Turf Track for Light Rail Systems

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - tram/light rail, planning - safety/accidents, place - europe


light rail, pollution, turf tracks, safety, green lung effect


Light rail systems are experiencing a revival in several countries. In many new and refurbished networks, turf—or grass—tracks are being used as a means to get a reserved right-of-way that entails enhancements in the city landscape. These tracks can facilitate acceptance of the system by citizens and politicians. The visual impact of turf tracks is only one of their many advantages, which are discussed in this paper. Among the advantages are a reduction in noise and suspended fine particles, the "green lung" effect, improvements in rainwater management and heat island mitigation, and a decrease in the operational and construction costs of the system. This solution has some inconveniences, such as the need for maintenance of vegetation and for rail-environment separation, and additional precautions must be taken to ensure good performance in the long term. There are also limitations, such as the inability of buses and emergency vehicles to travel on turf tracks; additional problems in case of derailment; and possible operational incidents due to irrigation, mowing, and the combination of vegetation waste and sand. This paper focuses on explaining the advantages, inconveniences, and limitations. The intent is to provide a better understanding of the solution and to simplify the decision of whether to use turf tracks in a new light rail system.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.