Light Rail SMACKDOWN: Dublin’s LUAS vs. SF MUNI’s T-Third


Two world-class cities. Two new light rail lines.

Who will take all in the LIGHT RAIL SMACKDOWN?

Meet the contenders:


LUAS Light Rail Vehicle
Meet LUAS. This Irish studmuffin started service in 2004 as the cornerstone of Dublin’s and Ireland’s comprehensive transit strategy.

MUNI’s T-Third Line

MUNI Metro Light Rail Vehicle
Meet the MUNI Metro. The T-Third line was completed and began service to much City fanfare in early 2007. It serves as the outer leg of a proposed Central Subway system which would burrow directly underneath the City center. This competition ranks just the recent T-Third extension.

The Competition

It’s a head to head contest. How does each rank on reasonable measurements of success of a light rail transit project? cost per mile, speed, frequency, reliability, public reaction, etc.

  • Total Project Cost

    • LUAS: $1.1 billion (EUR 800 million) (Source)
    • T-Third: $648 million (EUR 436 million) (Source)
    • Note: LUAS total cost includes rolling stock and two storage depots, T-Third includes only one storage depot and no rolling stock.
    • LRT Scorecard - MUNI ftw, LUAS pwned
    • Wow. The T-Third cost almost half as much as the LUAS. Was that a good deal? Let’s find out…

  • Total Length

    • LUAS: 15 miles (24 km) (Source)
    • T-Third: 5.4 miles (8.7 km)(Source)
  • Cost Per Mile

    • LUAS: $66.7 million per mile (calculated from above)
    • T-Third: $120 million per mile (calculated from above)
    • LRT Score Card - MUNI pwned, LUAS ftw
    • Hmm. Even though the overall LUAS project was more expensive, the per mile cost is about HALF as much as the T-Third.

  • Average Speed

    • LUAS: 22 minutes for 6 miles (Source) :: v = d/t = 6 mi / 22 min = 6 mi / .37 hr = 16.21 mph
    • T-Third: Embarcadero Station to Sunnydale/Bayshore is 36 minutes over 6.73 miles (Source) :: v = d/t = 6.73 mi / 36 min = 6.73 mi / .6 hr = 11.2 mph
    • Note: These are from self-published schedules. Experience shows T-Third lags significantly behind schedule. LUAS does not.
    • LRT Score Card - MUNI pwned, LUAS ftw
    • Wow, the LUAS is almost 50% faster than the T-Third! Maybe we didn’t get such a good deal after all. But speed isn’t everything, is it?

  • Frequency

    • LUAS: Morning (6:30a-10a) 5 min or less; midday (10a-3:30p) 7.5 min; evening (3:30p-7p) 5 min or less; all other times 15 min or less. (Source)
    • T-Third: Morning (7a-9a) 10 min; midday (9a-4p) 10 min; evening (4p-7p) 8 min; all other times 20 min or less. (Source)
    • Note: Self-published data.
    • LRT Score Card - MUNI pwned, LUAS ftw
    • Oh, and the LUAS comes about twice as often as the T-Third. So it’s faster AND it comes more frequently. Perhaps it was worth the pricetag?

  • Ridership

    • LUAS: 80,000 average daily passengers (Source)
    • T-Third: Unavailable at present. Bus line 15 (replaced by T-Third) reported 29,524 average daily passengers. For comparison, N-Judah reports 31,381 average daily riders. (Source)
    • LRT Score Card - MUNI pwned, LUAS ftw
    • The LUAS has amazing ridership figures. I wonder — do people like it because it’s fast? Or, maybe because it has a very high frequency of trains?

  • Farebox Recovery Ratio (Profitability)

    • LUAS: Operates at a profit (EUR 5.6 million in 2006) by a private French corporation through a franchise agreement. Actual farebox recovery unavailable. Of course, report of an operating surplus does not subtract any sort of amortized capital construction costs.
    • T-Third: Individual line operating cost information unavailable. Overall MUNI system operates at a significant loss. Farebox recovery ratio is about 25% (Source).
    • LRT Score Card - MUNI pwned, LUAS ftw
    • Go figure, if you build a transit line that actually serves people’s needs, you can have an operating SURPLUS! Who knew!?

  • Public Reaction

It looks like San Francisco sure got screwed. And it seems like we just can’t wait to get screwed again!
MUNI Metro T-Third Line PWNED

This entry was posted in transit and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Light Rail SMACKDOWN: Dublin’s LUAS vs. SF MUNI’s T-Third

  1. dr.stu says:

    If I’m ever in San fran I mite whip up a smash hit rap for the t-third

  2. kfarr says:

    Please do! There’s so much comedic potential waiting to be unleashed in that idea.

  3. Pingback: TEP proposes good things for Muni. Is this good news? « kfarr

  4. gimme a brake says:

    If you believe that Connex, sorry Veolia, actually generates an operating surplus running Luas, think again. They would be counting their subvention along with farebox recovery ratio. Reduces vehicle use along corridor? No, sorry, the fuel prices do that (between $8 and $9 per US gallon, back during the summer; it’s currently $5.49 per US gallon). Not to mention, Line B of the Luas re-used a rail line closed in the 1960s, which is supposed to save money; but it didn’t save that much. The trams had 22 accidents with cars in their first six months of operation, as well.

    You can’t compare T Third with the Luas. The Luas is a bad substitute for commuter rail, which should have been built instead. Many of us knew it would become a victim of its own success; the trams are 131 feet long and 7.8 feet wide, and the intent is to squeeze 360 people into that little tube. (Before that, they were operating 98-foot-long trams, with a stated capacity of 256 passengers; this is the same as squeezing 128 people into a 48-foot bus, which is the US standard length for a city bus IINM.) You’ve also distorted the ridership figures; the Luas is two lines, not one.

    Incidentally, the T Third has high platforms, which jacks up the capital costs. There was also probably a lot of utility relocation necessary, due to the tracks being built along the street sides; the line also requires a lot more traffic signal priority hardware and software due to this. (More capital costs.) Stations are also a quarter-mile apart on average; on the Luas, they are an average of two miles apart (so the average speed of the Luas is actually comparably pathetic while the T Third is remarkably fast; the Green Line, the one you cited for average speed, was built on the old railroad right of way, so that’s an apples/oranges comparison in many respects). Also, the T Third vehicles have couplers, making it easier to build a longer train; the Luas vehicles have no couplers, apart for some emergency drawbars that are used only in the instance of a tram breaking down, to push or pull the broken-down tram.

  5. gimme a brake says:

    Correction: Luas stations are a half-mile apart on average, but most stations are further apart than the average except in the city center. That’s still double the distance of the average distance between T Third Street Line stations.

  6. rad kd says:

    not to mention the luas can cost up to 4 euros for a maximum of 90 minutes of travel. muni however, is 1.50 dollars for several hours or travel time and unlimited transfers.

  7. Pingback: 1968 Geary – Third – SFO Subway « Burrito Justice

  8. Pingback: Using Private and Public pension funds to make jobs - Page 4

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s