A performance-based comparison of different transit technologies

A table summarizing the performance of several different bus and rail transit services around the world.
Over the past few days, I’ve been working on a new post on the Beaverton/Wilsonville Corridor, currently served by WES, and wondering what options might work to provide service for it in the future. One of the efforts of that column was a table comparing the performance of several different types of transit technologies, to help inform debates on the subject. The table appears to be sufficiently useful to merit a standalone post.

The table lists quite a few transit lines (or segments thereof), along with key attributes. Many of the examples are from Portland or elsewhere in the Northwest, but a few are taken from other parts of the world. The attributes focused on are those which most directly affect transit speed–the characteristics of the right of way (how exclusive is it), and the stop spacing. Some rather interesting systems are included on the list. The list is sorted by average speed, without regard to technology.

Comparison of performance of different vehicle types
Line/service ROW type Distance (mi) Time (min) Speed (mi/h) Stops en route Distance/stop (mi) Payment Comments
Shanghai TransRapid Class A rail 19 (30.5 km) 8.16 139 1 19 Maglev train
Sounder North (Everett-Seattle) Class A rail 51 59 51.9 3 17 Commuter rail
Adelaide O-Bahn Busway Class A guided bus 7.5 (12km) 13 35 2 3.75 Onboard Interesting concept–a busway (used by regular busses) that “guides” busses along route
Munich S1, Airport-Hauptbahnhof Class A rail 25.3 (40.3 km) 45 33.7 13 1.9 Platform S-Bahn
LACMTA Red Line Class A Rail 16.4 30 32.8 13 1.26 Platform
WES Class A commuter rail 14.7 27 32.7 4 3.7 Onboard
Sounder South (Tacoma-Seattle) Class A rail 31 59 31.8 6 5.1 Commuter rail
Seattle Monorail Class A rail 1 2 30 1 1 Platform
Brisbane South East Busway Class A bus 10 (16.5km) 23 26 9 1.1 Onboard Fully grade-separated BRT system
Bay Area Rapid Transit (Richmond-Daly City) Class A rail 23 53 26 18 1.27 Platform
Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway, Pittsburgh PA Class A bus 9.1 22 24.8 8 1.1 Onboard
MAX (CTC-Gateway) Class A light rail 6.5 16 24.4 8 0.8 POP
Swift BRT (Community Transit) Everett, WA-Shoreline, WA Class B/C+ bus 16.7 42 23.9 11 1.5 Platform
C-Tran Route 105 Class C express bus 15.4 40 23.1 4 3.85 Onboard
Canada Line Class A rail 9 (15km) 25 21.6 12 0.75 POP Driverless metro
LA Metro Orange Line Class B bus 14 42 20 13 1.1 POP BRT with exclusive ROW, signallized grade crossings
TriMet Line 12, Sherwood-downtown Class C bus 15.2 49 18.6 Many ~0.15 Onboard
Las Vegas Monorail Class A rail 3.9 13 18 6 0.65 Platform
MAX (Rose Quarter-Denver Ave Class B+ light rail 4.2 15 16.8 7 0.6 POP
UTA MAX, Magna-Salt Lake Class B/C+ bus 11.5 41 16.8 13 0.9 POP Need to include at least one of the BRT systems in the US called “MAX”. Being upgraded to class B throughout.
EmX Green Line (Eugene-Springfield Class B/C bus 4 15 16 10 0.4 POP Some exclusive ROW, some mixed traffic
TransLink (Vancouver) 99B Line Class C 8.1 (13km) 33 14.7 12 0.65 POP Mixed traffic BRT
San Francisco Cable Cars Powell/Hyde Line Class C rail 4.3 18 14.3 28 0.15 Onboard
Bus 76 (Beaverton-Tualatin) Class C bus 10.5 45 peak 14 (peak) Many ~0.15 (750′) Onboard
Strasbourg Tram line A Class B rail 7.5 (12.5km) 32 14 21 0.35 POP
TriMet Line 9, Powell TC-Downtown Class C bus 7 33 12.7 Many ~0.15 Onboard
Los Angeles Metro Rapid Class C+ Bus 18.4 90 12.3 22 0.84 POP Mixed-traffic bus w/signal priority
Portland Aerial Tram Class A aerial tram 0.6 3 12 1 0.6 Onboard Payment only collected going uphill
Greater Cleveland RTA Healthline Class B+/C+ bus 6.8 40 10.2 33 0.2 POP
MAX (Rose Quarter-Goose Hollow) Class B- light rail 2.8 18 9.3 10 0.3 (1500′) POP
Muni F Market & Wharves Streetcar Class B Rail 5 35 8.6 32 0.15 POP
Portland Streetcar, SoWa-23rd Class C rail 3.9 35 6.9 25 0.16 POP 1/2 of current loop

A few notes:

  • Generally, peak-hour times are used for services where that matters.
  • Service classes are defined as follows, inspired by this Human Transit post. In general:

    • Class A services are those that only need stop at stations. This can refer to grade-separated lines (els or subways) or lines where the transit vehicle has absolute priority at grade crossings, and other vehicles (and pedestrians) are kept away from the route other than at well-marked, well-guarded points. An example of the latter is MAX in Beaverton.
    • Class B services are those where transit may need to stop at crossings, but has an exclusive lane otherwise. A + is added for signal priority (which is different from the absolute priority above), a – if the line is in close proximity to parallel auto traffic or pedestrian environments.
    • Class C services run in mixed traffic; a + is earned for those with signal priority or other enhancements

    Rather than say anything more, I instead simply present the above table as is, and ask readers to draw their own conclusions below.


7 Responses to A performance-based comparison of different transit technologies

  1. R A Fontes
    April 17, 2011 at 8:51 am Link

    A fascinating chart, Scotty, thank you!

    At first glance, the Adelaide experience looks like a model for what BRT could be.

    Four other systems/routes, just for curiosity:
    Las Vegas monorail, 4 mi, 6 stops, 16 mph
    OHSU aerial tram, ~.6 mi, 1 stop, 22 mph
    Seattle monorail, 1 mi, 1 stop, 30 mph
    Shanghai airport MagLev, 19 mi, 1 stop, 139 mph+

  2. Alexander Craghead
    April 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm Link

    WES does not have onboard payment.

  3. Aaron
    April 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm Link

    But it’s checked onboard for all riders, isn’t it?

  4. EngineerScotty
    April 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm Link

    Technically, it is POP, but WES trains do have conductors who inspect non-regulars.

  5. some body
    April 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm Link

    Why is “MAX (Rose Quarter-Denver Ave” listed as Class B? Its not like it has to stop at intersections, unless something bad happens.

  6. EngineerScotty
    April 18, 2011 at 10:12 pm Link

    I’ve updated the table to include the four systems listed above, and corrected the entry for the MAX Yellow Line, which should be B+, not B. (It can get pre-empted by traffic lights, and is subject to a 35MPH speed limit due to safety reasons, so it’s not class A).

  7. AL M
    April 19, 2011 at 12:56 pm Link


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