Exploring performance outcomes and regulatory contexts of Light Rail in Australia and the US

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - australasia, place - north america, mode - tram/light rail, organisation - contracting, organisation - competition, organisation - regulation, economics - subsidy, ridership - growth, operations - performance, planning - service improvement, organisation - performance


Light Rail, Performance contracts, Contracting models, Performance measures


This paper explores the contemporary performance of Light Rail services in Australia and contrasts these with Light Rail in the USA in terms of scale of operations, ridership and service effectiveness. It explores these issues within the context of the regulatory structures which govern performance. The services explored have contrasting regulatory structures ranging from public operations to private sector operation using a range of forms of performance based contracting and competitive tendering. The study identifies that, in general, operations of all systems have grown as has ridership however significant reductions in service effectiveness (ridership per vkm) have occurred in US contexts where public sector operations have dominated. The implication is increases in public subsidies per trip.

In Australia, Sydney and Melbourne Light Rail (private competitively tendered and performance based contracts) have consistently maintained and improved service effectiveness while in Adelaide, a public sector operation, service effectiveness has declined. The paper explores the policy implications of these findings and also considers more recent developments in packaging of private sector contracts for building new Light Rail systems in the Gold Coast and Sydney.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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