Bus vs. light rail

An article published yesterday in the Portland Tribune directly addressed one of the more popular debates of the pro-transit crowd: buses vs. light rail. The author compares the two modes on several different aspects and assigns a winner to each category, eventually concluding with an “overall” winner. Despite the competitive overtones this is no grudge match, and the author tosses in a disclaimer that we would all be wise to heed:

“…buses and trains are really on the same team in terms of sustainable transportation — either option a vast improvement over the one-car, one-rider model…”

Here’s a taster:


A fixed-rail system never will have the reach of a city bus, which can get just about any place there’s a paved road. For folks in some parts of the Portland area, this debate is academic:

If there’s no MAX train nearby, their mass-transit commuting will have to be done by bus.

Advantage: Bus


Studies suggest that light rail appeals to actual riders in a way that buses do not. Commuters tend to see light rail as more modern, more upscale and safer, with no real possibility of operator error.

Rail cars are more spacious, offer more freedom of movement and are easier to board and exit. And the ride is smoother: fewer sharp turns, no potholes, no sudden stops.

“People tend to like the quieter transit,” says Mary Fetsch of TriMet.

Advantage: Light rail

Find out who wins: Bus vs. light rail

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