Streetcar Subcommittee

Working Group 

Official Site



Vehicles Page



Guideline Document Released

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Modern Streetcar Vehicle Guideline

This website covers the APTA Streetcar Subcommittee's project to prepare a guideline document on the application of modern streetcar vehicles in North America. The Subcommittee is comprised of industry professionals who are voluntarily collaborating to help develop guidelines and standards that will benefit the streetcar / tramway field. The document was developed within the American Public Transportation Association's Standards Development Program. This site has been created to facilitate information exchange and to encourage input from interested parties. 

Project Goal: To facilitate the successful introduction of modern streetcar vehicles into North American systems by promoting understanding of the core technical and operational issues.

Prior to the creation of this document, there was no comprehensive source for recommended practice guidance for modern streetcar vehicles in North America. With the rapidly increasing demand for modern streetcar systems, and the limited familiarity with the vehicles by North American agencies and manufacturers, a coordinated effort was needed to help ensure that this industry segment reaches its full potential. It is important to help control vehicle costs by avoiding a situation where suppliers are providing entirely separate products for the North American market, or a situation where domestically produced vehicles are not competitive in other markets.

Modern light rail and streetcar vehicles are fundamentally very similar, the differences having largely to do with how they are applied. The primary difference between the two modes is the scale of the infrastructure and the degree of integration into the urban environment. This difference in application makes some common LRV design features unnecessary for streetcar application, but may also require the use of other design elements that may or may not be incorporated into a typical light rail vehicle. 

Just as the APTA Light Rail Procurement Specification (2011) is designed to help control costs for Light Rail Vehicle procurement, the Subcommittee’s document seeks to help control costs for modern streetcar vehicles. It is estimated that North American agencies will spend over $2 billion dollars for the purchase of modern streetcar vehicles over the next ten years. If our industry segment can do an effective job of internal education and related standards work, vehicles and systems will better match, and cost savings will follow.

The document seeks to promote understanding of the core technical and operational issues relating to modern streetcar vehicles and systems. From this understanding, agencies will be able to better navigate the process of specifying a vehicle and designing compatible infrastructure. Similarly, suppliers will be provided with a better understanding of the differences between North American and world operating and regulatory environments.  This will facilitate the adaptation of existing modern streetcar designs for the North American market and help make domestically produced vehicles a competitive, world-class product for all markets.

The project has also served as a scoping exercise to review where additional standards, or modifications of existing standards, may be needed to facilitate the successful introduction of modern streetcar vehicles in North America. The completed document covers four topic areas:

  • Topic 1- Vehicle Configuration

  • Topic 2- Vehicle / Platform Interface

  • Topic 3- Vehicle / Track Interface

  • Topic 4- Power Supply 

Update: In April 2013, APTA released the approved document. Click here for a copy of the final version.


June 2013 

Powerpoint Presentation

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Portland Streetcar 28 sm.jpg (240650 bytes)
Vancouver Streetcar RR Horne photo 1 sm.jpg (159399 bytes)


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Last update: 6/6/13