Transportation designates its various travel technologies as "modes" of travel. Buses are one mode, personal vehicles are another mode, multi-engine jet long-range airliners and smaller, shorter-range airliners are two other modes. Rail is classed as a mode, and within it are actually several modes as different from each other as SUVs from sub-compact gas savers.
In its 1998 feasibilty study of Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter trains, SEWRPC (SouthEast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission) sought to describe for casual observers and newcomers to the dialogue about metropolitan transportation just what traits would identify each mode of rail transportation. This table compares some of those identifying traits.
COMPARISON OF SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS AMONG DIFFERENT TYPES OF RAIL PASSENGER SERVICES BASED UPON TYPICAL NORTH AMERICAN PRACTICE
(Table data from SEWRPC newsletter, August, 1998, Vol. 38, No. 2, page 10)
|except Blue designates 2009 data estimates added by KenRail webmaster|
|Light Rail||Heavy Rail||Commuter Rail||
Conventional Intercity Rail
|High-Speed Rail||Midwest Fast trains|
|Usual Vehicles||Modern articulated streetcars||Modern subway or elevated cars coaches||Locomotive-hauled or self-propelled coaches||Locomotive-hauled coaches||Locomotive-hauled coaches||Diesel-electric hauled coaches|
|Train length||1-3 cars||4-10 cars||2-8 coaches||2-14 coaches||8-12 coaches||8-10 coaches (estim.)|
|Propulsion System||Electric using overhead wire||Electric using third rail||Diesel-electric (a)||Diesel-electric||Electric using overhead wire||High hp. diesel-electric|
|Right-of-Way requirements||New surface alignment||New grade-separated alignment||Existing main-line railway trackage||Existing main-line railway trackage||Upgraded existing or new main-line railway trackage||Existing main-line track upgraded; some new grade separation|
|Typical route length (miles)||5-15||5-15||20-50||50-2,000||100-500||150-400|
|Average station spacing (miles)||0.25-1||0.5-2||2-5||5-50||10-50||30|
|Boarding plafforms at stations||Low or high||High||Low||Low||High||Low|
|Typical fare collection method(s)||Self-service||At stations||On board||On board||At stations or on board||Not yet specified|
|Speed (miles per hour)|
|Maximum operating||50 mph||70||79||79-90||125-250||110 mph, except secondary lines 79 mph|
|Average along route||10-20 (b) 20-30 (c)||25-40||30-50||40-70||100-150|
|Typical primary passenger market||Trips within densely developed urbanized areas||Trips within densely developed urbanized areas||Trips within metropolitan areas between suburbs and major urban centers including central business district||Long-distance trips between cities||Long-distance trips between major metropolitan areas||Trips among major metro centers and intermediate cities|
|Frequency of Service|
|Peak-Period||5-10 minutes||5-10 minutes||30-60 minutes||1-2 hours||30-60 minutes||90-150 mins. (prelim.)|
|Nonpeak-Period||10-20 minutes||10-20 minutes||1-3 hours||Daily||1-2 hours||3-5 hours (prelim.)|
(a) Self-propelled coaches may be either diesel-electric, diesel-hydraulic, or diesel-mechanical.
(b) Involves extensive use of street rights-of-way.
(c) Involves extensive use of exclusive, grade-separated rights-of-way.
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