On two-way streets, offset streetcar and light rail lines operate in the right-most motorized lane, adjacent to a curbside parking lane. This operation allows boarding bulbs or islands at stations, and can accommodate loading, parking, and right turns to the right of the streetcar.
On one-way streets with parking, offset rail lines operate in the left-most or right-most lane.
A dedicated lane is preferable to mixed-traffic operation for curbside and offset rail, except in cases where even peak period traffic does not inhibit transit operations.
Where streetcars or LRVs operate in a curbside lane, a protected curbside transitway is preferred to physically prevent or discourage incursion by other vehicles.
Dedicated streetcar or light rail lanes preserve on-time service, which is particularly important given the inherent inflexibility of streetcar routes.
Streetcars can provide a well-branded service with a higher capacity and a smoother ride.
Offset streetcar lanes create room for pedestrian realm enhancements such as boarding bulbs and islands, curb extensions, bioswales, planting strips, and parklets, while leaving space for on-street parking that is accessed by crossing the transit lane.
Offset streetcar lanes must be clear of overhanging mirrors or other parts of parked cars. Lanes should be assigned the full width needed by the streetcar, with clear demarcation of the edge of the parking lane.
Catenary wire typically hangs 17–20 feet above street level; coordinate overhead elements with street trees and traffic signals.
Plan streetcar and bicycle routes concurrently so that bicyclists are fully accommodated within the network. Crossing tracks unexpectedly or at smaller angles presents danger for bicyclists. Curbside rail lanes can be designed to be suitable for bicycling but require more width and typically require designs that let bicycles pass to the right of the streetcar at stops. Local access by bicycle is a component of nearly all urban streets; where possible, bicycle traffic should be positioned on a different section of the street. Parallel, high-comfort routes should also be provided.
Streetcars typically have larger turning radii than buses. Where a streetcar makes turns, care must be taken to clear the entire swept path (see Intersection Turn Radii and Recessed Stop Bars for complementary treatments).
Rail lanes may sometimes need to be shared between streetcars and buses, or lane design may need to be interoperable to accommodate bus replacement of rail service. Rail lanes may be narrowed at platforms.
Where dedicated lanes cannot be provided, a combination of signal priority and short dedicated sections can be used to create a virtual transit lane.
Bicyclists should be directed to portions of the street that are out of the way of tracks, especially where tracks cross the bicycle’s path of travel at an angle. Embedded rails, switches, and seams are dangerous for cyclists and should cross bike paths at 90 degrees or as near as possible (minimum 60 degrees). See Bicycle Rail Crossings for additional guidance.
Where it is infeasible to provide a separated bicycling facility (e.g. cycle track), bike routes should be provided on an immediately parallel street. Where bikes must cross rail tracks, provide a Two-Stage Queue Box (see NACTO’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide) to cross bikes at a preferred angle.
Bicycle Interactions and Streetcars: Lessons Learned and Recommendations. Alta Planning + Design (2008).