In previous DRPA studies, three rail system options (also identified using the term "mode of transportation") were evaluated:
- Using existing PATCO technology and standards.
- Using existing RiverLine technology and standards.
- Implementing a hybrid technology - PATCO Light Rail (formerly known as Modified PATCO in the 1990s NJ Transit studies)
Website readers may be familiar with the existing PATCO line and with the NJ Transit RiverLine.
- PATCO trains are electrically powered from a third rail and do not cross any streets at level intersections.
- RiverLine trains are diesel-powered light rail vehicles that cross streets at level intersections protected with railroad crossing safety devices.
PATCO Light Rail combines aspects of both PATCO Heavy Rail and traditional Light Rail technology. PATCO Light Rail vehicles would operate as existing PATCO trains do in Philadelphia and downtown Camden. After leaving the existing PATCO line, PATCO Light Rail vehicles traveling toward Glassboro would eventually switch to an overhead electric power supply system, descend to ground level, and cross streets at level intersections. Selective elimination of level intersections could be implemented on a site-specific basis after thorough evaluation.
A Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission study, conducted for the purpose of investigating public transportation utilization in the region, has indicated that mandatory transfers reduce ridership by 40%. This suggests that fewer Philadelphia-bound commuters would be willing to use a rail system that does not offer direct access to Center City Philadelphia from southern New Jersey. As a result, a Diesel Light Rail system is unlikely to match the maximum potential reduction of the negative environmental and social impacts - associated with single occupancy vehicle journeys - that would be possible if a PATCO Light Rail system was implemented.
PATCO Light Rail technology is neither revolutionary or evolutionary. One example of a similar system is Line B of the Rotterdam Metro in The Netherlands. The Hoekse Line conversion and the proposed PATCO Light Rail system have similar characteristics:
- conversion of an existing railroad line for rapid transit service.
- operational integration with an existing rapid transit system.
- railcars can take power from from a third rail or overhead wire.
- operation over a rail line that includes level intersections with streets.