Streetcars have recently been deployed to drive urban connectivity and economic development because they provide a smoother ride and higher capacity than buses, but can generally be built much more quickly and cheaply than light rail. Streetcars typically operate on embedded rails in mixed-traffic lanes, so speeds tend to be lower than transit that operates in exclusive rights of way like bus rapid transit (BRT) and most light rail transit (LRT). However, certain design and operational features, like level boarding stations, prepayment, exclusive rights of way and center-lane alignments, can allow streetcars to match or exceed speeds found in LRT and BRT systems.
Streetcars fall into three categories:
- Urban Circulators feature local service and operate along lively streets with many stops.
- Streetcar Local Transit features higher speeds and can operate along arterial streets.
- Streetcar Rapid Transit provides wider stop spacing and use of exclusive travel lanes and signal priority.