Mark Crispin wrote:
> You'll see streetcars in Germany and Austria, as part of an
> aboveground S-Bahn network which is invariably slower and less
> preferred to the underground U-Bahn. The S-Bahn quickly becomes
> rapid transit once in suburbia.
Mark, let's get the terminology correct. In Germany, "S-Bahn" is
short for "Stadtbahn" (City Railroad) and is almost invariably run by
"Deutsche Bahn" (the national railroad) using full-size electric rail
vehicles in a system fully integrated with the intercity rail network.
It's the equivalent of "commuter rail" in the United States, although
in some cities (Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, and Hamburg in particular)
it is quite well developed and provides a significant amount of very
high speed service within the city limits. It is not "streetcar" in
any sense of the word.
The U-Bahn (Untergrundbahn) is usually completely separate, and
typically operated by a local city transit agency, quite often the
same agency which runs the busses and streetcars. There will often be
a transit union of several companies across nearby communities to
provide a single fare structure (often including the Deutsche Bahn's
S-Bahn services in the area).
Streetcars and S-Bahn have nothing to do with each other. In fact,
it's much more likely that streetcars and U-Bahn will be integrated,
as is the case in cities other than Berlin and Hamburg, where there
was previously no heavy-rail U-Bahn, and tunnels were built for
certain portions of the streetcar system. Two examples come to mind
immediately: Bonn and Stuttgart, where the light-rail streetcars go
into tunnels with these streetcar stations marked "U". However, the
major S-Bahn stations in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart
(and most other cities) are the same stations at which you would catch
a long-distance train to anywhere in Europe. The S-Bahn also serves
many local stations, most of which you would pass through (without
stopping) when travelling on high-speed intercity trains.