Zweisystem’s had a series of posts in the last few days arguing that the Vancouver metro region should adopt a kind of surface-level light rail called a tram-train.  I agree!  We absolutely should for a lot of different parts of the region.

But Zweisystem seems to think tram-trains are a cheaper alternative to Skytrains.  He says

Vancouver and regional planners were planning for very expensive SkyTrain light-metro, while European transit planners, after seeing the failure of light-metro, opted to build with much cheaper at-grade/on-street light rail! The dichotomy continues today!

This can’t be a serious criticism of Vancouver regional planners. Cities that have tram-trains as the spines of their system, and that have good public transit, are very small citiesLike Alicante, Spain, which is a little smaller than Halifax.  Or Nordhausen, Germany, which is a bit bigger than Lethbridge.

Now, I think light rail transit is awesome, and even though I don’t really know anything about Lethbridge, I bet a tram-train would be an excellent addition to the city.  But what works for Lethbridge won’t necessarily work for Vancouver.  When you look at major cities with tram-trains, they either have crappy public transit (Austin, TX) or the tram-trains serve only as extensions of, and not alternatives to, heavy-rail systems like Paris’ Metro.  I bet they’d be great extensions of Vancouver’s light-metro Skytrain, too.

Update:  On a superficially-related note, here’s an awesome song that, despite its name, isn’t actually about transportation infrastructure in Lethbridge.