New US Light Rail Volumes
Freeway and Arterial Lanes
It is often claimed that a single light rail line can carry the same volume as up to six freeway
lanes. While this is theoretically true, new US light rail lines do not achieve volumes that
remotely approach such a level (Figures #1 & #2). (1)
- On average new US light rail lines carry 80 percent less volume than a single
freeway lane couplet (2 lanes of freeway, one operating in each direction).
- St. Louis has the highest light rail volume compared to a freeway lane couplet (66
percent below). San Diego follows closely at 69 percent below
- Portland's MAX carries 81 percent less than a single freeway lane couplet.
- San Jose has the lowest light rail volume at 91 percent less than a freeway lane couplet.
Light rail volumes are also lower than the average two way arterial (major surface street) lane
couplet (Figure #3).
- On average new US light rail lines carry 50 percent less volume than a single arterial lane
couplet (2 lanes, one operating in each direction).
- San Diego has the highest light rail volume compared to an arterial lane
couplet (eight percent below). St. Louis follows at 26 percent below.
- Portland's MAX carries 50 percent less volume than a single arterial lane couplet.
- San Jose has the lowest light rail volume, at 77 percent below an arterial lane couplet.
1. Freeway lane volume based upon FHWA data at the national average occupancy
rate of 1.61. Rail volume estimated at annual passenger mile volume divided by
300, which generally reflects the average daily usage compared to annual usage.
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