Longitudinal Analysis of Light Rail and Streetcar Safety in the United States

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, mode - tram/light rail, planning - service improvement, planning - methods


Light rail, Streetcar, Safety


Many American cities have launched or expanded light rail or streetcar services recently, which has resulted in a 61% increase in light rail and streetcar revenue miles nationwide during the period 2006–2016. Moreover, light rail and streetcars exhibit higher fatality rates per passenger mile traveled compared with other transit modes. In light of these trends, this study explores light rail and streetcar collisions, injuries, and fatalities using data obtained from the National Transit Database. This study applies a two-part methodology. In the first part, descriptive statistics are calculated for light rail and streetcar collisions, injuries, and fatalities, and a comparative analysis of light rail and streetcars is performed. In the second part, multilevel negative binomial regression models are used to analyze light rail and streetcar collisions and injuries. Three key findings have emerged from this study. First, the results generally align with findings from prior studies that show the majority of light rail and streetcar collisions occur in mixed right-of-way or near at-grade crossings. Second, this analysis revealed an issue predominantly at stations: 42% of light rail injuries were people waiting or leaving. Third, suicide was the leading cause of light rail fatalities, which represents 28% of all light rail fatalities. The implications of this study are important for cities that currently operate these modes or are planning to introduce new light rail or streetcar service to improve safety.


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