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Electric Light Rail Could Revolutionize Costa Rica Public Transport

The Train-GAM would save 12 million person-hours per year

Q COSTA RICA – The concept of an electric light rail system – dubbed ‘Tren-GAM’- would be the most efficient way to improve public transport in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM), taking into account factors such quality of service, passenger volume and cost.

An elevated train or a metro (ground level train) would be superior in some respects, however, none offer significant advatanges such as the Tren-Tram, which would cost a fraction of any of the other options for the 75 kilometer run between Cartago and Coyol (west of the San Jose international airport).

According an analysis by La Republica, taking into account other projects of this type around the world, the Tren-Gam, would increase national productivy by an estimated 12 million person hours, compared to the current options of the Commuter train with limited service weekday mornigns and afternoons or bus services and connections.

This is without taking into consideration the benefit of reducing vehicular traffic congestion, as an increasing percentage of the population starts taking advantage of the new option.

Pollution in the GAM would also be reduced considering by the use of a 100% electric train.

Another point in favor of this system is that the first phase, using the existing national railway system between Cartago and Coyol, it could mean the project be up and running in two years, considering that much of the plans has been done by the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles (Incofer) – national railway, under the mandate of Miguel Carabaguiaz, who was president of the Incofer from 2005 to 2014.

The green indicates the route of the Tren-GAM (red in second phase); blue a regular tram for the downtown San Jose; grey the current road system

La Republica notes that 90% of the 75 kilometer track allows two way travel The run between Cartago and San Jose could be in less than 30 minutes or half of what it takes now by bus. The run to Coyol from San Jose would be about the same. Thus, taking the Tren-GAM from Cartago to Coyol could take less than an hour.

Other points in favor of the Tren-GAM:

  • The cost would be an average of US$1 to US$1.50 or less each way.
  • It would provide a new option for mass travel within the GAM
  • The Tren-GAM would run some 800 meters from the San Jose international airport, becoming an alternate for travel to and from the airport. The current rail lines also run near hospitals, universities and large business parks.
  • The cost of the project would be around US$600 million dollars.
  • In peak hours, the wait time between trains would not be more than 12 minutes.
  • Since the Tren-GAM is 100% electric, it would not be a pollutant.