It really bothers me when people who should know better call MARTA, BART and the DC METRO light rail. It's not. It's called heavy rail or Metro. They just happen to be new systems that weren't legacy like New York's subway, The El in Chicago or Boston and Philadelphia's subways. Philip Langdon, who edits New Urban News, writes a good article about the effectiveness of the Washington Metro in spurring development and how its changed the city. It has done a wonderful job and carries a ton of people, 900,000 a day per the NTD.
Now I could be wrong and the folks at the Hartford Courant could have added the title because no where in the article does it say light rail. But when journalists try to talk about these issues, it almost makes me not want to read the rest of the article if they make this mistake. Because if they make this basic mistake, how can I trust the rest of their reporting?
I can understand the confusion over the definition of light rail since its a pretty nebulous umbrella that includes streetcars, trolleys, street running, diesel multiple units as the case of the River Line in New Jersey. But there are a limited number of heavy rail systems in the United States, and they operate in a completely different fashion, all operate using a third rail and they all never have an auto crossing. UPDATE: From the comments, there are places such as Cleveland that run under overhead wires and places that might have legacy auto-crossings but it's not the norm.
But the problem is that I hear people call BART light rail all the time? Where does this come from? To me this makes clear the loss of knowledge or missing knowledge that permeates the United States. We can tell the difference between a compact car and a hummer, so why can't we figure out the difference between light rail and heavy rail? Am I off base here? [Rant off]