Light rail, which includes old street cars and trolleys, also includes newer passenger car versions referred to as trams. Light rail is most often found in urban areas. Most people are familiar with light rail systems such as the subway in New York City and the Tube in London. The choice for cities to build light rail is often a hot topic surrounded by controversy because of the many aspects involved.
When a city considers adding a new light rail system, the first aspect which becomes apparent is cost. There are multiple facets of cost that include more than the direct costs associated with the maintenance and construction of a light rail system. Proponents of light rail claim that adding a new light rail system will reduce transit costs in an urban area. Light rail is less expensive to operate than buses, so transportation subsidies saved by building light rail can be used to extend transit service outward to suburban areas. Additionally, proponents claim light rail is a good investment because it costs much less and requires less maintenance than a freeway, while carrying a large number of people.
Other costs associated with building new light rail are related to safety and personal expense. In countries where the national government regulates transportation safety, building new light rail requires compliance with national safety directives. These directives require companies that build light rail to spend additional funds on compliance.
In regard to individuals, those who choose to use the light rail will save money because they will incur lower automobile expenses. Costs incurred for operating an automobile such as maintenance, repairs and fuel are much more than fares charged to uses the light rail. Some people who utilize a new light rail system will choose to sell their cars or not purchase new ones. The cost of using the light rail is much less than the purchase price of any new automobile.
Another significant aspect involved when a city chooses to build a light rail system is the environment. Proponents claim that drivers who opt to take the light rail help reduce pollution and promote preservation of clean air and water. In addition to reducing pollution, the construction of a new light rail system aids in reducing congestion and noise in urban neighborhoods.