Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit, Second Edition

where the curves meet at a point of reverse spirals, and the spiral lengths and actual superelevation Ea meet the following equation: LS1 x Ea2 = LS2 x Ea1 where LS1 = length of spiral on the first curve LS2 = length of spiral on the second curve and maximum vehicle twist criterion is not exceeded. Speed will be limited by the acceptable limits for Eu in the adjoining curves. See Article 3.2.7 for additional discussion of reverse spiraled curves. Yard and Non-Revenue Secondary Track The use of main line criteria is preferred in secondary track. When that’s not possible, the acceptable minimum tangent lengths would be the smaller of either LT = 31 feet [9.5 meters] or LT = zero feet [meters] for R > 950 feet [290 meters] LT = 10 feet [3.0 meters] for R > 820 feet [250 meters] LT = 20 feet [6.1 meters] for R > 720 feet [220 meters] LT = 25 feet [7.6 meters] for R > 640 feet [195 meters] LT = 30 feet [9.1 meters] for R > 573 feet [175 meters] where the specified radius is the smaller of the two curves. Note that the radii thresholds stipulated above are approximations; hence the conversions between U.S. customary and S.I. units are somewhat coarse. Common sense should be exercised in the application of these rules. Where nothing else will work, the absolute minimum will be LT = zero provided coupler angles are not exceeded, superelevation is zero, and unbalanced superelevation in both curves is 2 inches [50 mm] or less. 3.2.2 Speed Criteria—Vehicle and Passenger Design Speed—General Desirable LRT operating speeds are in the range of 40 to 55 mph [65 to 90 km/h]. Some LRT projects have used speeds as high as 66 mph [106 km/h]. However, few LRT projects have sufficient tangent track, flat curves, and unrestricted right-of-way for higher speeds to result in meaningful travel time savings. Restricted operating speeds are always possible at discrete points along the alignment corridor, but, for a stadtbahn-type operation, proposed design speeds


Light Rail Transit Track Geometry

below 40 mph [60 km/h] generally create unacceptable constraints on the train control design and proposed operations. Streetcar/strassenbahn-type LRT operations are generally much slower. It is often presumed that maximum speed in embedded track needs to be restricted, and 35 mph [55km/h] is often cited as a maximum. This is not quite correct. It is not the embedded trackform that limits speed rather than the operating environment surrounding it. Speeds up to the vehicle’s maximum can be achieved on embedded track if the guideway is configured appropriately. The reason sharedlane, embedded track is likely to be operated more slowly than track in an exclusive lane is because of traffic conditions, adjacent parking lanes, pedestrian crosswalks, and other community-related issues. Some legacy streetcar lines that operated in shared lanes along wideopen streets and boulevards routinely operated at the vehicles’ balancing speed—sometimes as fast as 40 to 50 mph [65 to 80 km/h]. There is a requirement in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) that requires LRT crossings to be equipped with flashing lights if trains are running faster than 35 mph [55 km/h]. Technically, that rule has no effect on what happens between intersections, although transit agencies may elect to limit speed in such areas merely to avoid cycles of acceleration and deceleration when passing through a multiple crossing zone. Furthermore, if the LRT is in a mixed traffic lane, flashing light signals and gates would be completely impractical at each intersecting street regardless of speed. As of 2010, TCRP Project A-32 is investigating the MUTCD requirement for railroad-style warning systems at LRT crossings. Users of this Handbook should consult the TCRP program and the current edition of the MUTCD for the latest information. See Chapter 10 for additional discussion on this topic. Design Speed in Curves The speed criteria for curved track is determined by carefully estimating passenger comfort and preventing undue forces on the trackwork, vehicle trucks/wheels, and vehicle frames. Vehicle stability on curved track is also an important consideration in the determination of LRT speed criteria. Curved track that cannot be used at the same speed as the adjoining tangent track slows down the operation by increasing the overall running time between terminals. This wastes kinetic energy in the form of the momentum the vehicle had prior to slowing down and requires the consumption of additional energy to speed back up. It takes more than 0.62 mile [1 kilometer] for a rail vehicle to decelerate from 70 mph [110 km/h] to 55 mph [90 km/h], run through a 1000 foot [300-meter] long circular curve, and accelerate back up to 70 mph [110 km/h]. The same curve designed for a reduction down to 45 mph [70 km/h] reduces the speed over a length of about 0.75 mile [1.2 kilometers]. The actual increase in running time is relatively small, but cumulative run time losses at successive curves can significantly increase the overall travel time from terminal to terminal. Repetitive slowing down and speeding back up often annoys passengers (particularly standees) by subjecting them to a jerky ride. This unpleasant experience could have an effect on individuals’ subsequent personal decisions as to whether or not to ride transit. Such a ride also causes additional wear and tear on both the vehicle and the track.


Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit, Second Edition

Therefore, it is generally desirable to eliminate as many speed restrictions as possible and to maximize the design speed of all curves that must unavoidably be designed with speed restrictions. This can be achieved in three ways: • Using curve radii that are as broad as possible. This is the preferred method, but not always practical within the constraints of available right-of-way. Maximizing the speed on the curves by introducing actual superelevation (Ea) in the track and maximizing the value of unbalanced superelevation (Eu) used. Combinations of the above.

See Article 3.2.6 for additional discussion on determination of appropriate speeds in curved track. 3.2.3 Circular Curves Intersections of horizontal alignment tangents are connected by circular curves. The curves may be simple curves or spiraled curves, depending on the curve location, curve radius, and required superelevation. In very nearly all cases, spiraled curves are preferable so as to improve ride quality and minimize impacts to rolling stock. Curve Radius and Degree of Curve LRT alignment geometry differs from freight railroad design standards such as AREMA in that the arc definition is used to define circular curves. Also, curves for LRT designs are generally defined and specified by their radius rather than degree of curvature. This becomes an important distinction when designing in metric units, as degree of curve is defined entirely in traditional U.S. units and has no direct equivalent in metric units. Railroads have traditionally employed the chord definition of degree of curvature for calculating curves. The reasons for this practice date back to the surveying equipment and centerline stakeout methods that were employed during the mid-19th century. Railroads have persisted in requiring the chord definition for new railroad design despite radical advances in surveying methods. However, rail transit in general and light rail in particular use curve radii that are so sharp as to make degree of curvature impractical for ordinary use. For this reason, arc definition with lengths computed along the centerline of the curve is recommended for LRT design. Modern computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) alignment computation software can easily compute curvature in either arc or chord definition. Any curves that have been computed using the chord definition should be clearly labeled as such on the plan and profile drawings. In the case of any project to be designed using S.I. units of measurement but utilizing an existing right-of-way that is based on traditional U.S. units, particularly the degree of curvature, it is most efficient to determine the radius in traditional U.S. units, and then to convert to metric.


Light Rail Transit Track Geometry

As a guideline for LRT design, curves should be specified by their radius. Degree of curvature, when needed for calculation purposes, should be defined by the arc definition of curvature as determined by the following formula: Da = 5729.58 / R where Da is the degree of curve using the arc definition and R is the radius in feet. There is no equivalent formula using S.I. units since degree of curvature is not used in metric design. Minimum Curve Radii Circular curves for LRT design are, as noted above, defined by curve radius and arc of curve length. The geometric properties of the circular curve are summarized in Figure 3.2.1. The straighter the route, other factors being equal, the less maintenance it will require. For this reason, the designer should seek alignments that minimize curves, especially very sharp curves. The minimum curve radius is determined by the physical characteristics of the vehicle. For most modern LRV designs, whether high- or low-floor, the most common absolute minimum radius is 82 feet [25 meters]. Some vehicles can negotiate curves with radii of 59 feet [18 meters]. A very few vehicles can negotiate even smaller curves. Light rail vehicles in Boston and San Francisco go around radii of 42 feet [12.8 meters], and legacy streetcars in hundreds of cities and towns throughout the United States routinely traversed curves with radii of 35 feet [10.7 meters]. However, while extremely tight curves are possible, they limit carbuilders’ options and hence the universe of candidate LRVs that could be used on a system. The use of curves tighter than 82 feet [25 meters] is therefore strongly discouraged. Refer to Chapter 2 for additional information on vehicle limitations. Refer to Chapter 12 for additional discussion on use of small radius curves in urban areas. On-track maintenance-of-way (M/W) equipment must also be considered in the selection of minimum horizontal curve criteria. Depending on the maintenance plan for the system, this could include a wide variety of hy-rail trucks, tampers, ballast regulators, ballast cars, catenary maintenance vehicles, and even small locomotives. It is highly desirable for the alignment to allow such equipment to operate from the maintenance depot to any point on the LRT system where they might be used. This affects track geometry, clearance, and trackwork issues. For example, a segment of sharply curved, embedded track located at a midpoint of the system may make it impossible for M/W equipment to access one end of the route from a yard and shop on the opposite end of the line. This could have a distinct impact on the equipment requirements for supporting the LRT maintenance-of-way plan. Curves that cannot be negotiated by the M/W fleet are therefore optimally confined to tracks where on-track access is not essential, such as terminal loops and yard turnaround tracks that can be serviced using off-track roadways.[12]


Trac ck Design Handbook for f Light Ra ail Transit, , Second Ed Edition

Figure 3.2 2.1 Horizont tal curve and d spiral nome enclature


Light Rail Transit Track Geometry

One frequently employed criterion for the desired minimum curve radius is the threshold limit for employing restraining rail, as determined from Chapter 4. In many cases, this is around 500 feet [150 meters]. Other possible thresholds for desirable minimum radius are either the limit selected for employing premium rail versus standard strength rail or the limit between the use of plain continuously welded rail (CWR) versus shop-curved rail. Sometimes a slight increase in radius will eliminate the need to utilize a more expensive trackform. Carrying that thought beyond trackwork costs, it should also be noted that sharply curved tunnels and aerial structures can have significantly higher construction costs than similar structures on tangent track or flat curves. In view of the design considerations indicated above, guideline criteria for modern LRV equipment are as follows for minimum curve radii. Main Line Track At-Grade Acceptable Minimum. Greater of • • • • • • • 500 feet [150 meters] or Threshold radius for employment of more expensive trackforms. 500 feet [150 meters] or Other value as suggested by the project’s structural designers. 300 feet [90 meters] 82 feet [25 meters] or Other value as permitted by the vehicle design.

Tunnels and Aerial Structures Acceptable Minimum. Greater of

Ballasted At-Grade Track, Absolute Minimum. Embedded Track or Direct Fixation Track, Absolute Minimum. Lesser of

Yard and Non-Revenue Secondary Track Acceptable Minimum. Lesser of • • • • 100 feet [30 meters] or Other value as required by the vehicle design. 82 feet [25 meters] or Other value as required by the vehicle design.

Absolute Minimum. Lesser of Minimum Curve Length The minimum circular curve length is dictated by ride comfort and is, hence, unlike minimum tangent length, not related to vehicle physical characteristics. The acceptable minimum circular curve length is generally determined by the following formula: L = 3V [L = 0.57V] where L = minimum length of curve in feet [meters] V = design speed through the curve in mph [km/h]