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Urban light rail: intermodal competition or coordination?

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When modern light-rail technology does have a sound economic role in urban transport, how should its deployment be organized? In particular, what role might there be for private enterprise? In many countries, a city coordinates its light-rail and bus services: buses feed light rail rather than run in parallel; travel passes are valid on all modes. In contrast, light rail in England may experience onstreet competition because deregulation has removed restrictions on bus entry. In many cases, light rail is established not only to provide basic public transport but also (1) to provide high-quality service that attracts use by car-owners, (2) to reduce pollution from buses and (3) to facilitate changes to urban form. In that context, competition may be both impracticable and undesirable. In cases where these three aims matter little, on-street competition may be beneficial, but light rail may not be worthwhile. The paper identifies arrangements for franchising and contracting-out that respect these considerations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 1999

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