Summary - TST 8



Gregory Thompson
The birth of the Light Rail Movement in North America and it´s results

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Key words: Transit; planning; light rail; environment; North America.

[ Abstract ]

This paper addresses two questions. Why did the light rail movement arise in North America, when up to 1970 urban transit had been in precipitous decline and streetcars had all but disappeared? By 2003 14 urban regions in the U.S. and Canada that had no rail transit in 1970 had opened light rail transit lines. What have been the results? The paper addresses the first question by tracing the birth and development of the light rail idea in North America from the 1960s to the first National Light Rail Conference in 1975 and also by exami-ning how decisions were made to build the first light rail line in North America (Edmonton, opened 1978) and the first in the United States (San Diego, opened 1981). Sources are largely interviews with important participants as well as historical documents. It examines the second question by presenting trends calculated from the National Transit Data Base of the Federal Transit Administration.