American promoters brought the tramway to Europe, Paris in 1853 and Birkenhead in England in 1860, followed by London in 1861 and Copenhagen in 1863. Steam trams were developed, but were not very suitable for urban use, although they ran on many suburban and rural light railways. The 1960s:
The decade of the 1960s was a bad time for public transport in many parts of the world, with the growing belief by industry and transport planners that the motor car would be the ordinary form of transport for most people (with buses for those who could not afford cars), and that cities could be adapted to cope with the increased road traffic that would result. Mainland Europe: Light rail was first created in mainland Europe, as street tramways were upgraded with new rolling stock and segregated alignments.
The concept owes much to the planning which took place in Goteborg (Gothenburg) in Sweden, where over a period of 15 years an ordinary city street tramway was extended through new and established suburbs on high-speed reserved track, all rolling stock was replaced by a fleet of high-performance trams, and effective traffic restrictions introduced in the central area to give priority to trams and every encouragement to use public transport. America: The revival of the streetcar or tram in North America (usually in the guise of light rail) has been just as remarkable as in Europe.
The Americans love affair with the automobile may not be over, but they have at least realised that it is not possible to rebuild major cities to accommodate unrestrained traffic growth, either in social or environmental terms. Pressures for better public transport as an alternative to the private car are very strong in California, where the west-coast ethos and the realities of pollution from motor vehicles make it particularly suitable for political initiatives to this end.
In the 1970s American urban planners started to look to Europe for ideas on how to save their cities from sprawl and economic decline. With transportation companies now in public ownership, the introduction of better public transport could be achieved using a mix of city, state and national funding. The concept of light rail: Light rail is not a rigid concept, but a flexible mode that fits between the bus and the heavy metro or conventional railway, and can behave like either of them as well.
In comparison with a system of buses on city streets, it is more expensive to construct, but may be cheaper to operate for a given capacity, will have lower whole-life costs, a higher commercial speed, reduce pollution, and be more successful in attracting motorists to public transport. In comparison with a metro or urban railway, light rail will be cheaper to build and operate, but operate at a lower commercial speed. However it will maintain a visible presence of surface public transport, offer better penetration of urban areas, enjoy better security, and generate less noise.