists) are forbidden to pass between the streetcar andteh sidewalk when its at a stop. To drive the point home, the doors open outwards and have a "stop" sign painted on them, similar to that used by a school bus. Lower tech (and hence chepaer) that a signal, and also works at stops no-where near an intersection.


If you have a 4 lane road,
why not just put both trams on one side of the road, a small strip in between, and cars on the other 2 lanes?

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