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The Federal Transit Administration

TCRP Report 57

Track Design Handbook for

Light Rail Transit

Transportation Research Board

National Research Council

Report 57

Track Design Handbook for

Light Rail Transit
Herndon, VA

Subject Area


Research Sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration in

Cooperation with the Transit Development Corporation




Washington, D.C. 2000

The nation’s growth and the need to meet mobility, Project D-6 Fy’95
environmental, and energy objectives place demands on public ISSN 1073-4872
transit systems. Current systems, some of which are old and in need ISBN O-309-06621-2
Library of Congress Catalog Card No 99-76424
of upgrading, must expand service area, increase service frequency,
and improve efficiency to serve these demands. Research is
0 2ooO Transpotition Research Board
necessary to solve operating problems, to adapt appropriate new
technologies from other industries, and to introduce innovations into
the transit industry. The Transit Cooperative Research Program
(TCRP) serves as one of the principal means by which the transit
industry can develop innovative near-term solutions to meet
demands placed on it.
The need for TCRP was originally identified in TRB Special
Report 213-Research for Public Transit: New Directions,
published in 1987 and based on a study sponsored by the Urban
Mass Transportation Administration-now the Federal Transit
Administration (FTA). A report by the American Public NOTICE
Transportation Association (APTA), Transportation 2000, also The project that is the subject of this report was a part of the Transit Cooperative
recognized the need for local, problem-solving research. TCRP, Research Program conducted by the Transportation ResearchBoard with the
modeled after the longstanding and successful National Cooperative approval of the Governing Board of the National Research Council. Such
Highway Research Program, undertakes research and other technical approval reflects rhe Governing Board’s judgment that the project concerned is
activities in response to the needs of transit service providers. The appropriate with respect to both the purposes and resources of the National
scope of TCRP includes a variety of transit research fields including Research Council
plan-ning, service configuration, equipment, facilities, operations, The members of the technical advisory panel selected to monitor this project and
human resources, maintenance, policy, and administrative practices. to review this report were chosen for recognized scholarly competence and with
TCRP was established under FTA sponsorship in July 1992. due consideration for the balance of disciplines appropriate to the project The
Proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, TCRP was opinions and conclusions expressed or implied are those of the research agency
authorized as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation that performed the research. and while they have been accepted as appropriate
Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA). On May 13,1992, a memorandum by the technical panel. they are not necessarily those of the Transportation
agreement outlining TCRP operating procedures was executed by Research Board, the National Research Council, the Transit Development
the three cooperating organizations: FTA, the National Academies, Corporation, or the Federal Transit Administration of the U S Department of
acting through the Transportation Research Board (TRB); and Transportation
the Transit Development Corporation, Inc. (TDC), a nonprofit Each report is reviewed and accepted for publication by the technical panel
educational and research organization established by APTA. according to procedures established and monitored by the Transportation
TDC is responsible for forming the independent governing board, Research Board Executive Committee and the Governing Board of the National
designated as the TCRP Oversight and Project Selection (TOPS) Research Council
Committee. To save time and money in disseminating the research findings, the report is
Research problem statements for TCRP are solicited periodically essentially the original text as submitted by the research agency This report has
but may be submitted to TRB by anyone at any time. It is the not been edited by TRB
responsibility of the TOPS Committee to formulate the research
program by identifying the highest priority projects. AS part of the
evaluation, the TOPS Committee defines funding levels and
expected products. Special Notice
Once selected, each project is assigned to an expert panel,
appointed by the Transportation Research Board. The panels prepare The Transportation Research Board, the National Research Council, the Transit
project statements (requests for proposals), select contractors, and Development Corporation, and the Federal Transit Administration (sponsor of
the Transit Cooperative Research Program) do not endorse products or
provide technical guidance and counsel throughout the life of the
manufacturers. Trade or manufacturers’ names appear herein solely b&cause they
project. The process for developing research problem statements and
are considered essential to the clarity and completeness of the project reporting.
selecting research agencies has been used by TRB in managing
cooperative research programs since 1962. As in other TRB activ-
ities, TCRP project panels serve voluntarily without compensation. Published reports of the
Because research cannot have the desired impact if products fail
to reach the intended audience, special emphasis is placed on TRANSIT COOPERATIVE RESEARCH PROGRAM
disseminating TCRP results to the intended end users of the are available from:
research: transit agencies, service providers, and suppliers. TRB
provides a series of research reports, syntheses of transit practice, Transportation Research Board
and other supporting material developed by TCRP research. APTA National Research Council
2101 Constitution Avenue, NW
will arrange for workshops, training aids, field visits, and other
Washinson, D.C 20418
activities to ensure that results are implemented by urban and rural
transit industry practitioners. and can be ordered through the Internet at
The TCRP provides a forum where transit agencies can http://www4.nationalacadem.ies.or@rb/homepage.nsf
cooperatively address common operational problems. The TCRP
results support and complement other ongoing transit research and
training programs. Printed in the United Statesof America
This Handbook will be of interest to light rail track system design engineers, oper-
FOREWORD ations and maintenance professionals, vehicle design engineers and manufacturers, and
BY StUfl others interested in the design of light rail track systems. The Handbook provides
TransportationResearch guidelines and descriptions for the design of various types of light rail transit track. The
Board track structure types covered include ballasted, direct fixation (“ballastless”), and
embedded track. The components of the various track types are discussed in detail. The
guidelines consider the characteristics and interfaces of vehicle wheels and rail, track
and wheel gauges, rail sections, alignments, speeds, and track moduli. The Handbook
includes chapters on vehicles, alignment, track structures, track components, special
trackwork, aerial structure/bridges, corrosion control, noise and vibration, signals, and
traction power. These chapters provide insight into considerations that affect track
design and require interface coordination.

Transit agencies frequently build new light rail transit (LRT) systems, procure light
rail vehicles (LRVs), and undertake track improvements to existing systems to increase
operating speeds, enhance service, and expand ridership. Many agencies have experi-
enced accelerated vehicle wear and track degradation, attributed to the increased speeds
and incompatibility of contemporary LRVs with the track structure. These problems
lead to reduced service quality and increased maintenance expenditures. Considerable
research has been conducted in recent years to understand the mechanisms involved in
track-vehicle interaction and its effect on track design. However, no widely accepted
guidelines have been developed to aid in the design of light rail transit track. Consequently,
transit agencies have frequently relied on practices developed primarily for heavy rail
transit and freight operations that are not well suited for light rail transit systems.
Under TCRP Project D-6, research was undertaken by Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade
& Douglas to (1) better understand the interactions among track structure, LRVs, and
operating characteristics and (2) develop a Handbook for the design of light rail tran-
sit track to assist the various transit disciplines in selecting the appropriate track and
vehicle characteristics for specific situations.
To achieve the project objectives, the researchers first identified the track-
structure parameters, vehicle characteristics, environmental factors, and operating
conditions that influence track-vehicle interaction and, hence, should be considered in
the design of ballasted, direct fixation, and embedded track systems. The researchers
then collected and reviewed information pertaining to the design and construction of
light rail transit track. A literature search of articles, manuals, texts, and manufac-
turers’ pamphlets pertinent to light rail transit was conducted. In addition, a review
of 17 North American light rail systems, as well as systems in Belgium, France, and
Germany, was undertaken to investigate the different methods of design and con-
struction. In most cases, site visits were conducted that included extensive interviews
with operating and maintenance engineers. Design and construction techniques were
then assessed in terms of performance, safety, and constructability. On the basis of
this assessment, a Handbook providing guidance for the design of light rail track
systems was prepared.
CONTENTS l-l CHAPTER 1 General Introduction
2-l CHAPTER 2 Light Rail Transit Vehicles
3-l CHAPTER 3 Light Rail Transit Track Geometry
4-1 CHAPTER 4 Track Structure Design
5-l CHAPTER 5 Track Components and Materials
6-1 CHAPTER 6 Special Trackwork
7-l CHAPTER 7 Aerial Structures/Bridges
8-l CHAPTER 8 Corrosion Control
9-l CHAPTER 9 Noise and Vibration
10-l CHAPTER 10 Transit Signal Work
11-l CHAPTER 11 Transit Traction Power
ROBERT J. REILLY, Director, Cooperative Research Programs
CHRISTOPHER JENKS, Senior Program Ojjker
EILEEN P. DELANEY, Managing Editor
JAMIE M. FEAR, Associate Editor


JOHN D. WILKINS, New Jersey Transit Corporation (Chair)
KENNETH J. BELOVARAC, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
ANTHONY BOHARA, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
RICHARD A. BROWN, Dallas Area Rapid Transit
ARTHUR J. KEFFLER, Parsons Transportation Group, Washington, DC
BRIAN H. LONGSON, Toronto Transit Commission
WALTER “BUD” MOORE, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
JEFFREY G. MORA, FTA Liaison Representative
ELAINE KING, TRB Liaison Representative

The research and development of the Track Design Handbook Chapter 3:
Light Rail Transit Track Geometry: Lee Roy Padget
was performed under TCRP Project D-6 by Parsons Brinckerhoff Chapter 4:
Track Structure Design: Gordon W. Martyn
Quade and Douglas, Inc.; Wilson, Ihrig and Associates, Inc.; and Chapter 5:
Track Components and Materials: Gordon W. Martyn
Laurence E. Daniels. Parsons Brinckerhoff was the prime contrac- Chapter 6:
Special Trackwork Lawrence G. Lovejoy
tor for this project. Parsons Brinckerhoff subcontracted noise and Chapter 7:
Aerial Structures/Bridges: David A. Charters
vibration studies to Wilson, Ihrig and Associates and track research Chapter 8:
Corrosion Control: Kenneth J. Moody, Lawrence G.
to Laurence E. Daniels. Lovejoy, Gordon W. Martyn
Gordon W. Martyn, Senior Professional Associate, Parsons Chapter 9: Noise and Vibration: James T Nelson
Brinckerhoff Transit and Rail Systems, was the principal investiga- Chapter 10: Transit Signal Work: Harvey Glickenstein, Gary E.
tor. The Handbook authors were as follows:
Chapter 11: Transit Traction Power: Kenneth Addison, Lawrence
Chapter 1: General Introduction: Gordon W. Martyn, Eugene C. G. Lovejoy
Allen, Lawrence G. Lovejoy Technical editing was performed by Eugene C. Allen of Parsons
Chapter 2: Light Rail Transit Vehicles: Harold B. Henderson, Brinckerhoff. Charles G. Mendell edited the text. Research of tran-
Theodore C. Blaschke, Gordon W. Martyn sit agencies was undertaken by the project team members.
Chapter l-General Introduction

Table of Contents


1 1 Introduction l-l
1.2 Purpose 1-2
1.3 What is Light Rail, and Why Is it So Heavy? 1-2
1.4 Handbook Organization 1-3


1 .I INTRODUCTION and to the designers and manufacturers of

light rail vehicles.
The purpose of this Handbook is to provide to
those responsible for the design, Much research has been conducted in an
procurement, construction, maintenance, and effort to understand the mechanisms involved
operation of light rail transit systems an up-to- in track-vehicle interaction and its impact on
date guide for the design of light rail track, track design. However, no widely accepted
based on an understanding of the relationship guidelines exist to specifically aid in the
of light rail track and other transit system design and maintenance of light rail transit
components. The contents of the Handbook track. Consequently the light rail transit
were compiled as a result of an investigation of industry frequently relies on practices
light rail transit systems, a review of literature developed primarily for heavy rail transit and
pertaining to transit and railroad standards and railroad freight operations that are not
methods, and personal hands-on experience of necessarily well suited for light rail systems,
the authors. Current research also has been a
source of valuable data. This Handbook does not seek to establish
universal standards within an industry
This Handbook furnishes the reader with operating in a wide range of environments.
current practical guidelines and procedures Instead it seeks to offer choices and to
for the design of the various types of light rail present the issues that must be resolved
track including ballasted, direct fixation, and during the design process.
embedded track systems. It discusses the
interrelationships among the various The user of the Handbook assumes all risks
disciplines associated with light rail transit and responsibilities for selection, design, and
engineering-structures, traction power stray construction to the guidelines recommended
current control, noise and vibration control, herein. No warranties are provided to the
signaling, and electric traction power. The user, either expressed or implied. The data
Handbook includes a chapter on light rail and discussions presented herein are for
vehicles, describing the impact of vehicle informational purposes only.
design and operation on the track system. It
also discusses the interaction between tracks The reader is assumed to be an engineer or
and aerial structures, which is crucial when individual familiar with trackwork terminology
continuously welded rail and direct fixation and experienced in the application of guideline
track are used. information to design. For that reason, a
glossary of terms that would be familiar to a
There are many different practical designs for trackwork engineer has not been included
light rail track, and the goal of this Handbook herein. Definitions of common trackwork terms
is to offer a range of options to the engineer. are included in the Manual for Railway
A key focus of the Handbook is to differentiate Engineering, published by the American
between light rail transit track and those Railway Engineering & Maintenance-of-Way
similar, but subtly different, track systems Association. Terms that are unique to light rail
used for freight, commuter, and heavy rail transit are defined within the text of the
transit operations. These differences present Handbook as they are introduced.
challenges both to light rail track designers

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

1.2 PURPOSE and sometimes even sharper, in order to

traverse city streets.
This Handbook furnishes the reader with
l Vehicles are not constructed to structural
current practical information about light rail
criteria (primarily crashworthiness or “buff
trackwork and guidelines for the design of the
strength”) needed to share the track with
various types of light rail track including
much heavier railroad commuter and
ballasted, direct fixation, and embedded track.
freight equipment.
It describes the impacts of other disciplines on
trackwork, which offers the designer insights
While purists may quibble with some of the
into the coordination of design efforts among
finer points of this definition, it will suffice for
all disciplines. The purpose of this Handbook
the purposes of this Handbook.
is to offer a range of design guidelines, not to
set a standard for the industry. The two most important defining elements of
light rail trackwork are the construction of
track in streets, and the interface between the
wheel of the light rail vehicles and the rails.
Track in streets requires special
Tracks for light rail transit are generally consideration, especially with regard to the
constructed with the same types of materials control of stray electrical current that could
used to construct “heavy rail,” “commuter rail,” cause corrosion and the need to create a
and railroad freight systems. Also, light rail formed flangeway that is large enough for the
vehicles may be as massive as transit cars on wheels but does not pose a hazard to other
heavy rail systems. Consequently, the term users of the street. Light rail wheels, in the
“light rail” is somewhat of an oxymoron and past, were smaller and had shallower flanges;
often misunderstood. Therefore, for the contemporary light rail vehicle wheels are
purposes of this book, it is appropriate to smaller and narrower than standard railroad
define light rail transit. wheels. These variations require special
Light rail is a system of electrically care in track design, especially in the design
propelled passenger vehicles with steel of special trackwork such as switches and
wheels that are propelled along a track frogs. The compatibility of the vehicle and
constructed with steel rails. track designs is a central issue in the
development of a light rail system if both
Propulsion power is drawn from an components are to perform to acceptable
overhead distribution wire by means of a standards. These issues are discussed at
pantograph and returned to the electrical length in this Handbook.
substations through the rails.
The tracks and vehicles must be capable While light rail may need to share right-of-way
of sharing the streets with rubber-tired (ROW) with pedestrians and vehicles, the
vehicular traffic and pedestrians. The designer should create an exclusive ROW for
track system may also be constructed light rail tracks wherever possible. This will
within exclusive rights-of-way. make maintenance and operations less
expensive, and will eliminate platform height
Vehicles are capable of negotiating issues associated with Americans with
curves as sharp as 25 meters (82 feet) Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.

General Introduction

1.4 HANDBOOK ORGANIZATION longitudinal restraint, and probable conditions

at a rail break on the structure The analysis
Chapter 2 elaborates on vehicle design and includes the conditional forces generated by
critical issues pertaining to track and vehicle locating special trackwork on an aerial
interface. These topics include wheel/rail structure and methods of contending with
profiles, truck steering within restricted curves them
and primary and secondary suspension
systems, and the effect of these parameters Corrosion control is a major issue arising from
on track and operations the use of the running rail as a negative return
in the traction power system. Chapter 8
Chapter 3 details issues related to light rail highlights the issues pertaining to stray
track geometry with particular attention to current and discusses the need to isolate the
restrictions imposed by alignment characteris- rail and retard the potential for electrical
tics, such as tight radius curvature, severe leakage Methodologies for establishing
vertical curves, and steep profile grade lines. magnitude, identifying sources, and
developing corrective measures are part of
Chapter 4 elaborates on the three basic types this chapter.
of track structures: ballasted, direct fixation,
and embedded track. The chapter takes the Chapter 9 introduces the designer to another
designer through a series of selections environmental issue pertaining to light rail
pertaining to the track design. The chapter transit-noise and vibration. It explains
discusses track and wheel gauges, flange- wheel/rail noise and vibration and the
ways, rail types, guarded track (restraining fundamentals of acoustics. It also discusses
rail), track modulus, stray current, noise and mitigation procedures and treatments for
vibration, and signal and traction power tangent, curved, and special trackwork.
Chapter 10 highlights signal issues for light
The various track components and details are rail transit and discusses some of the
discussed in Chapter 5. interfacing issues and components that must
be considered by a track designer.
Chapter 6 provides guidelines for the design
and selection of various types and sizes of Chapter 11 presents elements pertinent to
special trackwork. Included are details traction power, including supply system and
pertaining to switches, frogs, guard rails, substations; the catenary distribution system;
crossings (diamonds), and associated items. and the power return through the running rails.
The chapter also discusses corrosion control
Most light rail transit systems require bridges measures to mitigate the effects of DC current
or similar structures. Aerial structures are not to adjacent services.
uncommon. Chapter 7 provides a framework
for determining the magnitude of forces An overall table of contents lists the eleven
generated due to differential thermal chapter topics. Each chapter contains its own
expansion between the rail (especially table of contents, reference list, and list of
stationary continuous welded rail) and the figures and tables. Pages are numbered by
structure. The analysis elaborates on chapter (for example: 4-24 is page 24 in
structural restrictions, fastener elastomer Chapter Four).
displacement, fastening toe loads, friction and
Chapter 2 Light Rail Transit Vehicles

Table of Contents


2.2.1 Vehicle Design 2-2
2.2.1 1 UnidirectionalIBi-directional 2-2 Non-Articulated/Articulated 2-2
2.3 1 Static Outline 2-4
2.3.2 Dynamic Outline 2-4 Car Length: Over Coupler Face and Over Anticlimber 2-5 Distance between Truck Centers 2-5 Distance between End Truck and Anticlimber 2-5
2.3.2 4 Vehicle Components Related to Dynamic Positions 2-5 Track Components Related to Dynamic Positions 2-5 Ensuring Adequate Vehicle Clearance 2-5 Pantograph Height Positions 2-5
2.4.1 Horizontal Curvature-Minimum Turning Radius of Vehicle 2-6
2.4.2 Vertical Curvature-Minimum Sag and Crest Curves 2-6
2.4.3 Combination Conditions of Horizontal and Vertical Curvature 2-6
2.4 4 Vertical Alignment-Maximum Grades 2-7
2.45 Maximum Allowable Track Vertical Misalignment 2-7
2.4.6 Ride Comfort and Track Geometry 2-7 Track Superelevation 2-7 Lateral Acceleration on Track Curves 2-7
2 4.6 3 Transition Spirals on Track Curves 2-7
25.1 Static
Vertical 2-8
251.1 AWOIAWl Loads 2-8 AW21AW3iAW4 Loads 2-8
251.3 Wheel Loading Tolerance (Car Level) 2-8 Wheel Loading @ Maximum Stationary Superelevation,
Considering Car Tilt and Uniform AW3 Load 2-9 Unsprung Weight (Truck Frame, Wheels, Axle,
Bearings, and Portions of the Motor/Gear Units) 2-9 Truck Weight 2-9 Motorized Trucks 2-9 Non-Motorized Trucks 2-9 Load Leveling 2-9
2.5.2 Dynamic Horizontal/ Longitudinal 2-9
2 5.2.1 Maximum Acceleration 2-9 Maximum Deceleration (Wheels) 2-9 Maximum Deceleration (Track Brakes) 2-10 Tolerances 2-l 0
2.5.2 5 Maximum Train Size 2-10 Load Weight Z-10 Sanding 2-l 0

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

2.53 Dynamic Vertical 2-l 0 Primary Suspension 2-l 0 Spring Rate 2-l 0 Damping Rate 2-l 0 Secondary Suspension 2-10 1 Damping Rate 2-l 1 Yaw Friction 2-l 1 Maximum Speed 2-l 1 Car Natural Frequency 2-l 1
2.6.1 Track Gauge 2-11
2 6.2 Vehicle Wheel Gauge 2-l 1
2.6.3 Wheel Profiles-United States, Canada, Europe 2-l 1
2.6 4 Wheel/Rail Profiles 2-12 Wheel Profile-Widths and Flangeways 2-18 Wheel Profile-Flange Configuration 2-l 8 Wheel/Rail Wear Interface 2-l 9 Hollow Worn Wheels 2-l 9
2.6.5 Profile Rail Grinding vs Wheel Wear 2-l 9
2.651 Wheel Profile Development 2-20 Wheel/Rail Interface Profiles and Potential Derailments 2-20 Special Trackwork and Hollow Worn Wheels 2-21 Truck Resistance with Hollow Worn Wheels 2-22 Truck Resistance-Alternate Approaches 2-22
2.8.1 Clearance and Tolerances 2-24

List of Figures
Figure 2.6. I
Wheel Profiles (U.S.) 2-13
Figure 2.6.2
Wheel Profiles (U.S./North America) 2-14
Figure 2.6.3
European Wheel Profiles 2-15
Figure 2.6.4
AAR Wheel Profiles 2-l 5
Figure 2.6.5
Wheel-Rail Interface 2-17
Figure 2.6.6
Preliminary High Face Gauge Wear Measurements 2-20
Figure 2.6.7
New AAR-1B and Hollow Won Wheel 2-20
Figure 2.6.8
Three Rail Profiles Used in AAR Demonstration 2-21
Figure 2.6.9
Track Steering Moment and Warp Angle
from Demonstration 2-21
Figure 2.7.1 Resilient Wheel 2-25
Figure 2.8.1 Design Guidelines: Track at Station Platform 2-26

List of Tables
Table 2.1 Contemporary Light Rail Vehicle Characteristics Matrix 2-3


2.1 INTRODUCTION - Wheel profile, which must be

compatible with the rail, particularly in
Designers of the current generation of light rail the case of special trackwork
vehicles (LRV) have primarily concentrated - Wheel gauge to ensure compatibility
with the track gauge including
their efforts on achieving a comfortable ride
for passengers and complying with Americans - Wheel back-to-back gauge that is
with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements Wrth compatible with flangeway
respect to trucks (bogies), these efforts have dimensions and special trackwork
resulted in primary and secondary suspension checkgauges
system designs that are significantly different l Longitudinal Track Forces
than those employed on previous generations - Maximum acceleration (traction
of electric streetcars, including the once
- Deceleration from disc and tread
radical design first used on Presidents’ brakes
Conference Committee (PCC) trolley cars in - Maximum possible deceleration from
the mid 1930s. As vehicle technology electromagnetic emergency track
continues to evolve, so do propulsion and brakes
suspension system designs. Emerging l Lateral Track Forces
- Maximum lateral forces resulting from
concepts, such as independent steerable
all speed and curvature combinations
wheels, hub-mounted motors, etc., quickly
l Dynamic Rail Forces
lead to the conclusion that there are few hard
- Impact of car and truck natural
and fast rules about the vehicle/track interface frequencies
for light rail systems. - Impact of wheel flats or damaged
In spite of this lack of design consistency,
there are several key vehicle-to-rail interface It is essential that the track designer and the
parameters that the track designer must vehicle designer discuss their designs to
consider during design of light rail systems. ensure full compatibility under all operating
These include: . conditions.
l Vehicle Weight (both empty and with full
passenger load) Light rail vehicles are found in a variety of
0 Clearance designs and dimensions. Cars may be
- Required track-to-platform location unidirectional or bi-directional. In almost all
tolerances to meet ADA requirements cases, they are capable of being operated in
- Required clearance between cars on coupled trains.
adjacent tracks considering car
dynamics In most cases, LRVs are larger and heavier
- Required route clearances (wayside,
than their streetcar predecessors. Particularly
tunnel, bridge) considering car
dynamics on older existing systems, these larger
l Wheel Dimensions replacement cars can challenge the track
- Wheel diameter, which can be very designer to come up with suitable methods to
small in the case of low-floor vehicles accommodate them.
and is virtually always smaller than
that used on freight railroad Light rail vehicles vary in the following design

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

l Unidirectional versus bi-directional relatively small, usually only a single urban

l Non-articulated versus articulated building lot. Transit companies typically found
l High floor; partially low floor (70%); low that the expense of buying properties and
floor (100%) building loops was small compared to the
l Overall size (width, length, and height) savings associated with not having to maintain
l Truck and axle positions duplicate sets of control equipment in “double
l Suspension characteristics ended” trolley cars.
l Performance (acceleration, speed, and
braking) Current designs of high-capacity light rail
l Wheel diameter vehicles have much larger minimum radius
l Wheel gauge limitations and the amount of real estate that
is required to construct a turning loop is much
These characteristics must be considered in greater. Accordingly, most contemporary
the design of both the vehicle and the track LRVs have control cabs in both ends and can
structure. reverse direction anywhere that a suitable
crossover track or pocket track can be
The results of an investigation of the provided, This arrangement is usually more
characteristics of 17 North American LRVs economical in terms of space required and
are summarized in Table 2.1. It is interesting has become the norm for modern light rail
to note that vehicle criteria published by transit (LRT) systems. Such arrangements
vehicle manufacturer(s) rarely contain can be sited within the confines of a double-
information on vehicle wheel gauge. Track track right-of-way, and do not require the
and vehicle designers will have difficulty in the property acquisition (and subsequent
design process without first establishing this maintenance) needed for turning loops.
initial interface value and then determining the
acceptable gap between the track and wheel
gauges. Non-Articulated/Articulated
Non-articulated (rigid) cars are single car
bodies carried on two four-wheel trucks.
2.2 VEHICLE CHARACTERISTICS Articulated cars, on the other hand, will have
two or more body sections that are connected
by flexible joints.
2.2.1 Vehicle Design

There is a common misconception that Unidirectional/Bi-directional articulated cars can negotiate sharper curves
Nearly all of the traditional streetcar systems than a rigid body car. This is not true. They
that survived through the 1960s used are limited in length primarily due to the fact
unidirectional vehicles. That is, the cars were that the lateral clearances required in curves
built with a control station in the forward end, increase dramatically as the distance between
doors on the right side, and a single trolley the trucks increases. If lateral clearances are
pole at the rear At the end of the line, cars not an issue, rigid body cars are a practical
negotiated a turning loop and ran to the alternative that can be appreciably cheaper to
opposite terminal. Because these vehicles procure and maintain than articulated cars of
could negotiate curves with centerline radii as similar capacity. In North America, modern
small as 10.7 meters (35 feet), the amount of non-articulated cars are used only in
real estate needed for a turning loop was Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Toronto.

Light Rail Transit Vehicles

Table 2.1 Contemporary Light Rail Vehicle Characteristics Matrix

Empty Wheel Gauge
Vehicle Vehicle Articulated/ Truck/Bogie Wheel Diameter Wheel
Manufacturer and Weight Non- Centers Base New/Used Gauge
City Model (kg) Articulated (mm) (mm) (mm) Delta A
Baltimore ABB Traction 48 526 Artic. 9,144 2,286 771 1,435
1,421 5
Boston Boeing Vertol 30,390 Artic 7,010 1,855 660 new 1,455
(3 Vehicles) Kinki Sharyo #7 38,460 Artic 7,137 1,905 660 13427.2
Breda #8 39,000 Double Artic. 7,351 1,900 71 l/660 A27.8
Buffalo Tokyo Car 32,233 Single Unit. 11,024 1,880 6601610 1,432
Rigid 1,414 5
Dallas Kinki Sharyo 49,900 Artic 9,449 2,083 711 1,435
1,409 0
Denver Siemens Duewag 40,000 Attic. 7,720 1,800 7201660 1,435
SD 100 1,413.g
Los Angeles Kinki Sharyo 44,500 Artic 8,534 2,007 71 II660 1,435
Blue Line
Siemens Duewag Artic. 9,449 2,100 1,412 9
Green Line 821.1
Philadelphia City Kawasaki 26,000 Single Unit, 7,620 SE 1,900 660 new 1,581
Division SE Rigid 1,578
Philadelphia Kawasaki 27,000 Single Unit, 8,400 DE 1,900 660 new 1,588
Suburban Division DE Rigid 1,578
Pittsburgh Siemens Duewag 40,000 Attic 8,950 2,100 7201670 1,587.5
U2-A 1,577.5
Portland Bombardier 41,244 Artic. 9,040 1,900 711/660 1,435
(2 vehicles) Siemens Duewag 47,600 Artic. 10,515 1,800 1,421
SC 600 Al4
Sacramento Siemens 47,160 At-tic 7,723 1,800 7201660 1,435
Duewag U2 1,414
San Diego Duewag 32,600 Artic 7,720 1,800 7201660 1,435
(2 vehicles) Type U2 1,414
Siemens Duewag Artic. 7201660 A21
SD 100
San Jose UTDC 44,724 Artic 8,611 1,905 711 1,435
St. Louis Siemens Duewag 40,993 Artic. 9,677 2,100 7111660 1,435
San Francisco Boeing Vertol 30,390 Artic. 7,010 1,855 660 1,435
Breda 36,200 Artic. 7,315 1,900 711 1,425.5
Toronto UTDC 22,685 Single Unit, 7,620 1,829 66016 10 1,495 0
(2 vehicles) Hawker Siddley 36,745 Rigid 7,620 1,829 6601600 1,492 5
Artic. A2.5
Calgary Duewag Type U2 32,600 Artic. 7,720 1,800 7201660 1,435
Edmonton Duewag Type U2 31,600 Artic 7,720 1,800 7201660 1,435

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

Articulated LRVs developed in order to which the car is intended. While

improve the ratio of passengers carried per manufacturers can, in theory, build cars to any
vehicle operator. By attaching two or more dimension, it is usually more economical to
body sections together, the car capacity can choose vehicles that are already engineered
be increased while maintaining the capability or in production. Therefore, the facility
to negotiate sharp curves without excessive designer of a new system should establish a
lateral clearance excursions. Where two body clearance envelope that accommodates
sections meet, a turntable and bellows vehicles from several manufacturers to
arrangement connects the sections, allowing maximize opportunities for competitive
free passage for passengers. Each LRV bidding.
manufacturer has devised its own specific
design for such articulation joints. In some The clearance diagram must consider both
cases, particularly in Europe, multiple body the vehicle’s static outline and its dynamic
sections have been joined in double, triple, outline. The static outline is the shape of the
and even quadruple arrangements to form car at rest. The dynamic outline includes the
multi-articulated cars. allowable movement in the suspension
system, end overhang, and mid-ordinate
More recently, European manufacturers have overhang. The manufacturer develops the
created a variety of modular designs, dynamic outline for each type of transit
particularly for low-floor cars. Typically, these vehicle. To establish clearances along the
designs include separate modules for cab, right-of-way, a vehicle dynamic clearance
door, and body sections. They are joined in envelope must also be developed. Using the
both rigid and articulated arrangements, vehicle dynamic outline along with the
allowing a vehicle to be tailored to meet a associated track components, track
range of curve radius requirements. Low-floor tolerances, wear limits of the components,
LRV designs may incorporate stub axles, and a clearance zone with a safety factor of
independent wheels, small trucks, small 50 millimeters (1.968 inches), the dynamic
diameter wheels, hub-mounted motors, body- vehicle clearance envelope can be
mounted motors, vertical drives, and a variety established. For additional information on
of other unique technological solutions that vehicle clearances, refer to Section 3.4 of this
permit vehicles to incorporate very low floors handbook.

2.3 VEHICLE CLEARANCE 2.3.1 Static Outline

Clearance standards for various types of The static outline of an LRV is its dimensions
railroad vehicles are well documented by the at rest, including elements such as side view
use of graphics or “plates”. One standard is mirrors. The resulting diagram will show the
the common Plate “C.” Any car whose minimum overhang on tangents and curves.
dimensions fit within the limits established on The dynamic outline of the car is more
Plate C can travel virtually anywhere on the significant to the track designer.
North American railroad system. Transit
systems do not share this standard. 2.3.2 Dynamic Outline
Therefore, vehicle manufacturers must
develop clearance plates based on the The dynamic outline of an LRV describes the
characteristics of the existing system for maximum space that the vehicle will occupy

Light Rail Transit Vehicles

as it moves over the track The dynamic Vehicle Components Related to
outline or “envelope” includes overhang on Dynamic Positions
Primary/Secondary Suspension
curves, lean due to the action of the vehicle
suspension and track superelevation, track Maximum Lean/Sway
wear, wheel/track spacing, and abnormal Maximum Lean due to Total Failure of
conditions that may result from failure of All Truck Components
suspension elements (e g. deflation of an air Wheel Flange Wear
spring). Track Components Related to
Dynamic Positions Car Length: Over Coupler Face Track Surface-Maximum Cross-
and Over Anticlimber Level Limits and Lateral Tolerance of
When considering the length of a light rail Rail Headwear and Side Gauge Face
vehicle, it is important to distinguish between Wear
the actual length of the car body over the Track Superelevation
anticlimbers and its length over the coupler Wheel Gauge to Track Gauge Lateral
faces. Clearance
Truck/Wheel Set (Axle) Spacing
l Over Coupler Face-The coupler is the
connection between LRVs that operate Ensuring Adequate Vehicle
together. It extends beyond the front of Clearance
the car structure. The length over the Where facility clearance restrictions exist, the
couplers becomes a consideration for track designer should coordinate with the
determining the requisite length of vehicle and structural designers to ensure that
facilities such as station platforms and adequate car clearance is provided. Vehicle
storage tracks. dynamics are governed by the cars
l Over Anticlimber-The anticlimber is the suspension system(s) and, therefore,
structural end of the car. As its name indirectly by numerous factors of track and
implies, it is designed to reduce the vehicle interaction. For multiple-track
possibility of one car climbing over an situations, multiple clearance envelopes must
adjacent car during a collision. The length be considered. Overlapping must be avoided.
of the vehicle over the anticlimber is used The resulting requirements will dictate
to determine clearances. minimum track centers and clearances for
tangent and curved track, including tolerances
and safety factors. Distance between Truck Centers
The distance between adjacent truck pivot Pantograph Height Positions
points determines the overhang of a cars Outside Height: Roof and Pan Lock-Down-
midsection for given track curvature. Should include all roof-mounted equipment.

Roof - The roof of an LRV is typically curved, Distance between End Truck and with the highest dimension at the car
centerline. However, the LRV pantograph
This dimension and the car body taper establishes the maximum car height.
determine the overhang of the car front for a
given track curvature.

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

Pantograph Operation - Light rail facility spacing, truck spacing, and suspension
designers are typically interested in the elements all contribute to vehicle flexibility.
absolute minimum clearance between top of
rail and an overhead obstruction, such as a The track designer must take the vehicle
highway bridge. This dimension must characteristics defined below into account in
accommodate not only the pantograph when developing route designs. The values
operating at some working height above lock- associated with these characteristics are
down, but also the depth of the overhead furnished by the manufacturer. For vehicles
contact wire system. The minimum supplied for existing systems, the vehicle
pantograph working height above lock-down manufacturer must meet the minimum
includes an allowance for pantograph geometrical requirements of the system.
“bounce” so that lock-down does not occur
accidentally. Maximum pantograph height is 2.4.1 Horizontal Curvature-Minimum
the concern of vehicle and overhead catenary Turning Radius of Vehicle
system (OCS) designers, unless the light rail
guideway must also accommodate railroad The minimum turning radius is the smallest
freight traffic and attendant overhead horizontal radius that the LRV can negotiate.
clearances. If railroad equipment must be The value may be different for a single versus
accommodated, the clearance envelope will coupled LRVs or for a fully loaded LRV versus
be dictated by Association of American an empty one.
Railroads (AAR) plates, which do not include
clearance for the overhead catenary system.
Additional clearances may be required 2.4.2 Vertical Curvature-Minimum Sag
and Crest Curves
between the underside of the contact wire
system and the roof of any railroad equipment The minimum vertical curvature is the
in order to meet electrical safety codes.
smallest vertical curve radius that the LRV
can negotiate. The maximum sag and crest
values are typically different, with the sag
The most demanding light rail transit value being more restrictive. Vehicle builders
alignments are those running through describe vertical curvature in terms of either
established urban areas. Horizontal curves radius of curve or as the maximum angle in
must be designed to suit existing conditions, degrees through which the articulation joint
which can result in curves below a 25meter can bend. The trackway designer must relate
(82-foot) radius. Vertical curves are required those values to the parabolic vertical curves
to conform to the existing roadway pavement typically used in alignment design.
profiles, which may result in exceptionally
sharp crest and sag conditions. 2.4.3 Combination Conditions of
Horizontal and Vertical Curvature
LRVs are specifically designed to
accommodate severe geometry by utilizing The car builder may or may not have a graph
flexible trucks, couplings, and mid-vehicle that displays this limitation. If a route design
articulation. Articulation joints, truck results in significant levels of both parameters
maximum pivot positions, coupler-to-truck occurring simultaneously, the design should
alignments, vehicle lengths, wheel set (axle) be reviewed with potential LRV suppliers to
establish mutually agreeable limits.

Light Rail Transit Vehicles

2.4.4 Vertical Alignment-Maximum elevation of the track. Track designers often

Grades limit actual superelevation and permit an
unbalanced condition where the forces on
The maximum allowable route grade is limited
vehicles and passengers are not equal.
by the possibility that the LRV could stall or
Unbalanced superelevation results in an
the traction motors overheat. This is the
unbalanced amount of lateral acceleration that
steepest grade the LRV can negotiate. A
the passenger feels. The standard limit is 76
short grade that the LRV enters at speed
mm (3 inches) of unbalanced superelevation
should not be a problem up to about 6%.
which is equal to about 0 1 g. Chapter 3
Above that the operational requirements
elaborates on the formulas used to establish
should be reviewed. Grades of up to 10% are
the amount of superelevation for both actual
possible. At grades between 6% and lo%,
and underbalanced conditions.
wheel-to-rail slippage may occur in poor
conditions, such as when ice or wet leaves
are on the rail. This may result in wheel flats Lateral Acceleration on Track
during braking or rail burns during Curves
acceleration. Ride comfort is an important and very
complex issue. Acceleration is a good
measure of ride comfort and is a criterion for
2.4.5 Maximum Allowable Track Vertical ride comfort on track curves. The rate of
change of acceleration (jerk) is another
important criterion. Industry standards have
Truck equalization refers to the change in
established that a lateral acceleration of 0.1 g
wheel loading that occurs when one wheel
can be tolerated with comfort. Chapter 3
moves above or below the plane of the other
elaborates on formulas used to establish the
three wheels on a two-axle truck. If a wheel is
spiral criteria considering lateral acceleration.
unloaded significantly, it may climb the rail
and derail. LRV truck equalization must be Transition Spirals on Track Curves
compatible with the expected track vertical A proper transition curve between the tangent
surface misalignment to prevent conditions track and the circular portion of the track
that can cause a derailment. curve is a recognized requirement for a
smooth, comfortable ride on track curves.
2.4.6 Ride Comfort and Track Geometry The change from no curve to a given constant
curvature must be made gradually so that
lurching does not occur at the entrance and Track Superelevation exit of the curve. The usual method is to
Passenger safety and ride comfort limit introduce curvature and superelevation in the
vehicle speed on sections of curved track. transition curve uniformly along the curve.
Experience has shown that safety and comfort
can be achieved if vehicle speed is limited Since the centrifugal force is inversely
such that 75 to 115 mm (3 to 4.5 inches) of proportional to the radius of the curve and the
superelevation is required in the outer rail to superelevation for a given speed, both radius
achieve equilibrium (a balanced condition) on and superelevation change at a linear rate.
transit track. Equilibrium exists when loads on Thus, lateral acceleration increases at a
the inner and outer rails are equal and the constant rate until the full curvature of the
centrifugal force on the car body and the circular portion of the curve is reached, where
passengers is in balance with the super-

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

the acceleration remains constant until the exit 2.5 VEHICLE STATIC AND DYNAMIC
spiral is reached.

As a guideline, the transit industry has 2.5.1 Static Vertical

established 0.03 g per second as the desired
maximum rate for change of acceleration. As The following parameters establish the LRV
stated previously, constant lateral acceleration vertical wheel load on the rail head. The
in the central part of a track curve is vehicle manufacturer generally provides these
comfortable at 0.10 g. Therefore, if the values.
allowable maximum acceleration in the
circular curve is 0.10 g and the rate of
attainment is 0.03 g per second the time the 2.5.1 .I AWOIAWI Loads
train traverses the spiral must be no less than: AWO is the total car weight, in a ready for
0 log revenue service condition, with no passengers
= 3.33 seconds on board. AWI is the car weight with a fully
seated passenger load, at 155 pounds per
The formulas presented in Chapter 3 are
based on the 0.03 g per second rate of
change of acceleration, with the provision to AW2lAW3lAW4 Loads
increase to 0.04 g per second when realigning AW2 (Design Load) is seated load plus
existing tracks to fit built-in conditions. standing passengers at 4 per square meter of
suitable standing space. AW3 (Crush Load)
The main objective is to design spirals that is seated load plus standing passengers at 6
are sufficiently long enough to provide per square meter of suitable standing space.
satisfactory ride comfort. Considering the AW4 (Structure Design) is seated load plus
average vehicle roll tendency and allowing for standing passengers at 8 per square meter of
variability in tracks and vehicles, the rate of suitable standing space. Since the seating
change of unbalanced lateral acceleration and suitable standing space is a function of
acting on the passenger should not exceed the vehicle design, the loading should be
0.03 g per second. In difficult situations, an defined by the car builder.
acceleration of 0.04 g per second may be
acceptable. Wheel Loading Tolerance (Car
Passenger comfort on track curves is based Level)
on the theory that the spiral must be long If exact wheel loadings must be known, the
enough so that excessive lateral force is not variations in each wheel load due to design
required to accelerate the vehicle up to the and manufacturing tolerances must be
constant angular rotation of the circular curve. considered.
The spiral curve must be long enough, relative
to the length of the vehicle, so that there is not
excessive twisting of the vehicle, since
twisting forces tend to produce derailments.

Light Rail Transit Vehicles Wheel Loading @ Maximum Load Leveling

Stationary Superelevation, To meet ADA car threshold-to-platform
Considering Car Tilt and Uniform alignment standards, track and platform
AW3 Load
designers must also consider the accuracy of
Worst-case wheel/rail force is expected when car leveling systems that compensate for
a fully loaded car stops on a maximum variable passenger loading. Load leveling can
superelevated track structure Car tilt will also be provided by the secondary air springs or
add to the lateral and vertical forces on the hydraulic actuators. For ADA requirements
lower rail. see Section 2.8 herein. Unsprung Weight (Truck Frame,

2.5.2 Dynamic Horizontal/ Longitudinal
Wheels, Axle, Bearings, and
Portions of the Motor/Gear Units)
The following parameters establish the
Unsprung weight is a significant contributing
maximum forces along the direction of the
factor to dynamic track loading as these items
are not isolated from the track by the car
primary suspensions. Maximum Acceleration
The maximum car acceleration provided by Truck Weight
the car propulsion system is the resulting
Truck weight and yaw inertia will affect rail
force at the wheel tread to rail head interface.
forces on curved track. Total truck weight will
The amount of adhesion is the measure of the
also affect dynamic forces as only the car
force generated between the rail and wheel
body is isolated by the truck secondary
before slipping. A typical 4.8 kilometer per
hour per second (3 miles per hour per second)
acceleration rate is equivalent to a 15% Motorized Trucks adhesion level, if all axles are motorized. For
Motorized trucks (typically at the ends of the a typical LRV with four of six axles motorized,
car) may have either one monomotor or two the adhesion rate is 22.5%.
motors that drive both axles, along with gear
units that connect the motors to the axles. Maximum Deceleration (Wheels)
The motors may be either DC or AC design
The maximum car deceleration rate is
depending on the vehicles control system
established by the retarding force at the wheel
package. Newer designs may have unique
tread. The deceleration force can be the
wheel and drive support systems that do not
result of a combination of disc brakes, wheel
resemble traditional truck designs.
tread brakes, and traction motor electrical Non-Motorized Trucks brakes, either dynamic or regenerative.
All trucks under a specific LRV will not have
the same mass or the same inertia. Non- Maximum Deceleration (Track
motorized trucks will not have motors and Brakes)
gear units, but may have axle-mounted disc Deceleration force is generated by
brakes. They are typically located under the electromagnetic brakes applied to the rail
articulation joints of LRVs. On some vehicles, head, in addition to that produced at the
the wheels may be independently mounted wheel. This force is developed at the track
rather than configured as a conventional truck. brake-to-rail head interface and can provide

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

an additional 4.8 kilometers per hour per 2.5.3 Dynamic Vertical

second (3 mphps) of deceleration.
Determination of total track force is a complex
issue that depends on LRV design features. Tolerances Typically the vehicle total weight is increased
All acceleration and deceleration values also by a factor to include dynamic loading effects.
have tolerances that are due to many factors. The characteristics of the LRV suspension
The major factors for acceleration tolerance system should be defined by the
are traction motor tolerances, actual wheel manufacturer, who should also provide the
diameter size, and generation and dynamic load factor to the track designer.
interpretation of master controller commands
This tolerance may range from +5 to 7%. Primary Suspension
All actual deceleration values are dependent Primary suspension provides support between
on friction coefficients as well as the above the truck frame and the axle journal bearings.
issues. The expected tolerance for friction It is the first level of support for the bearings
and track brakes should be obtained from the above the wheel set.
supplier Spring Rate Maximum Train Size Spring rate is the force per travel distance for
Acceleration and deceleration forces are the coil or chevron primary springs. This
applied per car. Therefore, the total rail force relationship may be non-linear for long travel
per train will depend on the maximum train distances. The equivalent vertical,
size. If more than one train can be on longitudinal, and lateral spring rates will be
common rails at one time, this should also be different.
considered. Load Weight Damping Rate

If the LRV has a load weight function, the Damping rate is the “shock absorber” action
acceleration and deceleration forces will be that provides a force proportional to the
increased at car loadings above AWO, to velocity of the spring movement. It is
some maximum loading value. These values designed to minimize oscillation of the
should be defined to establish maximum springs/mass system.
longitudinal track force. Secondary Suspension Sanding Secondary suspension supports the car body
Car sanders apply sand to the head of the rail on the truck and controls the range of car
in front of the wheel to obtain a higher body movement with relation to the truck. The
adhesion coefficient. Sanding in specific suspension and track alignment basically
locations has a fouling effect on track ballast establish the LRV ride quality. The secondary
that should be considered. springs can be either steel coils or air bags. Damping Rate

Damping rate is optimized for ride quality.
With an air bag system, orifices in the air

2-l 0
Light Rail Transit Vehicles

supply to the air bags can adjust the damping 2.6 VEHICLE WHEEL GAUGE/TRACK
rate. GAUGE/ WHEEL PROFILE Yaw Friction 2.6.1 Track Gauge

Yaw is the amount of rotation of the truck with
The American Railway Engineering
relation to the car body Some yaw is normal
Maintenance of Way Association (AREMA)
on curved track. The truck design and
standard track gauge for railways shown on
materials used will establish the friction force
Portfolio Plan 793-52 is established at 1,435
that restrains truck swivel. Yaw contributes to
millimeters (56 5 inches) New light rail transit
lateral track forces, which can produce
systems generally adopt railway gauge as
conditions where the wheel climbs over the
standard. The use of AAR and AREMA
rail head. The design of related friction
standards facilitates procurement of track
surfaces should be such that the friction factor
materials and track maintenance. For
remains constant as service life increases.
additional information on track gauge refer to
Chapter 4 Maximum Speed
The operating speed limit for all track
2.6.2 Vehicle Wheel Gauge
considers passenger comfort and safety. This
criterion should be coordinated with the car
AAR standard wheel gauge for railroad cars
design. Civil speed limits are set by
per AREMA Portfolio Plan 793-52 is
determining the maximum rate of lateral
established at I,4145 millimeters (55.7
acceleration that passengers can comfortably
inches). The inside gauge of flanges (wheel
endure, This is usually in the range of 0.1 g,
back-to-back distance) considering the
which establishes the level of unbalanced
common 29.4-millimeter (1.2-inch) wide wheel
superelevation on curves. Speed limits on
flange is 1,355.7 millimeters (53 4 inches).
curves are then established based on the
Transit standard wheel gauge generally
actual and unbalanced superelevation.
conforms to track gauge with a minimal
clearance, resulting in wheel gauge width of Car Natural Frequency 1,429 millimeters (56.25 inches). Vehicle
The natural frequency of cars should be wheel gauge is a very important interface
coordinated with the natural frequency of civil issue that must be addressed jointly by
structures such as bridges or elevated vehicle and track designers.
guideways. Trucks and car bodies each have
different natural frequencies that should also
2.6.3 Wheel Profiles-United States,
be considered. Also, car loaded weight Canada, Europe
affects the car body’s natural frequency.
Therefore, natural frequency should be Wheel profile is one of the most critical vehicle
defined at car weight extremes, AWO to AW3. parameters to consider in track design, since
the wheel is the primary interface between the
vehicle and the track structure. The wheel
profile must be compatible with the rail

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

section(s); the special trackwork components, shown on AREMA Drawing 793-52. In 1991,
including switch points and frog flangeways or the AAR revised this standard wheel profile to
moveable point sections; the guard rail the current AAR-IB narrow flange profile.[*l
positions to protect special trackwork These two wheel profiles are shown in Figure
components; and the guarded track 2.6.4.
restraining rail positions on shorter or sharp
radius track curves. Many transit agencies have adopted a “worn
wheel” design, featuring wheel contours that
Once approved, any changes to the wheel approximate the template to which railway
profile (especially tread and flange width) wheels wear in service. These designs are
must be evaluated by both vehicle and track intended to:
designers. In more than one instance, the l Reduce wheel and rail wear
wheel profile has been altered at the last
l Reduce likelihood of derailment under
minute without informing the track designer,
adverse operating conditions
resulting in unsatisfactory performance of both
the track and vehicle. Selected wheel profiles l Enhance stable performance over the
are shown below [l]: nominal range of speeds

USA. Figure 2.6.1 Baltimore l Provide reasonable contact stress

Los Angeles characteristics
Boston (2)
Tests by the AAR at the Transportation Test
Center in Pueblo, Colorado have shown that
the AAR-1 B wheel provides:
Portland (2)
l A lower lateral over vertical (LA/) ratio in a
233-meter (764-foot) radius curve than the
previous AAR I:20 profile
Figure 2.6.2 San Diego
San Francisco (2) l A lower rolling resistance than the
San Jose previous AAR I:20 profile.
l Lower critical hunting speeds than the
St. Louis
new AAR 1.20 profile
Calgary New transit agencies must review the
Edmonton advantages of adopting either the AAR-18
Europe Figure 2.6.3 Koln wheel profile or a similar worn wheel design
Zurich adapted to the local needs of the transit
Karlsruhe system, considering factors such as the
overall tread width, wheel diameter, and
A cursory review of the selected profiles
flange width and depth.
(Figures 2.6.1 to 2.6.3) clearly indicates that
transit vehicle designers virtually always
utilize unique wheel profiles, unlike the 2.6.4 Wheel/Rail Profiles
railroad industry, which has adopted standard
profiles Wheel profile is a flexible design decision,
drawn from the different profile sections used
In 1928, the AAR established the recently throughout the transit industry. The same
outdated AAR standard wheel profile as

Light Rail Transit Vehicles




5 9/c



5-23/32' u


5/a- R

Figure 2.6. I Wheel Profiles (U.S.)

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

1' IN 20-7




1' IN 32' 14
316 - R

4.134 -

J/16 --

l-31/32' R

Figure 2.6.2 Wheel Profiles (U.S./North America)

Light Rail Transit Vehicles


I 1-14 KOLN

Figure 2.6.4 AAR Wheel Profiles

profiles and rail profile grinding has been

undertaken by and for the railroad industry.
The transit industry can also benefit from this
research. However, recommendations for
heavy haul railroads may not be entirely
applicable to the transit industry. A light rail
ZURICH 4 vehicle weighs (AWO) approximately 44,000
kilograms (97,000 pounds). A loaded freight
Figure 2.6.3 European Wheel Profiles
car weighs as much as 152,000 kilograms
flexibility is not provided in the selection of (335,000 pounds). This ,represents a
standard rail profiles. Only a few standard rail significant difference in wheel loads of 5,500
sections exist for use by the transit industry. kilograms (12,100 pounds) and 19,000
However, wheel and rail profiles must be kilograms (41,900 pounds) for LRVs and
compatible, which means that the wheel freight cars, respectively. Obviously, rails
profile should conform to the rail head profile. used in transit service will not be subjected to
wheel forces of the magnitude exerted by
As with wheel profiles, the majority of the freight cars. Therefore, theories of rail gauge
research and development on rail head corner fatigue, high L/V ratios, and the threat

2-l 5
Light Rail Track Design Handbook

of rail rollover that pertain to freight railroads inches) were undoubtedly undertaken to
may not be fully applicable on a transit improve the wheel-to-rail contact points.
system.r31 The contact forces at the rail gauge
corner on curved tracks are usually twice as The combinations of wheel and rail profiles
large as those between the rail crown and shown in Figure 2.6.5 illustrate the various
wheel tread. interface conditions generated between the
wheels and rails. The old AAR wheel profile
To reduce contact stresses at the gauge is obsolete for use on main line railroads.
corner and gauge side rail base fastening, it is However, some existing transit systems may
important that the wheel/rail profile be utilize this profile. To improve wheel/rail
compatible. The wheel profile is conformed to interface contact, alternate wheel shapes may
the rail profile if the gap between the wheel be considered. During the early design stage
and rail profile is less than 0.5 millimeters of new transit systems, transit wheel profiles
(0.02 inches) at the center of the rail (in should be considered that match or conform
single-point contact) or at the gauge corner (in to the rail section(s) to be used on the system.
two-point contact). In the process of wheel design, the design
engineer must consider the rail sections and
Figure 2.6.5 illustrates various transit rail the rail cant to be selected. For additional
sections used on contemporary LRT systems information on rail sections, refer to Section
in conjunction with the obsolete AAR wheel 5.2.2 of this handbook. For additional
profile and the new AAR-IB wheel profile. information on rail cant selection and benefits,
The obsolete AAR wheel profile is included to refer to Section 4.2.4.
show a non-conformal two-point contact
wheel/rail relationship that transfers the Many transit properties have adopted the
vertical load from the gauge corner toward the combination of transit wheel/rail profiles
centerline of the rail. This combination, shown proposed by Prof. Herman Heumann r4],where
in Figure 2.6.5 A and C, reduces the wheel the wheel profile conforms to the rail head
radius at the contact location which is profile. This design emphasizes single point
detrimental to steering and introduces contact which improves the difference in
accelerated gauge face wear. A secondary radius between the two rail/wheel contact
distinct wheel/rail profile condition, shown in points leading to improved wheel set (axle)
Figure 2.65 E, is the AAR-IB wheel curving. Improved wheel/rail contact at the
superimposed on the Ri59N girder groove rail. gauge corner provides improved steering and
Although the wheel is conformed to the rail less gauge face contact. Figure 2.6.5 F
head, a pronounced one-point contact illustrates a recommended transit wheel
materializes. Although excellent for steering, profile taking advantage of the following
the contact stresses at the gauge corner may design concepts.
prove to be too high and detrimental to the l The wheel profile is designed to conform
rail, leading to fatigue defects. Recent to selected rail sections (where the transit
revisions to the rail head profile that alter the system will not share track with freight
head radius introduce a surface cant in the cars). Heritage or historical vehicles to be
head, and increase the gauge comer radius of used on the transit system for special
the Ri59 and Ri60 rail to 13 millimeters (0 5 occasions must be considered.

2-l 6
Light Rail Transit Vehicles


1:20 CANT
1:40 CANT

108 (4.250’)


124 BC
1:20 CAN



Figure 2.6.5 Wheel-Rail Interface

l The selected wheel width is 108 additional wheel tread for occasional wide
millimeters (4.2 inches) to reduce wheel track gauge locations in sharp curves to
weight and projection of wheel beyond the specifically halt the vertical wear step in
rail head on the field side. Special the head of rail produced under these
trackwork switch mates, turnouts, and operating conditions.
crossing (diamond) frogs must be flange
Tee rail profile is 124 BC to provide a
bearing to conform to the wheel width. l
preferred rail head profile with improved
The width of the wheel is 18 millimeters radii and additional steel in the head area.
(0.7 inches) wider than the normal 89-
millimeter (35inch) width. This provides

2-l 7
Light Rail Track Design Handbook

l Girder groove rail section (Ri59N) is used wheels used with standard railroad
to provide a narrow flangeway and flangeways and wheel gauges will
increased tram or girder lip. (Note the undoubtedly lead to improper wheel traverse
wheel gauge must be transit width or through special trackwork components.
1,421 millimeters).
l Rail cant is 1.20 to improve wheel/rail Wheel Profile-Flange
contact location in curved track. Configuration
The wheel flange is an extremely important Wheel Profile-Widths and component when considering wheel/rail
Flangeways design compatibility. The width of the flange
The wider clearance between AAR wheel should be selected based on the standard
gauge and standard track gauge governs the girder groove or guard rail section to be used
width of the wheel tread and affects the width in embedded track. The standard rail sections
of the wheel tread supporting surface through currently available (Ri59N, RiGON, etc.)
special trackwork. The larger wheel-to-rail restrict the width of the wheel flange. If only
clearance requires a wider flangeway opening tee rail is to be used on the transit system, the
through frogs and the corresponding guard rail flange width can be more flexible. A wheel
flangeway. The wider flangeways promote flange with side slopes approximately 70”
increased lateral wheel positions resulting in from vertical has been the focus of much
less wheel tread contact when the wheels are design discussion based on the W wheel
furthest from the gauge face of a frog. This forces and friction levels, with rail head wear
condition promotes rapid deterioration of the leading to potential wheel climb. The
critical wing rail frog point due to improper proposed wheel is based on Professor
tread support transfers between the two Heumann’s 70” flange design. The radii at the
components. Wheels traversing the frog point outside edges of the wheel flange should be
area in a facing point lose the wing rail-wheel relatively curved, in lieu of a squarer
support surface resulting in premature transfer configuration which, when worn, could lead to
of wheel load to the frog point. This early sharp flange corners that perpetuate potential
transfer causes the load to bear on too narrow wheel climb. The flange edge, or bottom, on a
a frog point, producing frog point vertical head majority of transit wheels is totally curved.
Comparing standard American and European
Placing the wheel flange further from the wheel profiles (Figures 2.6.1, 2.6.2 and 2.6.3),
gauge face of rail requires a wider wheel it is apparent that the European wheel design
tread. The wider wheel tread increases the with flat wheel flanges considers flange
weight of the wheel, thereby increasing the bearing a standard practice. The majority of
unsprung mass of the truck. A narrower transit agencies in North America have not
wheel profile of 133 millimeters (5.25 inches) featured a flat wheel flange design, even
with the standard AAR-1B flange profile is the though a limited amount of flange bearing is
recommended maximum width for transit used on some systems. Philadelphia,
systems sharing track with freight cars, or for Pittsburgh, and Calgary are the only North
special trackwork sections that do not employ American transit agencies using a pronounced
a flange-bearing frog design. This width flat wheel flange design. The recommended
includes a 6-millimeter (0.25inch) radius at wheel design proposes a limited flat section
the field side of the wheel tread. Narrower

Light Rail Transit Vehicles

on the flange specifically to be compatible with Generally, the wheel/rail profiles have been
flange-bearing special trackwork components. designed and maintained separately, with the
consequence that some practices may benefit
As a guideline for improved wheel-to-rail and one discipline but degrade overall
special trackwork performance, the wheel performance One such example is the
flange profile should be 25 millimeters (1 inch) practice of grinding gauge corner relief on the
high nominally and definitely not less than 22 high rail in curves and applying lubrication.
millimeters (0.86 inch). This practice was commonly thought to
reduce rail wear and extend rail life. However,
investigations now indicate that this procedure Wheel/Rail Wear Interface
may actually accelerate rail wear in curves
As stated previously, transit systems generally
and degrade railcar steering to the point that
rely on railroad research data for analyzing
wheel flange forces are substantially
conditions when considering issues of
increased. Wheel/rail conformance and
mechanical and track maintenance, vehicle
maintaining that conformance on transit
operation, and safety. Understandably,
system track is essential in restricting these
intensive research by new transit systems is
not economically practical. However,
conditions on railroad trackage are often
different than conditions on transit trackage. 2.6.5 Profile Rail Grinding vs. Wheel Wear
Conclusions based on railroad research
should be used only as a basis for clarifying Rail grinding procedures have received a
and resolving transit-related conditions substantial amount of attention in the railroad
between vehicle and track. The following industry. The focus has been on grinding the
information discusses AAR research and high rail in curves to provide gauge corner
development of the wheel/rail interface.L51 relief. The theory was that avoiding overload
of the gauge corner on the high rail would
reduce internal rail defects. The other theory Hollow Worn Wheels
was that this relief grinding exacerbates rail
AAR investigations of rail rollover derailments and wheel wear, compared to more conformal
have ascertained that, under certain
rail profiles, by reducing the railcar steering
conditions, a combination of hollow worn
forces and increasing the wheel flange forces.
wheels and heavy rail gauge corner grinding
can generate large gauge spreading forces. To provide insight into the relative
The interfacing of the wheel/rail profiles can performance of various rail grinding practices,
contribute to: long-term rail grinding experiments were
l Rail spalling and wear undertaken, New rails were installed in
l Wheel shelling and wear several curves and were being maintained
l Damage to special trackwork using three different rail grinding practices:
l Rail rollover and flange climb derailments l No grinding
l Train resistance . “Mild” high rail gauge corner relief
. “Moderate” high rail gauge corner relief
The wheel and rail profile system can be
considered a fundamental component of a rail Transverse rail profiles and rail head heights
vehicle’s suspension system, providing proper were periodically measured to compare the
guidance along the track. relative wear rates in the three zones.

Light Rail Track Design Handbook Wheel Profile Development

Figure 2.6.6 shows preliminary results of the
rail grinding experiment cited above. The high
rail gauge face wear rates are plotted for each
practice. Clearly, the wear rate increased with
the amount of gauge corner relief. It was
established that new wheels with AAR I:20
profiles experienced substantial wear when
first put into service and that most worn
wheels developed very similar profiles over
time. To minimize wear on new wheels, the
AAR developed a new standard wheel profile Figure 2.6.7 New AAR-1B and Hollow
(AAR-IB) that was based on an “average” Worn Wheel
worn wheel shape (see Figure 2.6.4).
100 Truck warp occurs when the truck is skewed
80 ._._._..._..... so much that its side frames rotate relative to
the bolster in the vertical plane and both
g so
s wheel sets develop large angles of attack
g 40 ._.........
relative to the rails. The large angles of attack
from the wheel sets of a warped truck often
NOORlNO MILDGRINDMODERATE GRIN0 generate large gauge spreading forces.

Figure 2.6.6 Preliminary High Face Gauge

Wear Measurements Wheel/Rail Interface Profiles and
Potential Derailments
The implementation of the AAR-IB wheel Wheel and rail profiles play major roles in
profile has reduced the wear of new wheels. flange climb and rail rollover or wide gauge
However, stricter new wheel profile derailments. The MR recently performed
maintenance practices are required to tests to better understand the factors that
minimize deterioration of wheel profile influence the propensity of a wheel set to
performance from tread wear. For example, climb the rail. These factors include lateral
Figure 2.6.7 shows the profile of a new AAR- and vertical wheel force ratios, wheel set
1B wheel hollow worn from revenue service. angle of attack, wheel/rail flange contact
Although the worn wheel tread appears to be angle, and friction.
excessively hollow, the wheel is not
condemnable under current AAR limits. The test demonstrations were conducted on a
233-meter (7&I-foot) radius track curve for the
The ability of worn wheels to properly guide, three different high rail profiles, as shown in
or steer, a railcar through curves is seriously Figure 2.6.8:
compromised by excessive tread hollowing. . “Heavy” gauge corner grinding
The AAR has recently demonstrated that in a . “Light” gauge corner grinding
233-meter (7Wfoot) radius track curve with l No grinding
heavy high rail gauge, corner grinding and
wheel sets with hollow profile will actually
produce forces that inhibit truck turning and
cause trucks to warp.

Liaht Rail Transit Vehicles

Figure 2.6.9 Truck Steering Moment and

Warp Angle from Demonstration

Figure 2.6.8 Three Rail Profiles Used in steering moment increased in the light and no-
AAR Demonstration grind zones, the truck warp angle improved.
At the point of maximum truck warp in the
A pair of instrumented wheel sets, with the heavy grind zone, the test truck produced a
hollow worn profiles shown in Figure 2.6.7, trackside lateral gauge spreading force of
were used in the trailing truck of a loo-ton 151,000 Newtons (34,000 pounds) Gauge
hopper car to measure the wheel/rail forces. spreading forces of this magnitude have the
potential to cause wide gauge or rail rollover
The primary measurements of interest were
derailments in weak track under certain
truck steering moments, truck warp angle, and
wheel set lateral forces. Truck steering
moments were measured to evaluate the
steering quality of a particular wheel/rail Special Trackwork and Hollow
profile combination. In Figure 2.6.9 the Worn Wheels
bottom curve shows the truck steering False flanges on hollow worn wheels cause
moment through the three test zones when excessive damage to switches, turnouts,
the running surfaces of the rails were dry and crossing frogs, and grade crossings compared
the gauge face of the high rail was lubricated. to properly tapered wheels. Hollow worn
In the figure, a positive steering moment acts wheels increase noise and vibration due to
to steer the truck into the curve, while a excessive impacting of the false flange on the
negative steering moment acts to resist truck wing rails and wide special trackwork
steering. The combination of hollow worn components.
wheel profiles and heavy rail gauge corner
grinding generated a large negative steering European switch point design does not
moment in the heavy grind zone. The consider the raised switch point concept;
steering moment improved dramatically in the therefore, the selection of a uniform or
mild and no-grind zones. graduated design is not a concern. However,
either raised switch point design, especially
The large negative steering moment caused level switch point design, can best improve
the test truck to warp in the heavy grind zone, operations through the regular maintenance of
as shown in the top curve of the figure. As the wheel truing, eliminating the false flange and
secondary batter caused by the false flange.
The standards for vehicle wheel maintenance
play an important part in the switch point

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

design and must be considered when wear rates on both wheels and rails due to the
contemplating wheel special trackwork switch decrease in overturning, creep, and climb
point interface. forces being exerted on the running rails.

For additional information on wheel false “Normal” trucks are configured as two parallel
flange and special trackwork switch point sets of wheels and axles locked in a
design with raised switch points, refer to rectangular frame. As this assembly travels
Section 6.53. through curves, the attempt by the inside and
outside wheels to remain parallel results in
significant forces being exerted by the wheels Truck Resistance with Hollow Worn
on the rails.
It was determined that trucks that warp in
The wheels attempt to overturn the rails, climb
curves, so that both wheel sets run in flange
the rails, and creep along the rails
contact with the high rail, have a higher rolling
resistance than trucks that steer properly in
curves. Also, trucks that exhibit a “diagonal” Rail systems designers have recognized that
wheel wear pattern-two diagonally opposite if successful steerable trucks could be
wheels are worn hollow while the other two developed, rail and wheel wear could be
are not-might have an increased rolling reduced. A major problem in achieving a
resistance on tangent track because two successful steerable truck or axle has been
diagonally opposite wheels would run in or the difficulty in developing a system that not
near flange contact. only permits steerability in curves, but also
retains stability (i.e. does not “hunt”) when
Test results indicate that, at 80 km/h (48 traveling on tangent track.
mph), the rolling resistance of the test truck
increased in the curve from approximately The self-steering principle has been
2600 to 7100 Newtons (600 to 1,600 pounds) successfully implemented in main line diesel-
when the wheel profile was changed from new electric freight locomotives using mechanical
to hollow worn. linkages that allow axle movement within the
truck frame. Successful designs based on
Transit agencies generally include wheel
rubber/steel chevron primary suspension
truing machines in their requirements for
systems have been achieved on commuter,
maintenance facilities. Therefore, severely intercity, and high speed trains, notably in
hollow worn wheels should not be a problem if Sweden.
conscientious wheel maintenance is
practiced. Hollow worn wheels would also be The rubber/steel chevron system has also
a severe detriment to the surrounding been applied successfully to light rail vehicles
surfaces in embedded track. both in Europe and the United States.

Some new design European vehicles,

2.655 Truck Resistance-Alternate
Approaches featuring 100% low-floor designs, are
The advantages of “radial” or “self-steering” effectively eliminating the conventional “four-
trucks have been demonstrated in a variety of wheel” truck, as we have known it. Instead
main line railroad and transit applications. various types of single axles and
These advantages usually appear as lower independently mounted wheels are being

Light Rail Transit Vehicles

If a light rail system is proposed that will utilize in the tire, and the distortion in the elastomer
radial steering or other unconventional at the high rail. The limiting flange provides
designs for wheels and axles, the vehicle and control of the lateral tire position. The figure
track designers should cooperatively also illustrates the inner wheel, wherein the
determine the impacts of such designs on restraining rail-to-wheel tire action actually
wheels and rails. opens the gap at the limiting flange Under
these conditions, the wheel tire is free to shift
to the limit of the elastomer distortion which is
equal to the lateral outside wheel shift beyond
the restraining rail flangeway width.
The standard for most LRV wheel designs
Wheel designers must consider transit
includes resilient wheels such as the Bochum
systems design criteria for guarded track
54, Bochum 84, SAB, and the Acousta-Flex
wherein the guard or restraining rail will place
wheel designs.
lateral restrictions on movement of the wheel
Observation of internal wheel wear at the out of the normal direction.
interface between the resilient wheel tire and
Notably, the resilient wheel designs for the
the center hub has indicated substantial
North American PCC cars were designed with
lateral deflection in the elastomer components
rigidity limits in both lateral directions.
as shown in Figure 2.7.1. Some resilient
Whether this was by design or accident is
wheel designs include a limiting flange that
controls the amount of lateral deflection when
the outside wheel actually bears against the
In addition, to accommodate the proposed
outside rail gauge face. On certain resilient
heavy wheel flanging due to sharp curvature
wheel designs the limiting flange is
and excessive vehicle mass, the tire and
unidirectional, controlling the lateral shift for a
wheel center component material and
typical outside wheel-to-rail force. The limiting
hardness should be reevaluated to provide
flange design does not consider the inner
wear-resistant faces.
wheel action, as normally there is no lateral
wheel restriction. Wheel squeal in curves has continually been
studied at the wheel/rail interface.
Most light rail track designs include guarded
Consideration must be given to wheel squeal
track on relatively sharp curves by providing a
caused by the limiting flange action,
restraining rail adjacent to the inner rail. The
guarding or restraining rail is positioned to 2.8 VEHICLES AND STATIONS-ADA
contact the inside face of the inside wheel of REQUIREMENTS
the vehicle in a curve. This action, in fact,
assists in steering the vehicle truck through ADA requires that public operators of light rail
the track curve. For additional information on transit systems make their transportation
guarded track, refer to Section 4.2.8. The services, facilities and communication
restraining rail action results in a force on the systems accessible to persons with
wheel in the direction opposite to the disabilities. New vehicles and construction of
customary wheel-rail gauge face flanging. facilities must provide the needed
Figure 2.7.1 illustrates and documents the
normal resilient wheel position, the lateral shift

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

2.8.1 Clearance and Tolerances Figure 2.8.1 outlines the general configuration
of the track-to-station platform interface with
To properly address ADA requirements, the desired installation tolerances. The
designers will consider all dimensional illustration references both embedded track
tolerances of the platform/vehicle interface, and direct fixation track designs that require
such as: construction of a permanent track bed in lieu
l Track-to-platform clearances of a ballasted section, which is subject to
l Vehicle-to-track clearances settlement and possible surface lift
l Vehicle dimensional tolerances, new/old requirements.
l Vehicle load leveling
The tight horizontal and vertical clearance
requirements between the vehicle door [I] Penn Machine Company. LRV Wheel
threshold and the platform edge impact the Profiles. Richard E. Trail, VP
construction of track. In order to maintain Transportation Letter dated July 3, 1996.
these tolerances, it may be necessary to 21 Leary, John F. “America Adopts Worn
structurally connect the track and the platform Wheel Profiles.” AAR Railway Gazette
This may best be accomplished using direct International, July 1990.
fixation track or embedded track with a
[3] Kalousek, Joe & Magel, Eric, Managing
structural slab connected to the platform
Rail Resources, AREA Volume 98,
Bulletin 760, May 1997.
Track design, station design, and vehicle [4] Professor Hermann Heumann,
design must comply with the requirements of Centenary Anniversary.
the ADA (1990). As a guideline, new light rail [5] Mace, Stephen E., Improving the
transit stations should be designed taking into Wheel/Rail Interface, Association of
consideration the ultimate ADA goal of American Railroads Railway Age,
providing access for persons with disabilities. October 1995.
Horizontally, these requirements include
providing platform edges that are within 75
millimeters (3 inches) of the edge of the
vehicle floor with the door in the open position.
Vertically, the vehicle floor elevation should be
level with or slightly higher than the station
platform elevation.

Light Rail Transit Vehicles





. 4 .







Figure 2.7.1 Resilient Wheel

Light Rail Track Design Handbook




I I/ - ----^ _^ \ / / TRUNCATED DOMES







f h:T; ;yRTA;LGAuGE L+;E,FT;;r$;













Figure 2.8.7 Design Guidelines: Track at Station Platform

Chapter 3-Light Rail Transit Track Geometry

Table of Contents



3.2 1 Minimum Tangent Length Between Curves 3-3
3 2.2 Vehicle Length Criteria 3-5
3.2.3 Speed Criteria, Vehicle and Passenger 3-5
3.2.4 Circular Curves 3-6
3.2 4.1 Compound Circular Curves 3-9 Reverse Circular Curves 3-l 0
3.2.5 Superelevation and Spiral Transition Curves 3-l 0 Superelevation 3-l 1
3.253 Spiral Transition Curves 3-l 3
3.253 1 Spiral Transition Curve Lengths 3-20
3.2.6 Speed, Curvature, and Superelevation: Theory .
and Basis of Criteria 3-21 Design Speed in Curves 3-21 Superelevation Theory 3-21 Actual Superelevation 3-22 Superelevation Unbalance 3-23 Determination of Curve Design Speed 3-24 Categories of Speeds in Curves 3-24 Overturning Speed 3-24 Safe Speed 3-25 Determination of Superelevation Unbalance
Values for Safe and Overturning Speeds 3-26 Easement Curves 3-26 Length of Easement Curves 3-26


3.3.1 Vertical Tangents 3-29
3.3.2 Vehicle Length Criteria 3-31
3.3.3 Vertical Grades 3-31
3.3.4 Vertical Curves 3-31 Vertical Curve Lengths 3-32
3.3.5 Vertical Curves, Special Conditions 3-32 Reverse Vertical Curves 3-32 Combined Vertical and Horizontal Curvature 3-32
3.3.6 Station Platform Alignment Considerations 3-33 Horizontal Alignment of Station Platforms 3-33 Vertical Alignment of Station Platforms 3-33
3 3.7 Joint LRT-Railroad/Freight Tracks 3-33
3.3 7.1 Horizontal Alignment 3-33

Light Rail Track Design Handbook Tangent Alignment 3-33 Curved Alignment 3-33
3.3.7 4 Superelevation 3-34 Spiral Transitions 3-34
3.3 7.6 Vertical Alignment of Joint Use Tracks 3-34 General 3-34
3 Vertical Tangents 3-34 Vertical Grades 3-35 Vertical Curves 3-35


3.4 1 Clearance Envelope 3-36
3 4.1.1 Vehicle Dynamic Envelope 3-36 Track Construction and Maintenance Tolerances 3-37
3 4.1.3 Curvature and Superelevation Effects 3-37
3 Curvature Effects 3-38
3 Superelevation Effects 3-39 Vehicle Running Clearance 3-39
3.4.2 Structure Gauge 3-40
3.4.3 Station Platforms 3-40
3.4.4 Vertical Clearances 3-41
3.4.5 Track Centers and Fouling Points 3-41


List of Figures
Figure 3.2.1 Horizontal Curve and Spiral Nomenclature 3-8

Figure 3.22 Supelevation Transitions for Reverse Curves 3-10

Figure 3.2.3 LRT Vehicle on Superelevated Track 3-22

Figure 3.2.4 Force Diagram of LRT Vehicle on Superelevated Track 3-25

Figure 3.3.1 Vertical Curve Nomencalture 3-30

Figure 3.4.1 Horizontal Curve Effects on Vehicle Lateral Clearance 3-38

Figure 3.4.2 Dynamic Vehicle Outline Superelevation Effect on

Vertical Clearances 3-39

List of Tables
Table 3.2.1 Alignment Design Limiting Factors 3-6

Table 3.2.2a Desired Superelevation and Minimum

Spiral Curve Length (Metric Units) 3-14

Table 3.2.2b Desired Superelevation and Minimum

Spiral Curve Length (English Units) 3-17

Table 3.2.3 Safe and Overturning Speed E, Limits 3-26


3.1 INTRODUCTION construction is an existing or abandoned

freight railway line. 1’1 The LRT vehicle is often
The most efficient track for operating any required to operate at speeds of 65 to 90 kph
railway is straight and flat. Unfortunately, (40 to 55 mph) through alignments that were
most railway routes are neither straight nor originally designed for FRA Class 1 or 2
flat. Tangent sections of track need to be freight operations; i.e , less than 45 kph (30
connected in a way that steers the train safely, mph)
ensuring that the passengers are comfortable
and the cars and track perform well together. General guidelines for the development of
This dual goal is the subject of this chapter. horizontal alignment criteria should be
determined before formulating any specific
The primary goals of geometric criteria for criteria. This includes knowledge of the
light rail transit are to provide cost-effective, vehicle configuration and a general idea of the
efficient, and comfortable transportation, while maximum operating speeds. An example of
maintaining adequate factors of safety with the latter is shown from an excerpt from the
respect to overall operations, maintenance, design criteria for one LRT system: [*I
and vehicle stability. In general, design
criteria guidelines are developed using “Except for areas where the LRT
accepted engineering practices and the operates within or adjacent to surface
experience of comparable operating rail transit streets, the track alignment shall be
systems. designed to accommodate the
maximum design speed of 90 kph (55
Light rail transit (LRT) geometry standards ~M-0. Physical constraints along
and criteria differ from freight or commuter various portions of the system,
railway standards, such as those described in together with other design limitations,
applicable sections of the American Railway may preclude achievement of this
Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way objective. Where the LRT operates
Association (AREMA) Manual, Chapter 5, in within or adjacent to surface streets,
several important aspects. Although the the maximum design speed for the
major principles of LRT geometry design are track alignment shall be limited to the
similar or identical to that of freight/commuter legal speed of the parallel street
railways, the LRT must be able to safely travel traffic, but shall not exceed 57 kph (35
through restrictive alignments typical of urban mph). In all areas, the civil design
central business districts, including rights-of- speed shall be coordinated with the
way shared with automotive traffic. Light rail normal operating speeds as provided
vehicles are also typically designed to travel on the train performance simulation
at relatively high operating speeds in program speed-distance profiles.
suburban and rural settings.
Where the LRT system includes at-
The LRT alignment corridor is often grade portions where light rail
predetermined by various physical or vehicles will operate in mixed traffic
economic considerations inherent to design with rubber-tired vehicles in surface
for urban areas One of the most common streets, the applicable geometric
right-of-way corridors for new LRT design criteria for such streets shall

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

be met in the design of the track performance requirements. This generally

alignment results in the following effects on the LRT
horizontal alignment and track superelevation
Where the LRT system includes areas designs:
where light rail vehicles will operate in . Minimum main line horizontal curve radius
joint usage with railroad freight traffic, on new LRT systems is approximately 25
the applicable minimum geometric meters (82 feet), depending on physical
design criteria for each type of rail restrictions and vehicle design.
system shall be considered and the
l Superelevation unbalance ranges from
more restrictive shall govern the
100 to 225 millimeters (4 to 9 inches),
design of the track alignment and
depending on vehicle design and
passenger comfort tolerance.[31 Vehicle
Criteria for the design of LRT and freight designs that can handle higher
railroad joint usage tracks are described later superelevation unbalance can operate at
in this section. higher speeds through a given curve
radius and actual superelevation
In addition to the recommendations presented combination. LRT superelevation
in the following sections, it should be noted unbalance is normally limited to 75
that combinations of minimum horizontal millimeters (3.0 inches); however, there
radius, maximum grade, and maximum are instances where 115 millimeters (4.5
unbalanced superelevation are to be avoided inches) have been implemented.
in the geometric design. a LRT spiral transition lengths and
superelevation runoff rates are generally
The following geometric guidelines are
shorter than corresponding
established to consider both the limitations of
freight/commuter railway criteria.
horizontal, vertical, and transitional track
geometry for cost-effective designs and the In determining horizontal alignment, four
ride comfort requirements for the LRT levels of criteria may be considered.[41 These
passenger. levels are based on a review of existing
design criteria documents, particularly those
with a combination of ballasted and
embedded main line trackwork:
l Main Line Desired Minimum-This
The horizontal alignment of track consists of a criterion is based on an evaluation of
series of tangents joined to circular curves maximum passenger comfort, initial
and spiral transition curves. In yards and construction cost, and maintenance
other non-revenue tracks, the requirement for considerations on main line ballasted and
spiral transition curve is frequently deleted. direct fixation track. It is used where no
Track superelevation in curves is used to physical restrictions or significant
maximize vehicle operating speeds wherever construction cost differences are
practicable. encountered. An optional preferred
minimum may also be indicated to define
An LRT alignment is often constrained by both the most conservative possible future
physical restrictions and minimum operating case; i e., maximum future operating

- LRT Track Geometry

speed for given conditions within the a programmed maintenance schedule, but
alignment corridor extensive use of absolute minimum design
criteria can result in eventual revenue service
Main Line Absolute Minimum-Where
degradation and unacceptable maintenance
physical restrictions prevent the use of the
main line desired minimum criterion, a
main line absolute minimum criterion is
The recommended horizontal alignment
often specified. This criterion is
criteria herein are based on the LRT vehicle
determined primarily by the vehicle
design and performance characteristics
design, with passenger comfort a
described in Chapter 2.
secondary consideration.
Main Line Embedded Track-Where the
LRT is operated on low-speed embedded 3.2.1 Minimum Tangent Length Between
track, with or without shared automotive Curves
traffic, the physical restrictions
The discussion of minimum tangent track
encountered require a special set of
length is related to circular curves (Section
geometric criteria that accommodates
3.2.4). The complete criteria for minimum
existing roadway profiles, street
tangent length will be developed here and
intersections, and narrow horizontal
referenced from other applicable sections.
alignment corridors that are typical of
urban construction.
The development of this criterion usually
Yard and Non-Revenue Track-This considers the requirements of AREMA
criterion is generally less than main line Manual, Chapter 5, which specifies that the
track, covering low-speed and low-volume minimum length of tangent between curves is
non-revenue service. The minimum equal to the longest car that will traverse the
criterion is determined primarily by the system.@] This usually translates into a
vehicle design, with little or no desired minimum criterion of 30 meters (100
consideration of passenger comfort. feet). Ride comfort criteria for transit systems
must be considered, however, and the
The yard and non-revenue track criteria may minimum length of tangent between curves is
not be valid for relatively high-volume tracks also given as:
such as yard main entrance leads. This
Li = 0.57v (LT = 3V)
criterion also must assume that work train
equipment will use the tracks. where:
L, = minimum tangent length in meters
It should be emphasized that the use of (feet)
absolute minimum geometric criteria, V = operating speed in kph (mph)
particularly for horizontal alignment, has
several potential impacts in terms of This formula is based on vehicle travel of at
increased annual maintenance, noise, and least 2 seconds on tangent track between two
vehicle wheel wear, and shorter track curves. This same criterion also applies to
component life. Its use should be circular curves, as indicated below. This
implemented with extreme caution. One or criteria has been used for various transit
two isolated locations of high track designs in the U.S. since BART in the early
maintenance may be tolerated and included in 1960s.[61 The desired minimum length

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

between curves is thus usually expressed as maximum vehicle coupler angle is exceeded,
an approximate car length or in accordance one practical solution to this problem is to
with the formula above, whichever is larger. waive the tangent track requirements between
curves if operating speeds are below 32 kph
Main line absolute minimum tangent length (20 mph) and no track superelevation is used
depends on the vehicle and degree of on either curve. r4]
passenger ride quality degradation that can be
tolerated. One criterion is the maximum truck For yards and in special trackwork, it is
center distance plus axle spacing; i.e., the usually not practicable to achieve the desired
distance from the vehicle front axle to the rear minimum tangent lengths AREMA Manual,
axle. In other criteria, the truck center Chapter 5, provides a series of minimum
distance alone is sometimes used. When tangent distances based on long freight car
spiral curves are used, the difference between configurations and worst-case coupler angles.
these two criteria is not significant. The use of the AREMA table would be
conservative for an LRT vehicle, which has
An additional consideration for ballasted much shorter truck centers and axle spacings
trackwork is the minimum tangent length for than a typical freight railroad car. As speeds
mechanized lining equipment, which is in yards are restricted and superelevation is
commonly based on multiples of IO-meter generally not used, very minimal tangent
(31-foot) chords. Very short curve lengths lengths are required between curves. It is
have been noted to cause significant also noted in the AREMA Manual that turnouts
alignment throw errors by automatic track and sidings can also create unavoidable short
lining machines during surfacing operations. tangents between reverse curves.
The IO-meter (31-foot) length can thus be
considered an absolute floor on the minimum Existing LRT criteria do not normally address
tangent distance for ballasted main line track minimum tangent lengths at yard tracks, but
in lieu of other criteria. leave this issue to the discretion of the
trackwork designer and/or the individual
The preceding discussion is based on reverse transit agency. To permit the use of work
curves. For curves in the same direction, it is trains and similar rail mounted equipment, it is
preferable to have a compound curve, with or prudent to utilize the AREMA minimum
without a spiral transition curve, than to have tangent distances between reverse curves in
a short length of tangent between the curves yard tracks.
This condition, known as a “broken back”
curve, does not affect safety or operating Having reviewed the various criteria for
speeds, but does create substandard ride tangents between reverse curves, it is now
quality. As a guideline, curves in the same possible to summarize typical guideline
direction should preferably have no tangent criteria for light rail transit:
between curves or, if required, the same Main Line Preferred
minimum tangent distance as that applicable Minimum (Optional) The greater of either,
to reverse curves. LT = 60 meters (200 feet) or
LT = 0.57v
In embedded trackwork on city streets and in where: LT = minimum
other congested areas, it may not be feasible tangent length (meters)
to provide minimum tangent distances V = maximum operating
between reverse curves. Unless the speed (kph)

LRT Track Geometry

Main Line Desired 3.2.2 Vehicle Length Criteria

Minimum The greater of either
LT = length of LRT vehicle Refer to Sections 1.3 and 2.2 of this handbook
over couplers (meters) or LT for a discussion and data regarding vehicle
= 0 57V length. Criteria for vehicle length are set not
where. LT = minimum only by the vehicle capacity requirements, but
tangent length (meters) also by clearance and track curvature
V = maximum operating considerations
speed (kph)
Note: The LRT vehicle The type of vehicle, whether articulated or
length over couplers is often low-floor, will also affect its overall length,
rounded up to 30 meters truck center spacing, axle spacing, and center
(100 feet). of gravity, all of which have an impact on the
Main Line Absolute track alignment.
Minimum: The greater of either
LT = 9.5 meters (31 feet) or
LT = (Vehicle Truck Center 3.2.3 Speed Criteria, Vehicle and
Distance) + (Axle Spacing) Passenger
Main Line
Embedded Track
LT = 0 meters, where The speed criteria for curved track is
vehicle coupler angle limits determined by carefully estimating passenger
are not exceeded, speed is comfort and preventing undue forces on the
less than 32 kph (20 mph),
and no track superelevation trackwork, vehicle trucks/wheels, and vehicle
is used frames. Vehicle stability on curved track is
or LT = main line absolute also an important consideration in the
minimum determination of LRT speed criteria.
Yard and Non-
Revenue Track: The lesser of either, In general, the limiting factors of the major
LT = 9.5 meters (31 feet) or alignment design components can be
LT = 0 meters (0 feet) for classified as shown in Table 3.2.1.
Rs290 meters (955 feet)
LT = 3.0 meters (10 feet) for As indicated in previous sections, LRT
Rs250 meters (818 feet) operating speeds are generally in the range of
LT = 6.1 meters (20 feet) for 65 to 90 kph (40 to 55 mph), except on
R>220 meters (716 feet) embedded trackwork. Separate geometric
LT = 7.6 meters (25 feet) for criteria are recommended for these
Rsl95 meters (637 feet) conditions. Restricted operating speeds are
LT = 9.1 meters (30 feet) for always possible along the alignment corridor,
Rsl75 meters (573 feet) but proposed design speeds below 60 kph (40
Note: Where absolutely generally create unacceptable
necessary, the Main Line constraints to the train control design and
Embedded Track criteria proposed operations.
may also be applied.

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

Table 3.2.1 Alignment Design Limiting Factors

Alignment Component Major Limiting Factors(s)

Minimum Length between Curves . Passenger comfort
l Vehicle truck/wheel forces
Circular Curves (Minimum Radius) l Trackwork maintenance
l Vehicle truck/wheel forces
Compound and Reverse Circular Curves l Passenger comfort
l Vehicle frame forces
Spiral Transition Curve Length 0 Passenger comfort
l Trackwork maintenance
Superelevation . Passenger comfort
l Vehicle stability
Superelevation Runoff Rate 0 Passenger comfort
l Vehicle frame forces
Vertical Tangent between Vertical l Passenger comfort
Vertical Curve/Grade . Passenger comfort
(Maximum Rate of Change) l Vehicle frame forces
Special Trackwork 0 Passenger comfort
l Trackwork maintenance
Station Platforms l Vehicle clearances
l ADA platform gap requirements
Joint LRT/Freight RR Usage l Trackwork maintenance
l Compatibility of LRT and freight vehicle

3.2.4 Circular Curves curvature is defined entirely in English units

and has no direct equivalent in metric units.
Intersections of horizontal alignment tangents
are connected by circular curves. The curves For conversion of existing alignment curve
may be simple curves or spiraled curves, data calculated in English units, particularly
depending on the curve location, curve radius, those based on the degree of curvature, it is
and required superelevation. most efficient to determine the radius in
English units, then convert to metric.
LRT alignment geometry differs from freight
railroad (AREMA) design in that the arc is As a guideline for LRT design, curves should
used to define circular curves and the be specified by their radius. Degree of
associated spirals. Also, curves for LRT curvature, where required for calculation
designs are generally defined and specified by purposes, should be defined by the arc
their radius rather than degree of curvature. definition of curvature as determined by the
This becomes an important distinction when following formula:
designing in metric units, as the degree of

LRT Track Geometry

In some locations, such as aerial structures

and tunnels, maintenance vehicle and
equipment access must also be considered in
where, D = degree of curvature, in decimal degrees the selection of minimum horizontal curve
R = radius of curvature, in meters (feet) criteria.
Circular curves for LRT design are, as noted
The desired minimum curve radius is set at
above, defined by curve radius and arc of
the threshold limit for restraining rail, as
curve length. The geometric properties of the
determined from Chapter 4 herein. In most
circular curve are summarized in Figure
cases, this is around 150 meters (500 feet). A
secondary limit is considered for main line
The minimum curve radius is determined by track, where rail guarding can control
the physical characteristics of the vehicle. excessive maintenance and wheel squeal.
Although steerable trucks or “stiff truck Embedded track and yard track have far less
designs have an impact on minimum rigid criteria, as vehicle speeds on these
allowable track curve radius, the minimum tracks are generally limited to 25 kph (16
radius is more severely affected by the mph).
distance between vehicle truck centers and
Embedded main line track is normally
truck axle spacing.
permitted to be constructed at absolute
For most modern LRV designs, whether high- minimum radii as a concession to the extreme
or low-floor, the most common absolute alignment restrictions in urban areas.
minimum radius appears to be 25 meters (82 However, rail-mounted maintenance
feet). This is considerably larger than the ? ?- equipment, particularly work locomotives,
to 12-meter (36- to 40-foot) track radius that must be able to operate on these tracks The
can be negotiated by a tram or PCC type use of absolute minimum radius curves should
vehicle The 25meter track radius is still be thus restricted to main line terminal loops
sufficient, however, to permit at-grade and yard turnaround or bypass tracks. ~1
alignments in urban areas while maintaining
In view of the design considerations indicated
an adequate vehicle capacity.
above, guideline criteria for modern LRV
It is easier to maintain track on tangent equipment are as follows for minimum curve
alignments than on curves, and there is a radii:
curve radius threshold below which it Main Line Desired Minimum, 150 meters
becomes extremely expensive to maintain except Embedded Track: (500 feet)
track components. In addition, the probability Main Line Absolute Minimum, 150 meters
of wheel squeal increases dramatically on Aerial Structures and (500 feet)
smaller radius curves. The use of restraining Tunnels:
rail or girder guard rail as discussed in Main Line Absolute Minimum, 90 meters
Chapter 4 of this handbook can reduce the Ballasted At-Grade: (300 feet)
severity of some of these track problems to Main Line Embedded Track, 35 meters
tolerable levels, but at a relatively high initial Desired Minimum: (115 feet)

LightRailTrackDesign Handbook






X5’ L,(,--.-- 8s 82 -...85 ) Ls - 2RB,
10 216 9360
-7 3 82 7 1 Ls
0s. TF
y,- L, (---*-8s 0s --... *s )
Ts - (R*p) ton + - k 3 42 1320 75600 L.T. .
2 4 6 xs - - ys
ton 0s
(R.p) (1 - 1) . p 1 8s 8, 0s
Es - k -Ls +-y----~-~-~-.~ ST.- -%
co5 a sn 85
AC A- 2R5 3 5
- x 100 .
Lc -
x 100 p -Ls (---.-.0s 0s 0s )
12 336 15840

Figure 3.2.1 Horizontal Curve and Spiral Nomenclature

LRT Track Geometry

Main Line Embedded Track, 25 meters Compound Circular Curves

Absolute Minimum. (82 feet) The criterion for compound circular curves is
Yard and Non-Revenue 30 meters similar to that of the tangent-to-curve
Track, Desired Minimum: (100 feet) transition described in Section 3 2.5
Yard and Non-Revenue 25 meters Although generally less severe, they must still
Tracks, Absolute Minimum (82 feet) address the dual objectives of passenger
comfort and vehicle structural design in
The minimum circular curve length is dictated torsion
by ride comfort and is hence, unlike minimum
tangent length, not related to vehicle physical A transition spiral should be used at each end
characteristics. The desired minimum circular of a superelevated circular curve and between
curve length is generally determined by the compound circular curves. Where compound
following formula: curves are used, they should be connected by
a spiral transition curve. The desired
L = 0.57V (L = 3V)
minimum main line spiral length is the greater
where: L = minimum length of curve, in of the lengths as determined by the following:
meters (feet)
LS =0.38(E,2 -E,,) (Ls =31(E,2 -Ea,))
V = design speed through the curve,
in kph (mph) Ls =0.006 (E,2 -E,,)V (Ls =0.82(Eu2 -E”,)V)
Ls =0.008 (Ea2 -E&V (Ls =l.10(Ea2 -% 4
For spiraled circular curves, the length of the
circular curve added to the sum of one-half
the length of both spirals is an acceptable where Ls = minimum length of spiral, in
method of determining compliance with the meters (feet)
above criteria in areas of restricted geometry. E, = actual superelevation of the
The absolute minimum length of a first circular curve in
superelevated circular curve should be 15 millimeters (inches)
meters (45 feet). E,= actual superelevation of the
second circular curve, in
Curves that include no actual circular curve millimeters (inches)
segment (e.g., double:spiraled curves) should E,, = superelevation unbalance of
be permitted only in areas of extremely the first circular curve, in
restricted geometry (such as embedded track millimeters (inches)
in an urban area), provided no actual E,= unbalanced superelevation
superelevation (E,) is used and prior authority of the second circular curve,
approval is obtained. This type of alignment is in millimeters (inches)
potentially difficult to maintain for ballasted V = design speed through the
track. circular curves, in kph (mph)

The design speed for a given horizontal curve The absolute minimum spiral curve on main
should be based on its radius, length of spiral line tracks, as well as the minimum criteria for
transition and actual and unbalance yard and non-revenue tracks, is as follows,
superelevation through the curve as described corresponding to LRV torsion limits:
in the following sections.
L, = 2 6% - L,) U-s = 31 (E, - ‘2))

Light Rail Track Design Handbook Reverse Circular Curves

Where an extremely restrictive horizontal
geometry makes it impossible to provide
sufficient tangent length between reversed
supereievated curves, the curves may meet at
a point of reverse spiral. This tends to violate
ride quality and vehicle structure criteria. As a Figure 3.2.2 Supelevation Transitions for
guideline, the point of reverse spiral should be Reverse Curves
set so that:
Ls, L = Ls2 L, increased ballast section width at the point of
the reverse spiral and possible increased
where E,, = actual superelevation applied clearance requirements. Such issues must be
to the first curve in millimeters investigated in detail before incorporation in
(inches) the design
Ea = actual superelevation of the
second circular curve, in In conclusion, the use of reversed spirals
millimeters (inches) should be restricted to low speed operation.
L Sl = the length of the spiral leaving As a guideline, a reasonable criterion for the
the first curve in meters (feet) use of reversed spirals is given below: r2]
L s2 = length of the spiral entering
second curve in meters (feet) “On embedded tracks in city streets, if
alignment constraints make providing
A minimum separation of 1.0 meter (3.3 feet) a tangent between two superelevated
between the spirals is acceptable in lieu of spiraled reversed curves impossible,
meeting at a point of reversal. a tangent shall not be required
provided that the operating speed is
It is entirely possible to have reverse spirals limited so that the lateral acceleration
and remain within acceptable ride comfort is held to a maximum of 0.10 g.”
criteria. This is indeed the practice for
European interurban railway alignments and is Refer to Section 3.2.1 for additional
occasionally incorporated in North American discussion on minimum tangent distances
practice.161 However, the spiral lengths between curves.
required for reverse spirals to maintain ride
comfort are significantly longer than normally
considered in LRT design. 3.2.5 Superelevation and Spiral Transition
The superelevation transition between reversed
spirals is usually accomplished by sloping both The permissible speed at which a rail-
rails of the track throughout the entire transition mounted vehicle negotiates a curve may be
spiral as shown on Figure 3.2.2. Note that increased by increasing the elevation of the
through the transition, both rails will be at an outside rail of the track, creating a banking
elevation above the theoretical profile grade line. effect called superelevation. This
This method of superelevation transition creates superelevation serves to counteract the
additional design considerations, including an centrifugal force acting radially outward on the
vehicle as it travels through the

LRT Track Geometry

For a given curve radius, the permissible Equilibrium superelevation is the amount of
operating speed can be increased by superelevation that would be required to make
physically increasing the elevation of the the resultant force from the center of gravity of
outside rail of the curve, known as actual the light rail vehicle perpendicular to the plane
superelevation; or allowing the operating of the two rails and halfway between them at a
speed to exceed a lateral equilibrium force given speed. If a curved track is
condition, known as superelevation superelevated to achieve equilibrium at a
unbalance. The latter is defined as the given speed, a light rail vehicle passenger
superelevation that would be required to would experience no centrifugal force through
restore an operating vehicle to an equilibrium the curve at that speed. Equilibrium
steady state condition. superelevation is usually determined by either
of the following equations:
For vehicle operation in both actual
superelevation and superelevation unbalance, Eq=Ea+EU=ll 7 Eq=Ea+Eu’396
there must be a transition to either zero
superelevation or a different superelevation
The logical method
this transition on a circular
of E, = 0.0067V2
D Eq=0.00069V2
E, = equilibrium superelevation, in
curve with actual superelevation (and/or
millimeters (inches)
superelevation unbalance) is to utilize a spiral
E, = actual track superelevation to
curve with a gradually increasing radius to
be constructed in millimeters
tangent track, or a different horizontal curve
E, = unbalance superelevation, in
Actual superelevation is generally applied (run millimeters (inches)
V = design speed through the
off) linearly throughout the length of the
transition curve. As the rate of superelevation curve in kph (mph)
R = radius of curve in meters (feet)
run off is necessarily limited by passenger
D = degree of curve in decimal
comfort considerations, the transition curve
length is determined by the length necessary degrees
[Note previous comments on the use of
to run off either the actual superelevation or
degree of curvature with metric units.]
superelevation unbalance.

In practice, full equilibrium superelevation (E,) Superelevation is rarely installed in track. This would require
Main line tracks are designed with excessively long spiral transition curves. It
superelevations that permit desired design could also produce passenger discomfort on a
speeds to be achieved without resorting to train that is moving much slower than the
excessively large curve radii. Note that due to design speed or stopped in the middle of a
local constraints, the design speed may be steeply superelevated curve. Therefore, only
less than either the system maximum speed a portion of the calculated equilibrium
or the maximum possible speed for a curve of superelevation (E,) is commonly installed as
a given radius. The design speed criteria actual superelevation (E,). The difference
stated below are based on a maximum lateral between the equilibrium and actual
passenger acceleration of 0.10 g. superelevation is called superelevation
unbalance (E,). Most curves will be designed

3-l 1
Light Rail Track Design Handbook

with some combination of actual and and divide the total equally between actual
unbalanced superelevation. and unbalanced superelevation; i.e., (E, =
EJ2) and (E, = EJ2). Where E, reaches its
Three strategies are generally employed to maximum value (see below), the remaining
apply the combination of actual superelevation portion of the total equilibrium superelevation
and superelevation unbalance: (E,) is applied to the actual superelevation
1. No (or minimal) superelevation unbalance 03
is applied until actual superelevation (E,)
reaches the maximum allowable level. As a practical matter for construction, curves
Actual superelevation is thus equal to the with a large radius in comparison to the
equilibrium superelevation for most desired operating speed should not be
curves. Under ideal conditions, where all superelevated. This can be accomplished by
vehicles operate at the same maximum not applying actual superelevation (E,) until
speed and do not stop (or slow down) on the calculated total equilibrium superelevation
curves, this strategy creates the least (E,) is over a minimum value, usually 12 to 25
amount of passenger and vehicle lateral millimeters (0.05 to 1 .OO inches).
acceleration for a given transition curve
length. Under less than ideal operating Desired values of actual superelevation (E,)
conditions, however, the minimum can be determined from the following formula:
superelevation unbalance strategy
produces unfavorable ride comfort E, =X35(+6.7 ka =2.64[;)-0.66]
2. Maximum superelevation unbalance is
applied before any actual superelevation The desired relationship between E, and E,
is considered. This option is used by can thus be defined as:
freight and suburban commuter railroads.
Where a wide variety of operating speeds E, ,25_E,
are anticipated on the curved track, 2
particularly on joint LRT-freight trackage,
this strategy is usually the least disruptive Use of the above equation will result in the
to passenger comfort. gradual introduction of both actual and
unbalanced superelevation and avoid
3. Actual superelevation W and
unnecessary lateral acceleration of light rail
superelevation unbalance (E,) are applied
vehicles and their passengers. Calculated
equally or in some proportion. Because a
values for actual superelevation should be
certain amount of superelevation
rounded to the nearest 5 millimeters (0.25
unbalance, applied gradually, is generally
inch). For a total superelevation (E, + E,) of
considered to be easily tolerated by both
25 millimeters (1 inch) or less, actual
vehicle and passenger and tolerable
superelevation (E,) is not usually applied. In
superelevation unbalance increases with
specific cases where physical constraints limit
speed, this strategy is preferred for
the amount of actual superelevation (E,) that
general usage.
can be introduced, a maximum of 40
One method used to apply the combination of millimeters (1.5 inches) of superelevation
actual and unbalanced superelevation is to unbalance (E,) can be permitted before
find the total equilibrium superelevation (E,) applying any actual superelevation (E,).

LRT Track Geometrv

Actual superelevation (E,) is usually set so In areas of mixed traffic operation with
that trains will have a positive superelevation roadway vehicles, the desired location for a
unbalance (E,) on curves where speed is pavement crown is at the centerline of track.
likely to vary. Negative E, is not tolerated well Where this is not feasible, a maximum
by passengers. Table 3.2.2 provides desired pavement crown of 2.0% (l/4 inch per foot)
values of actual superelevation recommended across the rails may be maintained in the
for LRT alignment calculations. Other street pavement to promote drainage. This
combinations of E, and E, should be used practice will normally introduce a constant
only where physical restrictions make the use actual superelevation (E,) of approximately 25
of desired values prohibitive or impractical millimeters (1 inch). If, at curves, the street
pavement is neither superelevated nor the
Actual superelevation (E,) should be attained crown removed, this crown-related
and removed linearly throughout the full length superelevation may also dictate the maximum
of the spiral transition curve by raising the allowable operating speed.
outside rail while maintaining the inside rail at
the profile grade. One exception to this On curved track, this 25 millimeters (1 inch)
method of superelevation is sometimes could be either positive or negative,
employed in tunnels with direct fixation tracks, depending on which side of the roadway
where superelevation is achieved by rotating crown line the track is located. In such cases,
the track section about the centerline. This is in order to minimize the need to extensively
undertaken to reduce vertical clearance regrade street pavements, which could affect
requirements. curb reveal heights and other civil features,
the superelevation unbalance should be
Maximum values of actual superelevation can maximized prior to the introduction of any
be as high as 200 to 250 millimeters (8 to 10 additional actual superelevation. Thus, a
inches). Superelevation unbalance values of normal pavement crown would retain an
150 millimeters (6 inches) are not actual superelevation (E,) of 25 millimeters (1
unreasonable for LRT vehicle designs.P1 inch) until a calculated superelevation
While these values are achievable by specific unbalance (E,) of 75 millimeters (3 inches) is
light rail vehicle designs, it is much more reached. At this point, either a limit is placed
common for actual superelevation to be on the LRT design speed or the pavement
limited to 150 millimeters (6 inches) and crown design is revised.
unbalanced superelevation to 115 millimeters
(4.5 inches). This limit equates to the 0.1 g
limit that passengers can tolerate comfortably. Spiral Transition Curves
Spiral transition curves are used to gradually
As a guideline, the recommended maximum build into the superelevation of the track and
values for actual and superelevation limit lateral acceleration during the horizontal
unbalance are as follows: transition of the light rail vehicle as it enters
the curve.
Superelevation Maximum Values:
E, = 100 mm (4 inches) desired, 150 mm (6
inches) absolute
E, = 75 mm (3 inches) desired, 115 mm (4.5
inches) absolute

3-l 3
Table 3.2.2a Desired Superelevation and Minimum Spiral Curve Length (Metric Units)
VEL.(kph) 26 27 -1 40 15 I1 50 1I 55 1 60 1 65 1 70 1 75 1 80 1 86 1 90 1 96 1 100 1 110 1 120 1 130 1140 1 150 1 160 1 170 1 180 200 220 240 260
15 1 Ea 55 50 45 35 30 1 25 1 20 [ 20 I 15 15 10 10 0 0 00

1 Ls 22 20 16 18 18 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 -4
20 1 Ea 1 110 II00 1 go 1 75 1 65 1 55 1 50 1 45 1 40 1 35 1 30 1 30 1 25 1 25 1 20 1 20 1 15 1 15 1 IO 1 IO 1 IO 1 5 1 5 1 5 1 5 1 0 1 0 1 0 lo 1
Ls 42 40 36 30 26 22 20 18 18 18 18 18 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 18 18 18
25 Ea Min. R = 150 I125 1 110 95 85 75 70 60 1, 55 1 50 45 1 45 1 40 1 35 1 35 1 30 1 25 1 25 1 20 1 20 1 15 1 15 1 15 10 10 5 5
Ls 58 1 48 1 42 38 34 30 28 24 1 22 1 20 , III,v I, IR
,v I, IR
,v I, IR
mu I, 111
.w I, 18
._ 1, IR
._ I, IR._ I, IR,_ I, 18
,_ ,1 '*10 ,1 '*IU ,1 I*IU 18 18 18 16

30 Ea
Min.R=43m 145
1 85
1 80
1 75
1 70
1 65
1 60
1 55
1 50
1 45
1 40
18 -7q-x
1 35 1 35 1 30 1 25 1 25 20
35 Ea Min.R= 58m 145 135 125 115 105 100 95 85 80 75 65 60 35 30 25 25
Ls 56 52 46 44 40 40 36 34 32 30 26 24 1 18 I IR IR 18 18 IR

40 Ea Min.R=76m 145 135 125 120 110 100 90 80

Ls 56 52 48 46 42 40 36 32
45 Ea Min.R=96m 145 130 120 110
Ls 56 50 46 42
60 Ea Min.R=118m 150 135
LS 62 56

1 60 1 Ea 1
1 64
1 60 1 56 1 54
1 48 1 42 1 38 1 34

Min.R= 170m 11~0 r145 I125 I115 II05 1 95

Ls 74 70 62 56 52 46
65 Ea Min.R=199m 150 135 125 115
Ls 1 60 1 72 66 60
70 Ea Min.R= 231 m 145 135

1 75 1 Ea I Min.R=265m

1 80 !Ea I Min.R= 302 m

85 Ea Min.R= 341 m
90 Ea Min.R= 382m
95 Ea Min.R=425m
100 Ea Min.R=471 m

3-14 .
50 Ea 55 50 45 45 40 35 35 35 30 30 25 25
Ls 24 22 20 20 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18
55 Ea 70 65 60 55 50 50 45 40 40 35 35 35
Ls 32 30 28 26 24 24 20 18 18 18 18 18
60 1 Ea I85 I80 I75 I70 I65 I60 I55 I55 I50 I45 I45 I40
ILs 142 140 138 I34 132 130 I28 I28
126 122 122 I20
65 Ea 105 95 90 85 80 75 I70 65 60 60 55 50
Ls 56 50 48 46 42 40 I38 34 32 32 30 28
70 Ea 125 115 105 100 95 85 80 75 75 70 65 65
Ls 72 66 60 58 54 48 46 44 44 40 38 38
75 Ea 145 135 125 115 110 100 95 90 85 80 80 75
Ls 88 82
76 70’
68 62 58 56 52 50 50 46
80 Ea Min.R= 1451135 125 120 110 105 100 95 90 85 75 70 70 65 65 60 60 60 55
Ls 94 I88 82 78 72 68 66 62 58 56 50 46 46 42 42 40 40 40 36
85 Ea R=341 m 145 135 130 120 115 ?I0 105 100 85 85 80 75 75 70 70 65 65
Ls 100 92 90 82 80 76 72 70 58 58 56 52 52 48 48 46 46
90 Ea R=382m 145 135 130 125 120 115 105 100 95 90 90 85 80 80 75 75
Ls 106 98 94 92 88 84 74 70 66 66 62 58 58 56 56
- 76
95 Ea R=425m ,145 140 135 125 115 110 110 105 100 95 95 90 85 85
Ls 112 108 104 96 88 84 84 80 78 74 74 70 66 66
100 Ea R=471m 150 145 130 125 120 115 110 110 105 100 100 95
Ls 122 118 106 102 98 94 90 90 86 82 82 78

VEL. kph)950 1000 1050 1100 1150 1200 1250 1300 1350 1400 1450
15 Ea 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
LS 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18
20 Ea 0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0
Ls 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18
25 Ea 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
LS 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 .- .- .- I -- I -- 1 --
30 Ea 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 olololo 0 0 0 0 0 00
-ix 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 i 18 1 18 1 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 0
35 Ea 0 IO IO IO IO IO IO IO IO IO IO IO IO lolo lo lo
181 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18- 1 18.- 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 IO
40 Ea 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 00,
Ls 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 0
45 Ea
50 Ea
55 7%
60 Ea
65 Ea 20 1 20 1 15 1 15 1 15 1 15 1 IO 1 IO I IO I 10 I IO
-ix 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18 1 18
70 Ea I 1 I I I 1 I I I I
Ls ,~1,~1,~1~1~1~1~1~1~1 - - - I”8- 1:- I
75 Ea 15 15 IO IO IO IO 5 0 I 0 I 0 I 0 lo
Ls 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 1 i8 l-8 l-i 1-i l-8 18 18 l-8 6
80 Ea 40 35 35 30 30 30 25 25 25 20 20 20 15 15 I 15 10 10 IO IO I IO !i 5 5 5 5 5 5 0
Ls 26 24 24 20 20 20 18 18 18 18 18 ;ij 1 iij 1 ;ij 1 ;i 1 ii 1 ii 1 ii 1 ii 1 ?i 1 18 1 18 1 l-8 1 l-8 1 18 1 l-8 1 18 16 I
Ea 45 45 40 35 35 35 30 30 30 25 25 25 20 20 15 15 15 15 IO IO IO IO IO 5 5 5 5 0
-6 32 32 28 24 24 24 22 22 22 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 0

Table 3.2.2b Desired Superelevation and Minimum Spiral Curve Length (English Units)


VEL. 82 90 100 110 120 130 150 175 200 225 250 275 300 350 400 450 500 550 600 650 700 750 800 900 100 110 120 130 140
(mph) 0 0 0 00

10 1 Ea 12.50 ~2.25~2.00~1.75~1.50~1.25~1.00~0.75~1.50~0.50~0.50~0.25~0.25~
I I I 1 I I
0 I
0 10 I
0 I
0 10 10 10 I 0 10 I
1 0 I I
0 10 I I
0 I
0 l-l
- 0
Ls 80 70 65 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60

15 Ea Min. 6.00 5.25 4.75 4.25 4.00 3.25 2.75 ~2~~~~~~~~i.50~1.~~~1.00~0.75~0.75(0.50)0.50)0.25~0.25~0.25~0.25~ 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 10 1

Ls 190 165 150 135 125 105 90 1 70 65 60 60 60 1 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60
20 Ea Min. R = 159 ft. 5.5014.50 4.00--I- 3.50--,----I 3.2512.7512.2512.00 1.75 1.50~1.25~1.00 1.00 0.75 0.75 0.50 0.5010.50
0.25 0.25 0.25 I
I --I -I I I I I I I I I I I I I I

175 1140) 1251 1101 1051 90 1 70 1 65 1 60 1 60 1 60 1 60 1 60 1 60 1 60 1 60 1 60 1 60 1 60 1 60 1 60 1 60


25 Ea Min. R = 248 ft. 6.00 5.25 5.00 4.00 3.50 3.00 2.75 2.25 2.00 2.00 1.75 1.50 1.50 1.25 1.00 0.75 0.75 0.50 0.50
Ls 190 165 160 125 110 95 90 70 65 65 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60

f-t. 5.25 4.50 4.00 3.50 3.25 3.00 2.75 2.50 2.25 2.00 1.75 1.50 1.25 1.25 1.00

Ls 225 205 185 165 155 145 130 120 100

Ea Min. R = 635 fi. 6.00 5.25 5.00 4.50 4.00 3.50 3.25 3.00 2.50 2.25
Ls 265 235 225 200 180 155 145 135 115 100

Ea Min. R = 803 ft. 5.25 4.75 4.25 3.75 3.50 3.25

Ls 260 240 215 190 175 165

Ea Min. R = 991 ft. 6.00 5.25 4.75 4.50 4.00

LS 335 290 265 250 225

Ea Min. R = 1199 ft. 6.00 5.50 5.00

Ls 365 335 305

Ea Min. R = 1427 ft.


Ea Min. R = 1675 ft.


Ls 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60
l5EaO 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ls 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60
20 EaO 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ls 60 60 60 60 60 60 CO 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60
25 Ea 0.50 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ls 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60
30 Ea 1.00 0.75 0.75 0.75 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ls 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60
35 Ea 1.50 1.25 1.25 1.25 1.00 1.00 1.00 0.75 0.75 0.75 0.75 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25 0 0 0 0
Ls 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60
40 Ea 2.25 2.00 1.75 1.75 1.50 1.50 1.25 1.25 1.25 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00 0.75 0.75 0.75 0.75 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25
Ls 100 90 80 80 70 70 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60
45 Ea 3.00 2.75 2.50 2.25 2.25 2.00 2.00 1.75 1.75 1.50 1.50 1.50 1.25 1.25 1.25 1.00 1.00 1.00 0.75 0.75 0.75 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50
Ls 150 140 125 115 115 100 100 90 90 75 75 75 65 65 65 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60
50 Ea 3.75 3.50 3.25 3.00 2.75 2.75 2.50 2.25 2.25 2.00 2.00 2.00 1.75 1.75 1.50 1.50 1.50 1.25 1.25 1.00 1.00 1.00 0.75 0.75 0.75
Ls 210 195 180 170 155 155 140 125 125 115 115 115 100 100 85 85 85 70 70 60 60 60 60 60 60
55 Ea 4.75 4.25 4.00 3.75 3.50 3.25 3.25 3.00 2.75 2.75 2.50 2.50 2.25 2.25 2.00 2.00 1.75 1.75 'I.50 1.50 1.50 1.25 1.25 1.00 1.00
Ls 290 260 245 230 215 200 200 185 170 170 155 155 140 140 125 125 110 110 95 95 95 80 80 65 65
60 Ea 5.75 5.25 5.00 4.75 4.50 4.00 4.00 3.50 3.50 3.25 3.25 3.00 3.00 2.75 2.75 2.50 2.25 2.25 2.00 2.00 1.75 1.50 1.50 1.50 1.25
Ls 380 350 335 315 300 265 265 235 235 215 215 200 200 185 185 170 150 150 135 135 120 100 100 100 85
65 Ea R = 1675fl. 6.00 5.50 5.25 5.00 4.50 4.50 4.25 4.00 3.75 3.75 3.50 3.25 3.25 3.00 3.00 2.75 2.50 2.25 2.25 2.00 2.00 1.75 1.75
Ls 430 395 380 360 325 325 305 290 270 270 255 235 235 215 215 200 180 165 165 145 145 130 130

(mph) 5000 5200 5400 5600 iO0 80001 8500

10 Ea 0 0 0 0 010 0 0
-- 60
-_ 60 I
1 60
-- 60
-- 60
-- *
Ea 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 I 0
I Ls 60 60 60 60
010 1 60 60 60 60 60160


I I .
60 1 60 1 0
35iEaI OlOlOlO~OlOlOlO 0 0
1 Ls 1 60 60 1 60 60 1 60 60 60 1 60
40 1 Ea i 0.25 0.25 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0

60 60 0
0.25 0 0
60 60 0
60 I Ea I 1.25 I I.25 I 1.00 I 1.00 I 0.75 I 0.75 I 0.75 I 0.50 0.25 0.25 0
Ls 85 85 70 70 60 60 60 60
65 Ea 1.50 1.50 1.50 1.50 1.00 1.00 1.00 0.75
LS 110 110 110 110 75 75 75 60

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

Horizontal spiral curves are broadly defined As a guideline, for a car with 7-meter (23-foot)
as curves with a constantly decreasing or truck centers, the minimum transition length
increasing radius proportional between either for a 75-mm (3-inch) superelevation is 21
a tangent and curve (simple spiral) or between meters (69 feet).
two curves (compound spiral).

There are many formulae that describe or Spiral Transition Curve Lengths
For LRT design, it is recommended that spiral
approximate the alignment that conforms to
the above definition. Various types of spirals transition curves should be clothoid spirals as
found in railway alignment design include depicted in Figure 3.2.1 and as
AREMA Ten Chord, PTUSEPTA, Cubic, mathematically defined by Hickerson. WI
Bartlett, Hickerson, clothoid, and ATEA. For Spirals should be used on all main line track
the spiral lengths and curvatures found in horizontal curves with radii less than 3,000
LRT, all of the above spiral formulae will meters (10,000 feet) wherever practicable.
generally describe the same physical
As a guideline, the recommended criteria for
alignment laterally to within several
the LRT transition spiral length, based on the
millimeters. The choice of spiral easement
theoretical development in the previous
curve type is thus not critical.
section, are presented herein.
It is important, however, to utilize only one of
It is recommended that the length of spiral be
the spiral types, and define it as succinctly as
at least 20 meters (60 feet). Where geometric
possible. Vague terms such as “clothoid
conditions are extremely restricted, such as in
spiral” should be clarified as more than one
unsuperelevated embedded track in a CBD
formula describes this type of spiral curve. A
area, the spiral length may be reduced to the
spiral transition curve that is most commonly
absolute minimum of 10 meters (31 feet). The
used in transit work is the Hickerson spiral.
minimum length of spiral should be the greater
Its main advantage is that it is well-defined in
of the lengths determined from the following
terms of data required for both alignment
formulae, rounded to the next even meter (or
design and field survey work.
5 feet).
Spiral curve length and superelevation runoff L, = 0.38 E, (L, = 31 E,)
are directly related to passenger comfort At L, = 0.006 VE, (L, = 0.82 E,V)
this point, it is useful to review the basis of L, = 0.008 VE, (L, = 1.10 E,V)
both superelevation theory and runoff rate.
where: E, = equilibrium superelevation in
There are a number of good explanations of
millimeters (inches)
the derivation of runoff theory; the references
L, = length of spiral in meters (feet)
at the end of this section contain extensive
E, = actual track superelevation to
background on the subject. r*-“l
be constructed in millimeters
While passenger comfort is a major (inches)
consideration, the designer must also limit the E, = unbalance superelevation in
rate of change in superelevation in a transition millimeters (inches)
curve to avoid overstressing the vehicle frame V = design speed through the
through twisting. In order to accomplish this, curve, in kph (mph)
the superelevation differential between truck
centers should not exceed 25 mm (1 inch).

LRT Track Geometry

A spiral is preferred, but not required, for yard 300-meter (1 OOO-foot) circular curve and
and secondary tracks where design speeds accelerate back to 1 IO kph (70 mph). The
are less than 16 kph (10 mph). Curves on same curve designed for a reduction to 70 kph
yard lead and secondary tracks that have (45 mph) requires a length of about 1 2
design speeds greater than 16 kph (10 mph) kilometers (0 75 miles). Therefore, it is
should have spiral transition curves and generally desirable to eliminate as many
superelevation speed restrictions as possible and to
maximize the design speed of all curves that
Under normal design conditions, must be designed with speed restrictions
superelevation should be introduced and run
off uniformly throughout the length of a spiral
transition curve In extraordinary cases, the Superelevation Theory
superelevation may be developed along the The design speed at which a light rail vehicle
tangent preceding the point of curvature (PC), can negotiate a curve is increased
or run off in the tangent immediately beyond proportionally by increasing the elevation of
the point of tangency (PT). The transition the outside rail of the track, thus creating a
length is then determined from the minimum banking effect called superelevation.
spiral length formulae presented herein. The
maximum amount of superelevation that is run When rounding a curve, a vehicle is subject to
off in tangent track should be no more than 25 centrifugal force acting radially outward. The
millimeters (1 inch). forces acting on the vehicle are illustrated in
Figure 3.2.3. To counteract the effect of the
centrifugal force (F,), the outside rail of a
3.2.6 Speed, Curvature, and curve is raised by a distance ‘e’ above the
Superelevation: Theory and Basis of inside rail. A state of equilibrium is reached in
Criteria which both wheels exert equal force on the
rails; i.e., where ‘e’ is sufficient to bring the
This section summarizes the basis of design resultant force (F,) to right angles with the
for speed, curvature, and superelevation. plane of the top of the rails.
This material is based on information provided
by Nelson al, but has been condensed and AREMA Manual, Chapter 5, gives the
modified as necessary for the specific following equation to determine the distance
application to current LRT designs and to that the outside rail must be raised to reach a
include the use of metric units. state of equilibrium, where both wheels bear
equally on the rails. Design Speed in Curves e-Bv2

The background for recommended standards
for actual superelevation, allowable
superelevation unbalance, easement curves, where, e = equilibrium superelevation in
and the length of superelevation runoffs will meters (feet)
be reviewed in this section. B = bearing distance of track in
meters (feet) usually 1.5 meters
It takes more than 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) for (5 feet).
a light rail vehicle to decelerate from 110 kph V = velocity in meters (feet) per
(70 mph) to 90 kph (55 mph), run through a second

Light Rail Track Design Handbook






D 1430
-orE=O 0069gD E=-
or E = 0 OOO$D

and conversely;

These are the standard equations for

equilibrium superelevation most commonly
used in track design.

Figure 3.2.3 LRT Vehicle on Superelevated Actual Superelevation
Track Most railway route design texts recommend
an absolute limit of 200 millimeters (8 inches)
g = force of gravity in meters per
of actual superelevation for passenger
second per second, or meters/set?
operations unless slow moving or freight
(feet per second per second, or
traffic is mixed with passenger traffic. As
noted previously, LRT superelevation is
r = radius in meters (feet)
generally limited to 150 millimeters (6 inches)
or less.
To convert these terms to common usage, ‘e’
in meters (feet) is expressed as ‘E’ in
All railroads administered by the Federal
millimeters (inches), ‘B’ is usually considered
Railroad Administration (FRA) are limited- to
to be 1524 millimeters (60 inches) on standard
150 millimeters (6 inches) of superelevation,
gauge track. ‘V’ in meters per second (feet
primarily because the FRA mandates that all
per second) is changed to ‘V’ in kph (mph). ‘g’
track that is a part of the nation’s general
is equal to 9.8 meterslsec? (32.2 feetlseti),
railroad system must be capable of handling
and ‘I-’ is replaced by 1746.379/D (5730/D) in
mixed traffic. Track that is not part of the
meters (feet), where ‘D’ is equal to the
general railroad system, or is used exclusively
decimal degree of curvature. The revised
for rapid transit service in a metropolitan or
formula is as follows.
suburban area, generally does not fall with the
jurisdiction of the FRA. This includes the vast
majority of LRT systems.

LRT Track Geometry

In view of the foregoing, railways that are not design speed calculations to avoid the effects
administered by the FRA may, when of persistent underspeed operation-including
appropriate, use up to 200 millimeters (8 passenger discomfort and excessive rail flow
inches) of actual superelevation on curved on the low (inside) rail of the curve.
track. This has been applied to at least two
North American transit systems. However, it Allowable superelevation unbalance varies
is more common to limit maximum actual among transit facilities. For instance, MTA
superelevation to 150 millimeters (6 inches) New York City Transit only allows 25
on LRT systems, as it becomes more difficult millimeters (1 inch), while the Delaware River
to consistently maintain ride comfort levels at Port Authority (Lindenwold High Speed Line)
higher actual superelevations. allows 115 millimeters (4.5 inches).
Generally, it is recognized that 75 to 115
millimeters (3 to 4.5 inches) of superelevation Superelevation Unbalance unbalance is acceptable for LRT operations,
The equations in the previous section are depending upon the vehicle design.
expressed in terms of a single equilibrium
speed. Light rail vehicles often run at different It should also be noted that Amtrak, with the
speeds on the same segment of track. The approval of the FRA, raised its superelevation
variance from the so-called balanced speed unbalance limit from 75 millimeters (3 inches)
concept is termed superelevation unbalance. to 115 millimeters (4.5 inches) for intercity
passenger trains.
Superelevation unbalance may be defined as
the difference between actual superelevation In Sweden, Norway, West Germany, and
and that superelevation required for true France, intercity railways commonly employ
equilibrium of the LRT vehicle traversing a from 100 to 150 millimeters (4 to 6 inches) of
curve. superelevation unbalance, and occasionally
use even higher unbalance for specific
If we call the superelevation unbalance E, and applications.
the actual applied superelevation E,, the
formulae from the previous section may be The AREMA Manual for Railway Engineering
restated as: (1985-86) states:

145 5(E, +Eu) 1430(E, + E, ) “Equipment designed with large
v2 = $ =
D D center bearings, roll stabilizers and
outboard swing hangers can negotiate
curves comfortably at greater than 75
millimeters (3 inches) of unbalanced
superelevation because there is less
body roll.” .,. “ If the roll angle is less
than lo-30’ experiments indicate that
and; cars can negotiate curves comfortably
at 115 millimeters (4.5 inches) of
E, = 0.0069 VD - E, [E, = 0 0007 VD - E,] unbalanced elevation.”

Limited superelevation unbalance is The preceding comments also generally apply

intentionally incorporated in most curve to LRT vehicles as well.

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

In other words, a curve without any actual different than the LRT vehicles described in
superelevation (E,) can be safely and Chapter 2.
comfortably negotiated at a velocity requiring
115 millimeters (4.5 inches) of superelevation. Categories of Speeds in Curves
A greater operating speed would result in an
Speed in curves may be categorized as
uncomfortable ride. Hence, a speed requiring
no more than 115 millimeters (4.5 inches) of
Overturning Speed: The speed at which
additional superelevation for equilibrium than
the vehicle will derail or overturn because
is actually used is within a range for
centrifugal force overcomes gravity.
comfortable speed. Actual superelevation for
maximum comfortable speed (E,) may be Safe Speed: The speed limit above which
expressed as: the vehicle becomes unstable and in great
danger of derailment upon the introduction
E, = 0.0069 VD - 115 [E, = 0.0007VD - 4.51 of any anomaly in the roadway.

Thus, if an LRT vehicle is of modern design, it Maximum Authorized Speed (MAS): The
speed at which the track shall be
is appropriate to use up to 115 millimeters (4.5
designed utilizing maximum allowable
inches) of superelevation unbalance as a
parameter in the design of track curves. actual superelevation and superelevation
It also should be noted, however, that a Signal Speed: The speed for which the
greater superelevation unbalance creates an signal speed control system is designed
increased impact on maintenance of vehicles Ideally, signal speed should be just a little
and track. Conversely, operation closer to faster than the speed at which an
balance speed results in a more comfortable experienced operator would normally
ride and less impact on the vehicle and track. operate the vehicle so that the automatic
Therefore, given equal speeds and overspeed braking system is not deployed
circumstances it is preferable to maximize unnecessarily.
actual superelevation and minimize
superelevation unbalance to reduce the Overturning Speed
effects of centrifugal force upon the When the horizontal centrifugal forces of
passengers, vehicles, track structures, and velocity and the effects of curvature overcome
roadbed. the vertical forces of weight and gravity,
causing the resultant to rotate about the Determination of Curve Design center of gravity of the vehicle and pass
beyond the bearing point of the track,
The calculation of design speed in curves is derailment or overturning of the vehicle will
dependent on the vehicle design and occur. This is diagrammed in Figure 3.2.4.
passenger comfort. In addition to the
Overturning speed is dependent upon the
preceding guidelines, curve design speed can
height of the center of gravity above the top of
be determined from the following principles if
the rail (h) and the amount that the center of
specific vehicle performance characteristics
gravity moves laterally toward the high rail (x)
are known. This analysis is also necessary if
the vehicle dimensions are significantly

LRT Track Geometry

(145.5)(150 + 854)
Overturning Speed V =
= 170.9 kph (106 mph)
Obviously, overturning speed should be far in
excess of the curve’s maximum authorized
speed Safe Speed

It is generally agreed that a rail vehicle is in a
stable condition while rounding a curve if the
resultant horizontal and vertical forces fall
within the middle third of the distance between
the wheel contact points. This equates to the
middle 508 millimeters (20 inches) of the
Figure 3.2.4 Force Diagram of LRT Vehicle
1524-millimeter (60-inch) bearing zone ‘B’
on Superelevated Track
indicated in Figure 3.2.4.
The formula for computing superelevation
Safe speed is that arbitrary condition where
unbalance for ‘Overturning Speed E,’ is
the vehicle force resultant projection stays
derived from the theory of superelevation:
within the one-third point of the bearing
distance. That speed is entirely dependent
Overturning Speed E, = Be/h
upon the location of the center of gravity,
where: B = rail bearing distance = 1524 which is the height above the top of rail ‘h’ and
millimeters (60 inches) the offset ‘x’ of the center of gravity toward the
e = B/2-x outside rail. From the theory of
h = height of center of gravity = 1270 superelevation, we derive the formula for
millimeters (50 inches) computing superelevation unbalance for
maximum safe speed ‘E,‘:
If ‘x’ = 50 mm (2 in.), then e = (1524/2) - 50 =
712 millimeters (28 inches) Safe Speed E, = Be/h
then: where: B = rail bearing distance = 1524
millimeters (60 inches)
(1524)(712) e = B/6 - x. If ‘x’ = 50 mm (2 in.),
Overturning Speed E, =
1270 then e = (1524/6) - 50 = 204 millimeters
= 854 millimeters
(8 inches)
(33.6 inches)
h = height of center of gravity =
and 1270 millimeters (50 inches)
Overturning Speed V = then
SafeSpeed Eu =
For example, if ‘E; is given as 150 millimeters 1270
(6 inches) and the decimal degree of = 245 millimeters
curvature ‘D’ is equal to 5.00°, then (9.6 inches)

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

and Using the example of a typical transit car with

a center of gravity shift/height of 63.5
mm/l270 mm, an ‘Eu’ of 229 millimeters (9
MaximumSafeSpeed V =
f--v inches) for safe speed and an ‘E,’ of 838
millimeters (33 inches) for overturning speed
Using the example given for overturning are calculated. MAS and signal speed can
speed, if ‘E,’ is given as 150 millimeters (6 then be determined from the safe speed
inches) and the decimal degree of curvature results.
‘D’ is equal to 5.00”, then: Easement Curves
(145.5)(150 + 245) Superelevated circular curves usually require
Maximum Safe Speed V = easement curves to control the rate of lateral
d 5
acceleration exerted upon the track, the
= 107kph (66.5 mph)
passengers, and the vehicle. Easement Determination of Superelevation curves are usually spirals with radii changing
Unbalance Values for Safe and from infinity to the radius of the circular curve.
Overtorning Speeds Spiral curves also provide the ramp for
Table 3.2.3 lists reasonable values for ‘E,’ for introducing superelevation into the outside rail
safe speed and overturning speed for various of the curve. Superelevation is normally
equipment characteristics. For reference, a runoff entirely within the spiral curve.
typical transit car has a typical center of
gravity shift (x) and height (h) of 63.5 mm and Length of Easement Curves
1270 mm, respectively, and a freight train
Safety and comfort will usually limit operating
diesel locomotive has a typical ‘x’ and ‘h’
speed and dictate the length of transition
values of 75 mm and 1575 mm, respectively.
spirals. As a general rule, any speed and

Table 3.2.3
Safe and Overturning Speed E, Limits

LRT Track Geometrv

transition that provides a comfortable ride Converting to kilometers per hour (miles per
through a curve is well within the limits of hour) the formula may be expressed as

L,(meters) = V (kph)gx 3.33

Determining easement curve length allows for
establishment of superelevation runoff within
= 0.925V (kph)
the allowable rate of increase in lateral
acceleration due to cant deficiency [Ls(feet) = 4.89V (mph)]
(superelevation unbalance). Also, the
transition must be long enough to limit Assuming that 115 millimeters (4.5 inches) is
possible racking of the vehicle frame and the maximum allowable superelevation
torsional forces from being introduced to the unbalance, a formula to determine the length
track structure by the moving vehicle. of the spiral necessary to ensure passenger
comfort can be stated as:
When an LRT vehicle operating on straight
(tangent) track reaches a circular path, the 0.925
L, = -VEu orLs = 0.008VEu
vehicle axles must be set at a new angle, 115
depending upon the radius of the curve. This
movement is not done instantly but over a L, = VE,orLs =l.O9VEu
measurable time interval, thus creating the
need for a transitional curve, the length of Length based upon
which equals speed multiplied by time.
Superelevation. AREMA Manual, Chapter 5,
gives the following formula for determining the Length Based upon Passenger
length of an easement spiral curve:
Comfort and Superelevation Unbalance. It
is generally recognized by FRA, AREMA,
L,(meters) = 0.75E,(millimeters)
Amtrak, OSHA, and many other applicable
authorities that the maximum acceptable rate [L, (feet) = 62E, (inches)]
of acceleration of cant deficiency, or
superelevation unbalance, for passenger In this equation, ‘Ls’ equals the length of the
comfort is 0.10 g, where ‘g’ is 9.8 meters per spiral and ‘E,’ equals actual superelevation.
second per second (32.2 feet per second per The only criterion for establishing minimum
second). spiral length is actual superelevation with no
consideration for speed. For 150 millimeters
The change in the rate of acceleration from (6 inches) of elevation, this produces a spiral
zero to 0.10 g should not exceed 0.03 g per 113 meters (372 feet) long.
second. Thus the minimum time needed to
attain the maximum lateral acceleration will This formula is based on the long-term
be: structural integrity of a 26-meter (85foot) long
intercity passenger car. Most LRT vehicles
Max. Rate of Accel. O.lOg can easily tolerate twice this rate of change.
=- = 3.33 seconds
Max. Rate of Change 0.039 Therefore, a normal value for the minimum
spiral length due to vehicle consideration is:
Therefore the time factor for determining the
L, = 0.38 E, [Ls = 31 E,]
length of the spiral required is 3.33 seconds
multiplied by the speed of the vehicle.

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

The AREMA Manual criteria is somewhat of the spiral is 57 meters (186 feet) with 150
conservative for LRT design in this respect. (6 inches) of superelevation.

As indicated above, the AREMA Manual Therefore, L, can be derived from:

determination of spiral length as a function of
the runoff of actual superelevation is based on L, = 0.0046 Ve, [L, = 0.62 VE,]
a 26-meter (85foot) length car with 19-meter
(62-foot) truck centers. This indicates that, for where: L, = spiral length in meters (feet)
a 1,435millimeter (4 35foot) gauge, the V = speed in kph (mph)
minimum ratio of superelevation change E, = actual superelevation in
across truck centers is 1:744. This is an millimeters (inches)
empirical value that accounts for track cross-
Amtrak’s MW-1000 Manual also shows that,
level tolerances, car suspension type,and
for Class 5 track, the maximum rate of
fatigue stresses on the vehicle sills. Also note
superelevation runoff may not be more than
that the AREMA Manual formula is applicable
3372:l (1 inch in 31 feet) and that the
to both passenger and freight cars.
maximum rate of change of elevation should
Light rail vehicles have a far greater range of not exceed 1488:l (0.25 inch per 31 feet) for
suspension travel than freight or intercity 160 kph (100 mph). With the maximum rate
passenger cars. The magnitude of the LRV of elevation as 372:l and maximum rate of
frame twist is relatively small compared to the change of 1488: 1, the length of the spiral is 76
nominal LRV suspension movement. The meters (248 feet) with 100 millimeters (4
maximum actual superelevation runoff rate inches) of superelevation.
and minimum ratio of superelevation change
Therefore again:
across truck centers are thus not fixed values,
but are functions of the LRV truck center
L, = 0.0046 Ve, IL, = 0.62 VE,]
If ‘E,’ is increased to 150 millimeters (6
Another service proven, although
inches) and ‘V’ remains at 162 kph (100 mph)
conservative, approach to establishing
minimum criteria for spiral length can be
derived from Amtrak’s Specification for L, = (0.0046)(162)(150) = 112 meters
Construction and Maintenance of Track, MW- [L, = (0.62)(100)(6) = 372 feet]
1000. Amtrak uses 75 to ? 15 millimeters (3 to
4.5 inches) of superelevation unbalance on This shows that the AREMA formula is safe
curves, comparable to many LRT systems. and conservative for speeds up to 162 kph
MW-1000, Part I, Paragraph 213.63 states (100 mph), but that other methods for
that for Class 3 Track, the maximum rate of determining spiral length should be used
superelevation runoff may not be more than when shorter lengths are required for cases of
188:l (2 inches in 31 feet). MW-1000, Part II, lower operating speed.
Paragraph 59.2 also states that the rate of
change should not be more that 744:l (0.5 Comparison of Spiral Lengths
inch per 31 feet) at 80 kph (50 mph). With the Based Upon Actual vs Unbalanced
maximum rate of elevation as 744:l and Elevation. From Section .I, based
maximum rate of change of 188:1, the length on superelevation unbalance, minimum spiral
curve length is determined by:

LRT Track Geometrv

L, = 0.008 V E, [L, = 1.09 VE,] The percentage grade is defined as the rise or
fall in elevation, divided by the length. Thus a
An example using the above equation where change in elevation of 1 meter over a distance
V = 80 kph (50 mph) and E, = 115 millimeters of 100 meters would be defined as a 1%
(4.5 inches) yields: grade.

L, = (0.008)(80)(115) = 74 meters (242 feet) The profile grade line in tangent track is
usually measured along the centerline of track
From Section, based on actual between the two running rails and in the plane
superelevation runoff, minimum spiral curve defined by the top of the two rails. In
length is determined by: superelevated track, the inside rail of the
curve normally remains at the profile grade
L, = 0 0046 V E, [L, = 0.62 VE,]
line and superelevation is achieved by raising
the outer rail above the inner rail. One
An example using the formula above, where V
exception to this recommendation is in
= 80 kph (50 mph) and E, = 150 millimeters
tunnels, where the superelevation may be
(6 inches) yields:
rotated about the centerline of track in the
L, = (0.0046)(80)(150) = 56 meters (186 feet) interest of improved vertical clearances.

If E, = 200 millimeters (8 inches), the The vehicle’s performance, dimensions, and

minimum spiral length values would be very tolerance to vertical bending stress dictate
criteria for vertical alignments. The following
close for the two cases above. In LRT design,
the vehicle can generally handle twice the criteria are used for proposed systems using a
actual superelevation runoff indicated in the modern low-floor vehicle. It can be used as a
basis of consideration for general use.
above example. Therefore, it can be said that
passenger comfort criteria will generally be
3.3.1 Vertical Tangents
the main factor in determining minimum spiral
The minimum length of constant profile grade
between vertical curves should be as follows:
3.3 VERTICAL ALIGNMENT Condition Length
Main Line 30 meters (100 feet) or
The vertical alignment of an LRT alignment is Desired Minimum 0.57V, three times the
composed of constant grade tangent design speed in kph
segments connected at their intersection by @W-O, whichever is
parabolic curves having a constant rate of greater
change in grade. The nomenclature used to Main Line 12 meters (40 feet)
describe vertical alignments is illustrated in
Figure 3.3.1.

Light Rail Track Design Handbook




G2 .-









e- ( -) LVC - + A (LVC); r - ( - 1 - RATE OF CHANGE IN GRADE
Y’ y+x2- +x2


Figure 3.3.1 VerticaI Curve Nomencalture

LRT Track Geometrv

In embedded track in urban areas, where the No minimum grade is specified at passenger
need to conform to existing street profiles stations provided adequate track drainage can
makes compliance with the above criteria be maintained. In urban areas, the existing
impracticable, the above requirement is street profile may govern the profile grade
usually waived Where a tangent between within the station. In this case, the profile
vertical curves is shorter than 12 meters (40 grade may exceed 2.0%, but should be
feet), consideration should be given to using restricted to a maximum of 3.5%.
reverse or compound vertical curves. This
avoids abrupt changes in vertical acceleration Yard Tracks
that could result in both passenger discomfort Desired 00%
and excessive vehicle suspension system Maximum 1 .O%
wear. Yard Storage & Pocket Tracks
Desired 0.0%
3.3.2 Vehicle Length Criteria Maximum 0.2%

This topic is covered in Section 2.4 of this All tracks entering a yard should either be
handbook. level, sloped downward away from the main
line, or dished to prevent rail vehicles from
3.3.3 Vertical Grades rolling out of the yard onto the main line. For
yard secondary tracks, a slight grade, usually
Maximum grades in track are controlled by between 0.35% and l.OO%, is recommended
vehicle braking and tractive efforts. On main to achieve good track drainage at the
line track, civil drainage provisions also subballast level.
establish a minimum recommended profile
grade. In yards, shops, and at station Through storage tracks generally have a sag
platforms, there is usually secondary or cross in the middle of their profile to prevent rail
drainage available. Thus, grades in the range vehicles from rolling to either end. It is
of 0.00% to 0.04% are acceptable. recommended that the profile grade of a stub
end storage track descend toward the stub
As a guideline, the following profile grade end and, if it is adjacent to a main line or
limitations are recommended for general use secondary track, it should be curved away
in LRT design: from that track at its stub end. If it is
necessary for the profile grade of a storage
Main Line Tracks
track to slope up toward the stub end, the
Maximum Sustained Grade, 4.0%
grade should not exceed 0.20%.
Unlimited Length
Maximum Sustained Grade with Up 6.0% Tracks located within maintenance shops and
to 750 Meters (2500 feet) between other buildings are generally level.
PVls of Vertical Curves
Maximum Short Sustained Grade 7.0%
with No More than 150 Meters (500 3.3.4 Vertical Curves
Feet) between PVls of Vertical
Curves All changes in grade are connected by vertical
Minimum Grade for Drainage on 0.2% curves. Vertical curves are defined by
Direct Fixation Track parabolic curves having a constant rate of
change in grade. Parabolic curves are, for all

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

practical purposes, equivalent to circular meters (820 feet) for crests and 350 meters
curves for LRT design, but parabolic curves (1150 feet) for sags. This equivalent radius of
are easier to calculate and are thus preferable curvature can be calculated from the following
for this purpose. formula:

As a guideline, the following vertical curve LVC LVC

criteria are recommended for general use in Rv = O.Ol(Gz-GI) Rv = O.Ol(Gz-GI) I
LRT designs:
where: R, = minimum radius of curvature of a
vertical curve in meters (feet). Vertical Curve Lengths
The length of vertical curves can be Minimum vertical curve length and/or design
determined as follows: speed may be governed by the overhead
l Desired Length: LVC = 60A (LVC = contact system (OCS) due to the maximum
200A) permissible rate of separation or convergence
l Preferred Minimum Length: LVC = 30A between the track grade and the contact wire
(LVC = 1 OOA) gradient. Coordination with the OCS designer
l Absolute Minimum Length: is strongly recommended to ensure
- Crest Curves. compliance with this limitation.

3.3.5 Vertical Curves, Special Conditions

- Sag Curves: Reverse Vertical Curves

where: LVC = length of vertical curve, in Reverse vertical curves are feasible, provided
meters (feet) each curve conforms to the requirements
A= (G, - G,) algebraic difference stated in Section 3.3.4 and the restrictions
in gradients connected by the imposed by the LRT vehicle design.
vertical curve, in percent
G, = percent grade of approaching Combined Vertical and Horizontal
G2 = percent grade of departing
Where possible, areas of combined vertical
and horizontal curvature should be avoided.
V = design speed, in kph (mph)
Where areas of combined vertical and
Both sag and crest vertical curves should horizontal curvature cannot be avoided, the
have the maximum possible length, especially geometry should not be more severe than a
if approach and departure tangents are long. 25meter (82-foot) radius horizontal combined
Vertical broken back curves and short with a 250-meter (820-foot) equivalent radius
horizontal curves at sags and crests should vertical crest curve. Again, this criterion must
be avoided. be conformed with the vehicle design.

The minimum equivalent radius of curvature

for vertical curves located on main line
tangent track should not be less than 250

LRT Track Geometrv

3.3.6 Station Platform Alignment 3.3.7 Joint LRT-Railroad/Freight Tracks

Railroad tracks to be relocated or in joint
In addition to the stringent track installation usage areas are designed in conformance
tolerances imposed by the Americans with with the requirements of the operating railroad
Disabilities Act (ADA), there are alignment and the AREMA Manual, except as
considerations that must be included in LRT recommended herein As a guideline,
trackwork. All LRT systems must provide recommended criteria are as follows:
level boarding. This applies whether the LRT
vehicle uses a high- or low-floor system. Horizontal Alignment
Consequently, a horizontal curve cannot be The horizontal alignment for joint LRT-
located within a vehicle length of the platform; railroad/freight tracks consists of tangent,
otherwise, the ADA platform gap requirements circular curves, and spiral transitions based
will be virtually impossible to achieve. on the preferred maximum LRV design speed
and the required FRA freight class of railroad
operation Lead tracks and industrial spurs Horizontal Alignment of Station generally do not require spiral transitions.
At station platforms, the horizontal alignment Curves adjacent to turnouts on tracks that
should be tangent throughout the entire length diverge from the main track should be
of the platform. The tangent should be designed for the maximum allowable speeds
extended beyond both ends of the platform as of the adjoining turnouts.
Yard track should be designed for a minimum
Condition Minimum Tangent Length of 25 kph (15 mph). Lead track and industrial
Desired Minimum 25 meters (75 feet) sidetracks should be designed for a minimum
of 16 kph (10 mph).
Preferred 20 meters (60 feet)
Absolute Minimum 15 meters (45 feet) Tangent Alignment
For joint LRT-railroad/freight main tracks, the
desired tangent length between curves should Vertical Alignment of Station
be 90 meters (300 feet), with an absolute
minimum of 30 meters (100 feet). For lead
The profile at stations should be on a vertical
tracks and industrial spurs, a minimum
tangent that extends 12 meters (40 feet)
tangent distance of 15 meters (50 feet) should
beyond each end of the platform.
be provided between curve points. All
turnouts should be located on tangents.
Station Area Grades
Desired: 0.0%
Maximum: 2.0% Curved Alignment
The maximum desired degree of curvature for
No minimum grade is necessary at passenger
railroad main line tracks should be either 3” or
stations, provided that adequate track
the maximum presently in use along the route,
drainage can be maintained.
but should not in any case exceed 9” 30’. The

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

maximum curvature for lead tracks and require spirals. Spirals should be provided on
industrial sidetracks should be 12”. In all curves where the superelevation required
extreme cases, revisions to existing industrial for the design speed is 12 millimeters (0.5
sidetracks may be designed with sharper inch) or more. The maximum E, for freight
curves that match the existing values. traffic is 37 millimeters (1.5 inches). Note that
Exceptions to the above criteria may be allowable LRT and railroad operating speeds
permitted as authorized by both the transit along a given track may differ due to the
authority and the operating freight railroad. difference in the maximum unbalance
The minimum length of circular curves for superelevation allowed for each mode and
main line tracks should be 30 meters specific operating requirements.
(100 feet).
As a guideline, the minimum length of a spiral
in railroad track and joint use railroad and LRT Superelevation track should be determined from the following
Superelevation should be provided on main formulae, rounded off to the next meter (or 5
line and secondary line tracks only, based on feet), but preferably not less than 18 meters
the following formula: (60 feet).

E,=mo(+ ka=,.,,($l4] L, = 0.75 E,

L,= 0.009 E, V
(L, = 62 E,)
(L, = 1.22 E, V)
L,=O.O083E,V (L,= 1.13 E,V)
where: E, = actual superelevation in
millimeters (inches) where: L, = minimum length of spiral, in
V = curve design speed, in kph (mph) meters (feet)
R = radius of curve in meters (feet) E, = actual superelevation in
millimeters (inches)
Values of actual superelevation (E,) should be E, = unbalanced superelevation in
rounded to the nearest 6 millimeters (0.25 millimeters (inches)
inch). In cases where the calculated value is V = curve design speed in kph (mph)
less than 12 millimeters (0.5 inch), no actual
superelevation (E,) need be applied. Vertical Alignment of Joint Use
Under joint freight and LRT operating Tracks
conditions, E, should be obtained from the General
above formula until the calculated value
The profile grade is defined as the elevation of
reaches 75 millimeters (3 inches). E, can be
further increased to 100 millimeters (4 inches) the top of the low rail. Vertical curves should
to achieve desired speed with the approval of be defined by parabolic curves having a
transit authority and the operating railroad. constant rate of grade change. Vertical Tangents Spiral Transitions
The desired minimum length of vertical
Spiral transition curves are generally used for
tangents is 90 meters (300 feet) with an
railroad/freight main line and secondary line
absolute minimum value of 60 meters (200
tracks only. Low-speed yard and secondary
feet). Turnouts should be located only on
tracks without superelevation generally do not
tangent grades.

LRT Track Geometrv Vertical Grades where: LVC = length of vertical curve in

On main line tracks, the preferred maximum meters (feet)
grade should be 1.0%. This value may only A = (G2 - G,) = algebraic difference
be exceeded in cases where the existing in gradients connected by the
longitudinal grade is steeper than 1.0%. vertical curve, in percent.
Grades within horizontal curves are generally G, = percent grade of approaching
compensated (reduced) at a rate of 0.04% per tangent
horizontal degree of curvature. Locations G2 = percent grade of departing
where freight trains may frequently stop and tangent
start are compensated at a rate of 0.05% per
degree of curvature. This compensation If an existing railroad vertical curve is below
reduces the maximum grade in areas of the desired length, a replacement vertical
curvature to reflect the additional tractive effort curve with a rate of change of grade not
required to pull the train. exceeding that of the existing curve may be
For yard tracks and portions of industrial
sidetracks where cars are stored, the grades
should preferably be 0.20% or less, but should 3.4 VEHICLE CLEARANCES AND TRACK
not exceed 0.40%. Running portions of CENTERS
industrial sidetracks should have a maximum
grade of 2.5%, except that steeper grades This section discusses the minimum
may be required to match existing tracks. dimensions that must be established to
Grade compensation is usually not required in ensure minimum clearances between the light
railroad yard and industrial tracks. rail vehicles and transit structures or other
obstructions and to establish a procedure for
determining minimum track center distances. Vertical Curves
Vertical curves are usually provided at all The provision of adequate clearances for the
intersections of vertical tangent grades, safe passage of vehicles is a fundamental
except for where the total grade difference is concern in the design of transit facilities.
less than 0.5%. . Careful determination of clearance envelopes
and enforcement of the resulting minimum
The lengths of vertical curves in railroad clearance requirements during design and
trackage should provide a rate of change of construction are essential to proper operations
grade not exceeding 0.05% per station in sags and safety.
and 0.10% per station in summits (rounded off
to the next largest 30 meters, or 100 feet). The following discussion concentrates on the
Situations where this proves impossible to establishment of new vehicle clearance
achieve may use shorter curves using the envelopes and minimum track centers. On
following formulae: existing LRT systems, this is normally
established in the initial design criteria or by
Crests: LVC = 76A (LVC = 250A) conditions in the initial sections of the transit
Sags: LVC = 150A (LVC = 500A) system

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

3.4.1 Clearance Envelope above are combined; for example, the

trackwork construction and maintenance
The clearance envelope (CE) is defined as the tolerances are frequently included in the
space occupied by the maximum vehicle calculation of the vehicle dynamic envelope. r2]
dynamic envelope (VDE), plus effects due to Regardless of how the individual factors are
curvature and superelevation, construction defined, it is important that all of these items
and maintenance tolerances of the track are included in the determination of the overall
structure, construction tolerances of adjacent clearance envelope.
wayside structures, and running clearances.
The relationship between the vehicle and
clearance envelope can thus be expressed as 3.4.1 .I Vehicle Dynamic Envelope
follows: [141 Determination of the VDE begins with the
cross sectional outline of the static vehicle.
CE = VDE+l-T+C&S+RC The dynamic outline of the vehicle is then
developed by making allowances for car body
where: CE = Clearance Envelope movements that occur when the vehicle is
VDE = Vehicle Dynamic Envelope operating on level tangent track. These
TT = Trackwork Construction and movements represent the extremes of car
Maintenance Tolerances body displacement that can occur for any
C&S = Vehicle Curve and combination of rotational, lateral, and vertical
Superelevation Effects car body movements when the vehicle is
RC = Vehicle Running Clearance operating on level tangent track.

The clearance envelope represents the space The following items are typically included in
into which no physical part of the system, the development of the VDE: r’s*‘61
other than the vehicle itself, must be placed, 1. Static vehicle outline
constructed, or protrude. 2. Dynamic motion (roll) of springs and
suspension/bolsters of vehicle trucks
A second part of the clearance equation is 3. Vehicle suspension side play and
what is termed structure gauge, which is component wear
basically the minimum distance between the 4. Vehicle wheel flange and radial tread
centerline of track and a specific point on the wear
structure. 5. Maximum truck yaw (fishtailing)
6. Maximum passenger loading
Although structure gauge and clearance 7. Suspension system failure
envelope elements are often combined, it is
8. Wheel and track nominal gauge difference
not advisable to construct a clearance
9. Wheel back-to-back tolerance
envelope that includes wayside structure
10. Rail fastener loosening and gauge
clearances and tolerances, as the required widening during revenue service
horizontal or vertical clearances to different 11. Dynamic rail rotation
structures may vary significantly. 12. Rail cant deficiency

The factors used to develop the clearance Some of these items, particularly Items 10 to
envelope are discussed in further detail in the 12, are relatively minor and are often
following sections. It should be noted that in combined into a single value.
some LRT designs, some of the factors listed

LRT Track Geometry

The development of the VDE is typically the based on the ballasted trackwork case. Both
responsibility of the vehicle designer. The options have been used in actual practice.
trackwork designer may have to estimate the
values of Items 10 to 12. It is imperative that Trackwork-based factors to be considered in
the vehicle designer include maintenance the development of the clearance envelope,
tolerances as well as the initial installation with typical values, include the following:
tolerances in the determination of the VDE. l Lateral Rail Wear: 13 millimeters (0.50
Typical values for vehicle-based maintenance inch)
factors include the following: l Lateral Maintenance Tolerance, Direct
Fixation Track: 13 millimeters (0 50 inch)
l Lateral wheel wear: 7.5 millimeters (0.30
inch) l Lateral Maintenance Tolerance, Ballasted
l Nominal wheel-to-rail sideplay: 10.5 Track: 25 millimeters (1 .OO inch)
millimeters (0.405 inch) l Vertical Maintenance Tolerance: 13
l Vertical radial wheel wear: 25 millimeters millimeters (0.50 inch)
(1 inch)
l Cross Level Variance, Direct Fixation
The VDE is usually represented as a series of Track: 13 millimeters (0.50 inch)
exterior coordinate points with the reference l Cross Level Variance, Ballasted Track:
origin at the track centerline at the top of rail 25 millimeters (1 .OO inch)
elevation. The static vehicle outline is
generally not used in track design except for Cross level variance creates a condition of
the establishment of station platforms and vehicle rotation rather than lateral shift.
associated station trackwork design at these Effects on the clearance envelope are similar
locations. to superelevation effects noted below. Track Construction and Curvature and Superelevation

Maintenance Tolerances Effects
Track construction and maintenance In addition to the VDE and track maintenance
tolerances should be included in the factors, track curvature and superelevation
determination of the clearance envelope, have a significant effect on the determination
whether as part of the VDE or as a separate of the clearance envelope. These effects will
clearance item. The track maintenance be covered separately. Some authorities
tolerances are generally far greater than the consider the effects of curvature and
initial construction tolerances and thus take superlevation as part of the VDE, and
precedence for the purpose of determining calculate separate VDE diagrams for each
clearances. combination of curvature and superelevation.
As a guideline, this handbook considers only
It should also be noted that direct fixation and one VDE and determines curvature and
ballasted trackwork have different track superelevation effects separately to establish
maintenance tolerances. It is possible to multiple clearance envelopes.
determine separate clearance envelopes for
ballasted and direct fixation track, or to use
the more conservative clearance envelope

light Rail Track Design Handbook Curvature Effects

In addition to the dynamic car body
movements described above, car body
overhang on horizontal curves also increases F TRUCK
F Kucx
the lateral displacement of the VDE relative to I I WiUNE

the track centerline. For design purposes,

both mid-car inswing (mid-ordinate) and end-
of-car outswing (end overhang) of the vehicle
must be considered.

The amount of mid-car inswing and end-of-car

outswing depends primarily on the vehicle
truck spacing, vehicle end overhang, and Figure 3.4.1 Horizontal Curve Effects on
track curve radius. The truck axle spacing Vehicle Lateral Clearance
also has an effect on clearances, although it is
A somewhat more accurate calculation is
relatively small and frequently ignored.161
provided from UIC 505-5, Enclosure VI, which
Refer to Section 2.3.2 for vehicle dynamic
is calculated by placing the four vehicle axles
on the track centerline. In this publication, the
To determine the amount of vehicle inswing vehicle inswing and outswing are determined
and outswing for a given curve radius, one of
two formulas are generally used, depending G2/2k+L2/2)-(p2/4)
lnswing = MO =
on whether the vehicle axle spacing is known. 2R
Both methods are sufficiently accurate for
general clearance envelope determinations for
(L2/2k - L2/2)- (p2/4)
LRT vehicles. Outswing = E, =

If truck axle spacing effects are ignored, the

where: P = vehicle axle spacing
effects of vehicle inswing and outswing are
determined from the assumption that the For single axle vehicles, such as those on
vehicle truck centers.are located at the center low-floor articulated vehicles, the value of P in
of track, as shown on Figure 3.4.1. In this the UIC formulae is 0.
case, the vehicle inswing and outswing can be
found from: In determining the outswing of the vehicle, it
must be noted that some vehicles have
lnswing = M, = R(l-cosa) and a = sin tapered ends, and that the clearance diagram
is based on the worst-case between the
where: M, = mid-ordinate of vehicle chord vehicle end section and the full vehicle section
R = track curve radius away from the vehicle end.
L2 = vehicle truck spacing
When calculating the CE for horizontal curves
L with spirals, it is necessary to end the tangent
Outswing = R, - R R, = -
cos b clearance envelope at some distance, usually
where: R = track curve radius 15 meters (50 feet), before the track tangent-
L = half of overall vehicle length to-spiral (TS) point. The full curvature CE
should begin 7.5 meters (25 feet) before the

LRT Track Geometry

track spiral-to-curve (SC) point and after the

curve-to-spiral (CS) point. Horizontal offsets
of the CE are calculated by linear interpolation
with sufficient accuracy for clearance
purposes. For simple circular curves, the full
curvature CE begins 15 meters (50 feet)
before the point of curve (PC) and ends 15
meters (50 feet) beyond the point of tangency
(PT). These distances are for a 25 to 28-
meter (82- to 92-foot) long vehicle, very short
LRT vehicles would require shorter distances.

The CE through turnouts is calculated based

on the centerline radius of the turnout.

It is of interest to note that the vehicle

designer does not always provide the
calculations for the effects of horizontal
curvature clearance, and that this task is Figure 3.4.2 Dynamic Vehicle Outline
frequently left to the trackwork or civil Superelevation Effect on Vertical
alignment engineer. Clearances Superelevation Effects Vehicle Running Clearance

Superelevation effects are limited to the The clearance envelope must include a
vehicle lean induced by a specific difference minimum allowance for running clearance
in elevation between the two rails of the track, between the vehicle and adjacent obstructions
and should be considered independently of or vehicles. Running clearance is generally
other effects on the CE. In determining the measured horizontally (laterally) to the
effects of superelevation, the shape of the obstruction, although some clearance
VDE is not altered, but is rotated about the envelopes are developed with the running
centerline of the top of the low rail of the track clearance added around the entire perimeter
for an amount equal to the actual track of the vehicle.
The most common general value assigned to
This rotation is illustrated in Figure 3.4.2. For running clearances is 50 millimeters (2
any given coordinate on the VDE, the inches). Except at station platforms, which
equations indicated in Figure 3.4.1 are are special cases in LRT design, the 50
sufficiently accurate to convert the original millimeters (2 inches) represents a minimum
VDE coordinate (xT,yT) into a revised running clearance value.
clearance coordinate (x2, y2) to account for
superelevation effects. Some items are occasionally assigned a
higher minimum running clearance. These
include structural members and adjacent
vehicles. A typical assignment of running
clearance criteria includes the following data:

Light Rail Track Design Handbook

Minimum running clearance to signals, Construction tolerances for wayside structures

signs, platform doors, and other non- include the construction and maintenance
structural members: 50 millimeters (2 tolerances associated with structural elements
inches) outside of the track. These can include walls,
catenary poles, and signal equipment. A
Minimum running clearance to an
minimum construction tolerance for large
emergency walkway envelope: 50
structural elements is normally 50 millimeters
millimeters (2 inches)
(2 inches), although soldier pile and lagging
Minimum running clearance along an type walls may have a much larger tolerance
aerial deck parapet, walls, and all requirement.
structural members: 150 millimeters (6
inches) A second item that must be considered in
construction tolerances is an allowance for
Minimum running clearance to adjacent
chorded construction of tunnel walls, large
LRT vehicles: 150 millimeters (6 inches)
precast aerial structure sections, and
walkways, In lieu of exact construction
3.4.2 Structure Gauge information, a general guideline of a l&meter
(50-foot) chord for curve radii greater than 750
The second part of the clearance equation is meters (2,500 feet), and 7.5-meter (25-foot)
what is termed structure gauge, which is chords for smaller radius curves can be used
basically the minimum distance between the as a basis for design.
centerline of track and a specific point on the
structure. This is determined from the CE Finally, provisions for present or future
above, plus structure tolerances and minimum acoustical treatments are often required on
clearances to structures. Thus: walls and other structures. Typical values for
this range from 50 to 75 millimeters (2 to 3
SG=CE+SC+ST+AA inches).

where, SG = structure gauge

CE = clearance envelope 3.4.3 Station Platforms
SC = required clearance to wayside
structure Station platforms require special clearance
ST = wayside structure construction considerations, especially since regulations
tolerance such as the American with Disabilities Act
AA = acoustic allowance cover the maximum permissible gap between
the vehicle floor and platform edge.
The required clearance to wayside structures
may be specified separately from the running It should be noted that current ADA
clearance described above. In other words, regulations require a maximum vehicle-
the running clearance envelope is stated as a platform gap of 75 millimeters (3 inches) with
constant value, usually 50 millimeters, and a the static vehicle located at the centerline of
separate required clearance criteria is track. For high platforms or high block
specified for each type of wayside structure. portions of station platforms, where
Values of 50 to 150 millimeters (2 to 6 inches) applicable, this is usually not in conformance
are normally specified as minimum clearance with other clearance criteria. Therefore,
from structures in the clearance envelope. clearance at station platforms should be

LRT Track Geometw

considered separate from all other structural TC = Tt + T, + 2(OWF + RC) + P

where: TC = minimum track centers
This topic is also covered in the discussion of Tt = half of vehicle CE toward curve
vehicle/track installation tolerances in Chapter center
2 herein. T, = half of vehicle CE away from
curve center
RC = running clearance
3.4.4 Vertical Clearances OWF = other wayside factors (see
structure gauge)
Vertical clearances are normally set with a P = maximum allowable catenary
100- to 150-millimeter (4- to 6-inch) allowance pole diameter
from the clearance envelope, including
superelevation effects. Actual LRT operations Where the LRT track is designed for joint
normally do not require this amount of vertical usage with freight railroads, the clearances
clearance, but an allowance is usually mandated by the operating freight railroad
required to accommodate future maintenance, generally predominates. The AREMA Manual
particularly on ballasted trackwork. contains useful information on general freight
railway clearances, but the individual railroads
also have specific clearance requirements
3.4.5 Track Centers and Fouling Points
that will supersede the AREMA
The minimum allowable spacing between
tracks and the location of fouling points are
determined using the same principles as 3.5 REFERENCES
those used for determining clearances to
structures. Referring to the previous American Railway Engineering and
discussion on clearances, minimum track Maintenance-of-Way Association
centers can be determined from the following (AREMA) Manual of Railway
equation, if catenaty poles are not located Engineering (Washington, DC: AREMA,
between tracks: 1997), Ch. 12.

TC = T,+T,+2(OWF)+RC New Jersey Transit, Hudson-Bergen

Light Rail Project, Manual of Design
where: TC = minimum track centers Criteria, Feb. 1996, Chapter 4.
T, = half of vehicle CE toward
curve center American Railway Engineering
J-G3= half of vehicle CE away from Association, “Review of Transit
curve center Systems,” AREA Bulletin 732, Vol. 92,
RC = running clearance Oct. 1991, pp. 283-302.
OWF = other wayside factors (see
structure gauge) t41 Maryland Mass Transit Administration,
Baltimore Central Light Rail Line,
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