Chart of the Day – How fast is our LRT compared to other cities?

Yesterday MPR said that during Green Line testing, trains were running an average of 67 minutes between the downtowns. The planned time is 40 minutes, and according to the article, signal prioritization is still being worked out, which could have an impact.  I wondered whether this was slow for LRT (it’s slower than the current 16 bus service), which brings me to the chart of the day.

I collected a sample of LRT running speeds from various sources – mostly schedules combined with google maps measurements of distances – to produce this chart.  I think it captures a representative sample of modern American LRT systems.  It does have a few international examples, but could use more.  I tried to use mostly line segments that ran from a downtown to the end of the line.  Few cities have the “bar bells” of urban density that Minneapolis and Saint Paul have on each end.  If you want to see the data, which includes distances, go here.

In the Twin Cities, we seem to have some of the slowest LRT LRT with speeds that are in the middle of the pack, but also some of the fastest (if Bottineau and Southwest perform as planned).  Of course speed is not accessibility, but the former impacts the latter. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

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19 Responses to Chart of the Day – How fast is our LRT compared to other cities?

  1. Al Davison
    Al Davison May 15, 2014 at 6:57 am #

    I’m guessing the downtown portion with the stoplights, and that awkward setup in Bloomington near MoA slows down the Blue Line?

    • Boss May 15, 2014 at 11:08 am #

      Yeah, blue line makes the trip between the airport and downtown east in 20 minutes. which is faster than driving between those landmarks.

      • Kevin Watterson May 15, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

        During rush hour probably.

        • Matty Lang
          Matty Lang May 15, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

          Yeah, with our ubiquitous (and ever expanding) freeway lane miles where can’t one drive quickly outside of rush time in the MSP?

  2. Matt Steele
    Matt Steele May 15, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    Nice work, Brendon.

    Two observations:

    1. Southwest and Bottineau are some of the faster lines, but the urban consensus appears to be that neither one connects walkable, urban places very well. So is a slow line with better stop locations a better value than a higher speed line through undeveloped railroad corridors to suburban park & rides? I’d guess so.

    2. I’d be curious to see a time measure that calculated dwellings/jobs/amenities served (sort of the Mapnificent concept) rather than miles. To point #1, what good is it to travel more miles if there’s less worth traveling to?

    • Jeff Klein May 15, 2014 at 10:00 am #

      I don’t want to overstate the importance of speed, because I’m aware this isn’t the 94 bus, and the point is developing a dense walkable line. But it’s still kinda astounding they missed the target by that much. I can’t help but wonder how much time using the Dinkytown trench would have saved over ramming it down Washington Ave.

      • Matt Steele
        Matt Steele May 15, 2014 at 10:05 am #

        They haven’t missed the target until the line starts running. They still have a month to figure this out. Apparently St. Paul was delayed in their signal work so the preemption isn’t working well.

        • Jeff Klein May 15, 2014 at 11:18 am #

          Yeah, I mean, the story is clear on that, but 67 minutes vs. 39 minutes isn’t exactly a matter of tiny tweaks. I hope for the best but I wouldn’t bet on meeting that original target if they are that far off.

    • Andrew Owen
      Andrew Owen May 15, 2014 at 10:56 am #

      Great points, Matt. We’re working on answering these questions not just for the Twin Cities, but for the whole country. Stay tuned to @UMNAccOb and!

  3. Erik Ostrom May 15, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    Some of the slowest LRT, but also some of the fastest imaginary LRT.

  4. John Levin May 15, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    I’m not sure on the source of the Blue Line data. For the entire line, the travel time is 42 minutes over 12.3 miles or 17.6 mph. Leaving out the segment from Warehouse to Target Field, which has important, but more limited ridership, the travel time from Mall of America to Warehouse Station is 38 minutes over 11.9 miles or 18.8 mph.

  5. Matty Lang
    Matty Lang May 15, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    I realize train/signal communication is being worked on on the Green Line to allow trains to extend a green a bit to clear intersections, but it’s frustrating that the plan is to not allow trains to preempt signals by changing them as it approaches. With more than 30 signalized intersections between the downtowns alone, the Green Line could have a much faster travel time given priority at these intersections.

    And to think if downtown intersection priority was given to trains. It would be like a dream.

    • Matty Lang
      Matty Lang May 15, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

      Actually, it would be like a slower speed at-grade subway line–only stoping at the stations.

    • jacobus May 15, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

      There are also too many intersections. Seeing the train stop at Snelling, then at Fry, and then at Aldine, just to get stopped at Fairview is crazy.

  6. David May 15, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

    casually observing green lines stop in DT St Paul, it appears at least so far there is little or NO stop light coordiation. seriously, the train stops in the station, then bare pulls ahead, and stop again at the next red line. if the trains aren’t given green light preference through the corridor w/ all the stop lights too along university, it will never approach 40 mins of the fantasy train.

  7. Monte May 16, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    How many stations (outside the downtown area) is a light rail line supposed to have? I raised my eyebrows at the three infill stations- isn’t there still a bus the people that have always taken a bus if you can’t walk at most a half mile? And yes, the stations in my home town of Bloomington are ridiculous, it might be different if it was an actual downtown instead of vaporware.

    As for traffic signal priority, obviously some people want to do whatever they can to make downtowns as hostile as possible for car drivers, and that would be the likely result of transit priority in the downtown areas. Witness how hard it is to get it right on Hiawatha, where the lights are only coordinated one direction, The downtown lights tend to run on fixed cycles (sparing pedestrians the indignity of pushing a button for a walk) but they’re coordinated in both directions on all streets, so changing the lights on just the LRT streets would likely cause a domino effect.

  8. Bob Hooper May 25, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    The Green line in Los Angeles is 20.0 miles long LRT route and it covers its in 34 Minutes. That is an average speed of 35MPH.

    The Los Angeles Green line runs primary in the median strip of I-105. On the earliest plans of the central corridor, it was to run in the median and in the North shoulder of I-94 from hwy 280 to Marion Street with fewer stops.


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