This is the first of our new Guest articles section on Transit Miami…
London’s Docklands Light Rail System
Riding a transit system does more than give you a feel for the city you’re in; If you’re a transit buff, you also notice things about the system itself, and compare it to other systems you’ve ridden in other cities, and, naturally, to the one in your hometown. Sometimes, one even gets to compare 2 very different modes of Transit operating in tandem.
Miami’s Metrorail and metro mover systems provide such an opportunity for Transit buffs, but London’s Underground and the Docklands light rail system provide another, more intense comparison, for while Miami’s transit systems are arguably under-utilized, London’s are anything but.
London’s Underground and DLR also represent perhaps the 2 most innovative transit systems in the world, operating with great connectivity with one another, Yet it’s important to note the distinctions between the two systems, because they so closely reflect the different environments in which they operate, and it’s a reminder of why it’s a good thing to see such systems in action, rather than simply read specifications and surf the web looking at pictures and route maps.
The London Underground, a workhorse (mostly) underground heavy rail rapid transit system, is built for speed and moving massive amounts of people across a sprawling, densely populated metropolitan area. When the underground was built in the 1870′s, it was the world’s first urban rapid transit system, and London was already the world’s largest and most densely populated city. Then as today, investment in public infrastructure tended to lag behind population growth.
The Docklands Light Rail, or DLR as it is referred to, was a major investment conceived in the 1980′s to help stimulate the re-development of the Docklands region, the centerpiece of which was, and is the Canary Wharf financial district, which has grown to one of Europe’s finest and most modern business districts. The DLR provides a direct link to Central London from The Docklands region, which straddles the River Thames, and curves southeast of City of London, the oldest and most historic part of Central London.
The Docklands is a world away from the fashionable west end and stately neighborhoods and parks of Victorian London. It’s an area of many Riverfront Warehouses and factories, relics of England’s industrial age. It’s also an area which bore the brunt of the Blitz in World War II, and deteriorated for many years after as factories closed, and trade via the Thames dwindled. As Canary Wharf has grown into a shining, modern business district, the docklands area has seen many old riverfront factories and warehouses adaptively re-used for residential and commercial uses, and that process is far from finished.
Commuting on the DLR
As a veteran subway rider, I was already very familiar with the London Underground, it being the first subway I ever rode, and have ridden it extensively on a half dozen trips to London over the years. Last September I spent 6 days near Canary Wharf, and got to see and ride the Docklands LRT for the first time, commuting to Central London and connecting to the Underground on several occasions, and also to Canary Wharf from my hotel near the Excel Convention center.
In riding the system I marveled at it’s high ridership, which averages 200,000 commuters per day, impressive numbers for a light rail system by US standards, yet a small percentage of the overall ridership for Greater London. Even so, contrasting the Docklands area to other areas of densely populated central London, the DLR is very well suited for it’s lighter, but no less important share of London’s Transit load. To put it’s scale in perspective, the system length totals only 31 KM, with 38 stations, 8 of which transfer to Underground stations, 2 of which are northern terminus stations at Bank and Tower Gate, a short walk to the Tower of London. The system’s growth continues, however, and the Docklands area will be the site of many Olympic venues when the Olympics
come to London in 2012.
The DLR serves a smaller and less-densely populated area then the Underground, but with more frequent stops, and at necessarily lower speeds. It also utilizes existing freight railway rights of way to a large extent, often operating on at-grade-seperated railbeds, with station walkways straddling the DLR and Freight tracks.
The trains themselves automated 4-car trainsets, with compact 4 car platforms, and completely dedicated rights of way, mostly elevated, some at grade, and small sections of underground, most notably at the northern Tower Gate terminus.
Stations are unattended for the most part, with automated ticketing machines, and a modern, if slightly utilitarian appearance, in contrast to the victorian-era feel and appearance of the average underground station.
In it’s brief 20 year history, the Docklands light rail has grown from a single line into 4 seperate corridors, with additional infill stations added, and 6 additional transfer stations to the underground in addition to the original two, which also reflect the continuing growth of the Underground into southeast London as well.
The evolution of the DLR can be shown to pararell the re-development of the Docklands area, and as such, it provides a model for how a modern transit sytem can evolve and grow as a city grows, and serve as a stimulus for a highly urbanized area’s redevelopment. This lesson has many applications in North America, but the FEC corridor comes immediately to mind when visualizing how a similar system might work in a South Florida setting.
CategoriesAccident Architecture bicycles bike lanes Bike Miami Days biking Biscayne Boulevard Brickell bus Climate Change Coconut Grove complete streets Downtown Miami FDOT High Speed Rail Metrorail Miami Miami-Dade County Miami-Dade Transit Miami 21 Miami Beach Museum Park News Parking Parks Pedestrian Pedestrians Pic o' the Day Planning Real Estate Development Rickenbacker Causeway Sprawl Streetcar Traffic Transit Transitography Transit Oriented Development Transportation Tri-Rail Uncategorized Urban Design Urban Development Boundary Urban Growth Urban Planning Walkability
South Florida Transportation
- Bike SoMi
- Emerge Miami
- Florida Bicycle Association
- Florida Department of Transportation
- Florida Greenbook Roadway Design Manual
- Green Mobility Network
- Miami Bike Report
- Miami-Dade BPAC
- Miami-Dade Expressway Authority
- Miami-Dade Transit
- Slow Bike Miami
- Spokes 'n' Folks
- State of Florida Bike/Ped Laws
- TACOLCY Bicycle Club
- The M-Path to Enlightenment
- The Miami Bike Scene
- Transit to MIA
- Tri-Rail (South Florida Regional Transportation Authority)
Transit Blogs and Resources
- Welcome to the FastLane: The Official Blog of the U.S. Secretary
- Transit In Utah
- Spacing Wire • understanding the urban landscape
- Design New Haven
- Portland Transport
- City Transit Advocates
- JACKSONVILLE TRANSIT
- Trains For America
- Buildings and Food
- Off the Kuff
- CoolTown Studios
- Midwest High Speed Rail
- CTA Tattler
- The Overhead Wire
- The Transport Politic
- Greater Greater Washington
- Human Transit
- Metro Library and Archive Transportation Headlines
- public transit
South Florida Blogosphere
- 305 Misadventures
- Beached Miami
- BRICKELL LIFE
- Buildings and Food
- Coconut Grove Grapevine
- Coral Gables
- Coral Gables Watch
- Dolce Miami
- Eye On Miami
- Hallandale Beach Blog
- Herald Watch
- HOMESTEAD IS HOME
- JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG
- Liam Crotty Photography
- Miami beach 411
- Miami Every Day Photo
- Miami Fever
- Miami For Change
- Miami Urbanist
- Michael Emilio
- Photography is Not a Crime
- REV Miami – Music, Art, Events, and Counter-Culture Magazine
- Riptide 2.0
- South Beach Hoosier
- South Florida Bike Coalition
- South Florida Daily Blog
- Urban City Architecture
- Urban Environment League
- View from Virginia Key
- What Miami
Planning and Design Resources
- Transit Miami > London’s Docklands Light Rail System
Subscribe via Email
- Diego Lucas on A Better Look at Miami’s Potential New Train Cars
- Mike Moskos on A Better Look at Miami’s Potential New Train Cars
- adam on A Better Look at Miami’s Potential New Train Cars
- Gables on A Better Look at Miami’s Potential New Train Cars
- Stephen on A Better Look at Miami’s Potential New Train Cars
- Mike Moskos on The road to immobility for older Miamians
- Friday Funny: Pining for the Good Old Days of 'Slight' Gentrification May 24, 2013Do you treasure the good old days of $6 drafts, fancy drinks in Mason Jars, and less-snazzy Starbucks? Than you'll sympathize with Dan Hopper, who laments the changes to his neighborhood as 'slightly richer people' move in. […]
- Applying the Brakes to the Streetcar Revival May 24, 2013With Los Angeles, Charlotte, Washington D.C. and many more cities hoping on board, seats are filling up quickly on America's streetcar bandwagon. However, experts caution gung ho cities about unreal expectations for improving mobility. […]
- Dramatic Bridge Collapse Snarls Washington Traffic May 24, 2013Two cars plunged off the I-5 truss bridge, 60 miles north of Seattle, into the frigid Skagit River at the end of Thursday's commute, but no deaths nor serious injuries occurred. The likely cause appears to be a big-rig hitting the 58-year-old bridge. […]
- Can a Light Rail Stop Revive the Last African American Business Corridor in L.A.? May 24, 2013After years of discussions, arguments, and pleas, residents of the Leimert Park neighborhood in South Los Angeles won their battle for the creation of a local stop along a new light rail line soon to start construction. […]
- Why the NYC Bike Share Backlash Is a Good Thing May 24, 2013Paris, London, Copenhagen: all over the world, opponents have tried to put the brakes on bike-share programs. Then they fall in love. Is New York City next? The author of "Traffic" thinks so. […]
- CBO Analyzes Obama's 'Hallucinatory' Transportation Budget May 24, 2013According to the CBO, President Obama's transportation budget keeps the Highway Trust Fund, currently expected to run out of funds in 2015, solvent until 2021. The additional funds come from 'intergovernmental transfers' - but are they real? […]
- Oregon DOT Renounces 'Highway Centric' Approach May 24, 2013State departments of transportation aren't known for being the most progressive public agencies. But, in response to economic and demographic changes, Oregon's DOT (ODOT) is breaking the mold by embracing a multimodal transformation. […]
- Chicago’s Top Tourist Attraction to Get Green Makeover May 24, 2013The $176 million Phase I design concept for Navy Pier unveiled last week promises a "parklike" feel along the banks of Lake Michigan. […]
- Providence Plans Pedestrian Oasis for Downtown May 24, 2013Utilizing a series of compelling before and after renderings, Amanda Gruen walks through Union Studio Architects' plan to improve the pedestrian and transit experience in downtown Providence's Kennedy Plaza. […]
- Outlet Malls Buck Retail Trends May 24, 2013While traditional enclosed malls, big box stores, and strip malls are struggling in an uncertain retail marketplace, sales at America's outlet malls are growing at a healthy pace. One mall near New York City is showing the pains of popularity. […]
- Friday Funny: Pining for the Good Old Days of 'Slight' Gentrification May 24, 2013
- An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.