Rapid transit

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The London Underground is the world's oldest underground system Lancaster Gate tube.jpg
The London Underground is the world’s oldest underground system
The New York City Subway is the world's largest single operator rapid transit system by number of stations, at 472. R160A E Train entering World Trade Center.jpg
The New York City Subway is the world's largest single operator rapid transit system by number of stations, at 472.
The Beijing Subway is the busiest single rapid transit system in the world. Gfp-beijing-subway.jpg
The Beijing Subway is the busiest single rapid transit system in the world.
The Shanghai Metro is the largest metro system by route length. Caoxi Road Station.jpg
The Shanghai Metro is the largest metro system by route length.
The combined Tokyo Metro, Toei Subway, Tokyo Monorail, and Rinkai Line make up the busiest rapid transit system in the world by annual ridership. Tokyo Metro and JR East at Ochanomizu, Tokyo.jpg
The combined Tokyo Metro, Toei Subway, Tokyo Monorail, and Rinkai Line make up the busiest rapid transit system in the world by annual ridership.

Rapid transit or mass rapid transit (MRT), also known as heavy rail, metro, subway, tube, U-Bahn or underground, is a type of high-capacity public transport generally found in urban areas. [1] [2] [3] Unlike buses or trams, rapid transit systems are electric railways that operate on an exclusive right-of-way, which cannot be accessed by pedestrians or other vehicles of any sort, [4] and which is often grade separated in tunnels or on elevated railways.

Public transport shared transport[ation] service that is available for use by the general public; usually of passengers but sometimes of goods

Public transport is transport of passengers by group travel systems available for use by the general public, typically managed on a schedule, operated on established routes, and that charge a posted fee for each trip. Examples of public transport include city buses, trolleybuses, trams and passenger trains, rapid transit and ferries. Public transport between cities is dominated by airlines, coaches, and intercity rail. High-speed rail networks are being developed in many parts of the world.

Urban area Human settlement with high population density and infrastructure of built environment

An urban area or urban agglomeration is a human settlement with high population density and infrastructure of built environment. Urban areas are created through urbanization and are categorized by urban morphology as cities, towns, conurbations or suburbs. In urbanism, the term contrasts to rural areas such as villages and hamlets and in urban sociology or urban anthropology it contrasts with natural environment. The creation of early predecessors of urban areas during the urban revolution led to the creation of human civilization with modern urban planning, which along with other human activities such as exploitation of natural resources leads to human impact on the environment.

Bus large road vehicle for transporting people

A bus is a road vehicle designed to carry many passengers. Buses can have a capacity as high as 300 passengers. The most common type of bus is the single-deck rigid bus, with larger loads carried by double-decker and articulated buses, and smaller loads carried by midibuses and minibuses; coaches are used for longer-distance services. Many types of buses, such as city transit buses and inter-city coaches, charge a fare. Other types, such as elementary or secondary school buses or shuttle buses within a post-secondary education campus do not charge a fare. In many jurisdictions, bus drivers require a special licence above and beyond a regular driver's licence.


Modern services on rapid transit systems are provided on designated lines between stations typically using electric multiple units on rail tracks, although some systems use guided rubber tires, magnetic levitation, or monorail. The stations typically have high platforms, without steps inside the trains, requiring custom-made trains in order to minimize gaps between train and platform. They are typically integrated with other public transport and often operated by the same public transport authorities. However, some rapid transit systems have at-grade intersections between a rapid transit line and a road or between two rapid transit lines. [5] It is unchallenged in its ability to transport large numbers of people quickly over short distances with little to no use of land.[ citation needed ]

Electric multiple unit A multiple unit train consisting of self-propelled carriages, using electricity as the motive power

An electric multiple unit or EMU is a multiple-unit train consisting of self-propelled carriages, using electricity as the motive power. An EMU requires no separate locomotive, as electric traction motors are incorporated within one or a number of the carriages. An EMU is usually formed of two or more semi-permanently coupled carriages, but electrically powered single-unit railcars are also generally classed as EMUs. The great majority of EMUs are passenger trains, but versions also exist for carrying parcels and mail.

Maglev Transport method that uses magnetic levitation to move vehicles without making contact with the ground; locomotion device with magnetic sustentation

Maglev is a system of train transportation that uses two sets of magnets, one set to repel and push the train up off the track, then another set to move the 'floating train' ahead at great speed taking advantage of the lack of friction. Along certain "medium range" routes Maglev can compete favorably with high-speed rail and airplanes.

Monorail single-rail based transportation system

A monorail is a railway in which the track consists of a single rail or a beam. The term is also used to describe the beam of the system, or the trains traveling on such a beam or track. The term originates from joining "mono" (one) and "rail" (rail), from 1897, possibly from German engineer Eugen Langen, who called an elevated railway system with wagons suspended the Eugen Langen One-railed Suspension Tramway.

The world's first rapid transit system was the partially underground Metropolitan Railway which opened as a conventional railway in 1863, and now forms part of the London Underground. [6] In 1868, New York opened the elevated West Side and Yonkers Patent Railway, initially a cable-hauled line using static steam engines.

Metropolitan Railway underground railway in London

The Metropolitan Railway was a passenger and goods railway that served London from 1863 to 1933, its main line heading north-west from the capital's financial heart in the City to what were to become the Middlesex suburbs. Its first line connected the main-line railway termini at Paddington, Euston, and King's Cross to the City. The first section was built beneath the New Road using the "cut-and-cover" method between Paddington and King's Cross and in tunnel and cuttings beside Farringdon Road from King's Cross to near Smithfield, near the City. It opened to the public on 10 January 1863 with gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives, the world's first passenger-carrying designated underground railway.

London Underground rapid transit system in London, United Kingdom

The London Underground is a public rapid transit system serving London, England and some parts of the adjacent counties of Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom.

IRT Ninth Avenue Line former elevated railway in New York City

The IRT Ninth Avenue Line, often called the Ninth Avenue Elevated or Ninth Avenue El, was the first elevated railway in New York City. It opened on July 3, 1868 as the West Side and Yonkers Patent Railway, as an experimental single-track cable-powered elevated railway from Battery Place, at the south end of Manhattan Island, northward up Greenwich Street to Cortlandt Street. It ceased operation on June 11, 1940, after it was replaced by the IND Eighth Avenue Line which had opened in 1932.

China has the largest number of rapid transit systems in the world at 31, with over 4,500 km of lines and is responsible for most of the world's rapid transit expansion in the past decade. [7] [8] [9] The world's longest single-operator rapid transit system by route length is the Shanghai Metro. [10] [11] The world's largest single rapid transit service provider by number of stations (472 stations in total) [12] is the New York City Subway. The busiest rapid transit systems in the world by annual ridership are the Tokyo subway system, the Seoul Metropolitan Subway, the Moscow Metro, the Beijing Subway, the Shanghai Metro, the Guangzhou Metro, the New York City Subway, the Mexico City Metro, the Paris Métro, and the Hong Kong MTR. [13]

China Country in East Asia

China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third- or fourth-largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

In transport terminology, network length refers to the total length of a transport network, and commonly also refers to the length of any fixed infrastructure associated with the network.

Shanghai Metro Metro system of Shanghai

The Shanghai Metro is a rapid transit rail network in Shanghai, operating urban and suburban transit services to 14 of its 16 municipal districts and to Huaqiao Town, Kunshan, Jiangsu Province. The Shanghai Metro system is the world's largest rapid transit system by route length. Opening in 1993 with full-scale construction extending back to 1986, the Shanghai Metro is the third-oldest rapid transit system in mainland China, after the Beijing Subway and the Tianjin Metro. It has seen substantial growth, significantly during the years leading up to the Expo 2010, and is still expanding quickly, with its most recent expansions having opened in December 2018. It is the largest component of the Shanghai metropolitan rail transit network, together with the Shanghai maglev train, the Zhangjiang Tram, the Songjiang Tram and the China Railway-operated commuter rail services to Jinshan. The metro system is also integrated with other forms of public transport in Shanghai.


A crowded Paris Metro subway car Crowded Paris Metro Subway, 2013.jpg
A crowded Paris Métro subway car

Metro is the most common term for underground rapid transit systems used by non-native English speakers. [14] Rapid transit systems may be named after the medium by which passengers travel in busy central business districts; the use of tunnels inspires names such as subway, [15] underground, [16] Untergrundbahn (U-Bahn) in German, [17] or the Tunnelbana (T-bana) in Swedish; [18] the use of viaducts inspires names such as elevated (L or el), skytrain, [19] overhead, overground or Hochbahn in German. One of these terms may apply to an entire system, even if a large part of the network (for example, in outer suburbs) runs at ground level.

Central business district commercial and business centre of a city

A central business district (CBD) is the commercial and business center of a city. In larger cities, it is often synonymous with the city's "financial district". Geographically, it often coincides with the "city centre" or "downtown", but the two concepts are separate: many cities have a central business district located away from its commercial or cultural city centre or downtown.

Tunnel An underground passage made for traffic

A tunnel is an underground passageway, dug through the surrounding soil/earth/rock and enclosed except for entrance and exit, commonly at each end. A pipeline is not a tunnel, though some recent tunnels have used immersed tube construction techniques rather than traditional tunnel boring methods.

Viaduct A multiple span bridge crossing an extended lower area

A viaduct is a bridge composed of several small spans for crossing a valley, dry or wetland, or forming an overpass or flyover.

In most of Britain, a subway is a pedestrian underpass; the terms Underground and Tube are used for the London Underground, and the North East England Tyne and Wear Metro, mostly overground, is known as the Metro. In Scotland, however, the Glasgow Subway underground rapid transit system is known as the Subway. In most of North America, underground mass transit systems are primarily known as subways. The term metro is a shortened reference to a metropolitan area. Chicago's commuter rail system that serves the entire metropolitan area is called Metra , while its rapid transit system that serves the city is called the "L". Rapid transit systems such as the Washington Metro, Los Angeles Metro Rail, the Miami Metrorail, and the Montreal Metro are generally called the Metro. [20]

Tyne and Wear Metro rapid-transit rail network in north-east England

The Tyne and Wear Metro, referred to locally as simply the Metro, is a rapid transit and light rail system in North East England, serving Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and Sunderland in Tyne and Wear. It has been described as the first modern light rail system in the United Kingdom.

Scotland Country in Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Sharing a border with England to the southeast, Scotland is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, by the North Sea to the northeast and by the Irish Sea to the south. In addition to the mainland, situated on the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland has over 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

Glasgow Subway underground metro line in Glasgow, Scotland

The Glasgow Subway is an underground rapid transit line in Glasgow, Scotland. Opened on 14 December 1896, it is the third-oldest underground metro system in the world after the London Underground and the Budapest Metro. It is also one of the very few railways in the world with a track running gauge of 4 ft. Formerly a cable railway, the Subway was later electrified, but its twin circular lines were never expanded. The line was originally known as the Glasgow District Subway, but was later renamed Glasgow Subway Railway. It was so called when taken over by the Glasgow Corporation who renamed it the Glasgow Underground in 1936. Despite this rebranding, many Glaswegians continued to refer to the network as "the Subway". In 2003 the name "Subway" was officially readopted by its operator, the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT). A £40,000 study examining the feasibility of an expansion into the city's south side was conducted in 2005 while a further commitment from Labour in 2007 to extend to the East End was also to no avail.


Initial construction stages of London's Metropolitan Railway at King's Cross St. Pancras in 1861 Constructing the Metropolitan Railway.png
Initial construction stages of London's Metropolitan Railway at King's Cross St. Pancras in 1861

The opening of London's steam-hauled Metropolitan Railway in 1863 marked the beginning of rapid transit. Initial experiences with steam engines, despite ventilation, were unpleasant. Experiments with pneumatic railways failed in their extended adoption by cities. Electric traction was more efficient, faster and cleaner than steam and the natural choice for trains running in tunnels and proved superior for elevated services.

In 1890 the City & South London Railway was the first electric-traction rapid transit railway, which was also fully underground. [21] Prior to opening the line was to be called the "City and South London Subway", thus introducing the term Subway into railway terminology. [22] Both railways, alongside others, were eventually merged into London Underground. The 1893 Liverpool Overhead Railway was designed to use electric traction from the outset. [23]

The technology quickly spread to other cities in Europe, the United States, Argentina, and Canada, with some railways being converted from steam and others being designed to be electric from the outset. Budapest, Chicago, Glasgow and New York all converted or purpose-designed and built electric rail services. [24]

Advancements in technology have allowed new automated services. Hybrid solutions have also evolved, such as tram-train and premetro, which incorporate some of the features of rapid transit systems. [21] In response to cost, engineering considerations and topological challenges some cities have opted to construct tram systems, particularly those in Australia, where density in cities was low and suburbs tended to spread out. [25] Since the 1970s, the viability of underground train systems in Australian cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, has been reconsidered and proposed as a solution to over-capacity.

Since the 1960s many new systems were introduced in Europe, Asia and Latin America. [17] In the 21st century, most new expansions and systems are located in Asia, with China becoming the world's leader in metro expansion operating some of the largest systems and possessing almost 60 cities operating, constructing or planning a rapid transit system. [26] [27]


Train parade on Circle Line in Moscow Metro
A train in Moscow Metro painted in honor of the 2019 Winter Universiade Universiade-2019 train side.jpg
A train in Moscow Metro painted in honor of the 2019 Winter Universiade

Rapid transit is used in cities, agglomerations, and metropolitan areas to transport large numbers of people often short distances at high frequency. The extent of the rapid transit system varies greatly between cities, with several transport strategies.

Some systems may extend only to the limits of the inner city, or to its inner ring of suburbs with trains making frequent station stops. The outer suburbs may then be reached by a separate commuter rail network where more widely spaced stations allow higher speeds. In some cases the differences between urban rapid transit and suburban systems are not clear. [3]

Rapid transit systems may be supplemented by other systems such as trolleybuses, regular buses, trams, or commuter rail. This combination of transit modes serves to offset certain limitations of rapid transit such as limited stops and long walking distances between outside access points. Bus or tram feeder systems transport people to rapid transit stops. [28]


Ana Rosa station platform, line 2 in Sao Paulo Metro Ana rosa, Sao Paulo Metro, Line blue, Brazil.jpg
Ana Rosa station platform, line 2 in São Paulo Metro
Coaches of Delhi Metro are color-coded to indicate different service lines. DelhiMetroBlueLineBombardier.jpg
Coaches of Delhi Metro are color-coded to indicate different service lines.

Each rapid transit system consists of one or more lines, or circuits. Each line is serviced by at least one specific route with trains stopping at all or some of the line's stations. Most systems operate several routes, and distinguish them by colors, names, numbering, or a combination thereof. Some lines may share track with each other for a portion of their route or operate solely on their own right-of-way. Often a line running through the city center forks into two or more branches in the suburbs, allowing a higher service frequency in the center. This arrangement is used by many systems, such as the Copenhagen Metro [29] , the Milan Metro, the Oslo Metro and the New York City Subway. [30]

Alternatively, there may be a single central terminal (often shared with the central railway station), or multiple interchange stations between lines in the city center, for instance in the Prague Metro. [31] The London Underground [32] and Paris Métro [33] are densely built systems with a matrix of crisscrossing lines throughout the cities. The Chicago 'L' has most of its lines converging on The Loop, the main business, financial, and cultural area. Some systems have a circular line around the city center connecting to radially arranged outward lines, such as the Moscow Metro's Koltsevaya Line and Beijing Subway's Line 10.

The capacity of a line is obtained by multiplying the car capacity, the train length, and the service frequency. Heavy rapid transit trains might have six to twelve cars, while lighter systems may use four or fewer. Cars have a capacity of 100 to 150 passengers, varying with the seated to standing ratio—more standing gives higher capacity. The minimum time interval between trains is shorter for rapid transit than for mainline railways owing to the use of Communications based train control: the minimum headway can reach 90 seconds, but many systems typically use 120 seconds to allow for recovery from delays. Typical capacity lines allow 1,200 people per train, giving 36,000 people per hour. The highest attained capacity is 80,000 people per hour by the MTR Corporation in Hong Kong. [34]

Network topologies

Rapid transit topologies are determined by a large number of factors, including geographical barriers, existing or expected travel patterns, construction costs, politics, and historical constraints. A transit system is expected to serve an area of land with a set of lines, which consist of shapes summarized as "I", "U", "S", and "O" shapes or loops. Geographical barriers may cause chokepoints where transit lines must converge (for example, to cross a body of water), which are potential congestion sites but also offer an opportunity for transfers between lines. Ring lines provide good coverage, connect between the radial lines and serve tangential trips that would otherwise need to cross the typically congested core of the network. A rough grid pattern can offer a wide variety of routes while still maintaining reasonable speed and frequency of service. [35]

Passenger information

Tokyo Metro uses large LCD information display to show the current location, upcoming stops, and advertisements in several languages. Tokyo metro 1000 series lcd display 01.png
Tokyo Metro uses large LCD information display to show the current location, upcoming stops, and advertisements in several languages.
Information panel showing the current location and upcoming stops of an East-West MRT train in Singapore Singapore MRT route info panel.jpg
Information panel showing the current location and upcoming stops of an East-West MRT train in Singapore

Rapid transit operators have often built up strong brands, often focused on easy recognition—to allow quick identification even in the vast array of signage found in large cities—combined with the desire to communicate speed, safety, and authority. [36] In many cities, there is a single corporate image for the entire transit authority, but the rapid transit uses its own logo that fits into the profile.

A transit map is a topological map or schematic diagram used to show the routes and stations in a public transport system. The main components are color-coded lines to indicate each line or service, with named icons to indicate stations. Maps may show only rapid transit or also include other modes of public transport. [37] Transit maps can be found in transit vehicles, on platforms, elsewhere in stations, and in printed timetables. Maps help users understand the interconnections between different parts of the system; for example, they show the interchange stations where passengers can transfer between lines. Unlike conventional maps, transit maps are usually not geographically accurate, but emphasize the topological connections among the different stations. The graphic presentation may use straight lines and fixed angles, and often a fixed minimum distance between stations, to simplify the display of the transit network. Often this has the effect of compressing the distance between stations in the outer area of the system, and expanding distances between those close to the center. [37]

Some systems assign unique alphanumeric codes to each of their stations to help commuters identify them, which briefly encodes information about the line it is on, and its position on the line. [38] For example, on the Singapore MRT, Changi Airport MRT Station has the alphanumeric code CG2, indicating its position as the 2nd station on the Changi Airport branch of the East West Line. Interchange stations would have at least two codes, for example, Raffles Place MRT Station has two codes, NS26 and EW14, the 26th station on the North South Line and the 14th station on the East West Line.

With widespread use of the Internet and cell phones globally, transit operators now use these technologies to present information to their users. In addition to online maps and timetables, some transit operators now offer real-time information which allows passengers to know when the next vehicle will arrive, and expected travel times. The standardized GTFS data format for transit information allows many third-party software developers to produce web and smartphone app programs which give passengers customized updates regarding specific transit lines and stations of interest.

Safety and security

Platform-edge doors are used for safety at Daan Station on Line 2, Taipei Metro, Taiwan. Daan Station Platform.JPG
Platform-edge doors are used for safety at Daan Station on Line 2, Taipei Metro, Taiwan.

Compared to other modes of transport, rapid transit has a good safety record, with few accidents. Rail transport is subject to strict safety regulations, with requirements for procedure and maintenance to minimize risk. Head-on collisions are rare due to use of double track, and low operating speeds reduce the occurrence and severity of rear-end collisions and derailments. Fire is more of a danger underground, such as the King's Cross fire in London in November 1987, which killed 31 people. Systems are generally built to allow evacuation of trains at many places throughout the system. [39] [40]

High platforms (usually over 1 meter / 3 feet) are a safety risk, as people falling onto the tracks have trouble climbing back. Platform screen doors are used on some systems to eliminate this danger.

Rapid transit facilities are public spaces and may suffer from security problems: petty crimes, such as pickpocketing and baggage theft, and more serious violent crimes, as well as sexual assaults on tightly packed trains and platforms. [41] [42] Security measures include video surveillance, security guards, and conductors. In some countries a specialized transit police may be established. These security measures are normally integrated with measures to protect revenue by checking that passengers are not travelling without paying. [43] Some subway systems, such as the Beijing Subway, which is ranked by Worldwide Rapid Transit Data as the "World's Safest Rapid Transit Network" in 2015, incorporate airport-style security checkpoints at every station. Rapid transit systems have been subject to terrorism with many casualties, such as the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas attack [44] and the 2005 "7/7" terrorist bombings on the London Underground.

Added features

Some rapid transport trains have extra features such as wall sockets and internet connectivity. For example, the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (MTR) provides mobile data connection in the tunnels for selected service providers.


Inside a tunnel on the Turin Metro, the interlocking tunnel lining segments placed by a tunnel boring machine can be clearly seen. Metro Turin Italy Tunnel.JPG
Inside a tunnel on the Turin Metro, the interlocking tunnel lining segments placed by a tunnel boring machine can be clearly seen.
Landungsbrucken station in Hamburg is an example where the U-Bahn is on the surface while the S-Bahn station is on a lower level Hamburg Hochbahn - Bruecke am Stintfang.jpg
Landungsbrücken station in Hamburg is an example where the U-Bahn is on the surface while the S-Bahn station is on a lower level

Most rapid transit trains are electric multiple units with lengths from three to over ten cars. [45] Crew sizes have decreased throughout history, with some modern systems now running completely unstaffed trains. [46] Other trains continue to have drivers, even if their only role in normal operation is to open and close the doors of the trains at stations. Power is commonly delivered by a third rail or by overhead wires. The whole London Underground network uses fourth rail and others use the linear motor for propulsion. [47]

Most run on conventional steel railway tracks, although some use rubber tires, such as the Montreal Metro and Mexico City Metro and some lines in the Paris Métro. Rubber tires allow steeper gradients and a softer ride, but have higher maintenance costs and are less energy efficient. They also lose traction when weather conditions are wet or icy, preventing above-ground use of the Montréal Metro and limiting above-ground use on the Sapporo Municipal Subway but not rubber-tired systems in other cities. [48]

High capacity Monorails with larger and longer trains can be classified as rapid transit systems.[ citation needed ] Such monorail systems recently started operating in Chongqing and São Paulo. Light metro is a subclass of rapid transit that has the speed and grade separation of a "full metro" but is designed for smaller passenger numbers. It often has smaller loading gauges, lighter train cars and smaller consists of typically two to four cars. Light metros are typically used as feeder lines into the main rapid transit system. [49] For instance, the Wenhu Line of the Taipei Metro serves many relatively sparse neighbourhoods and feeds into and complements the high capacity metro lines.

Some systems have been built from scratch, others are reclaimed from former commuter rail or suburban tramway systems that have been upgraded, and often supplemented with an underground or elevated downtown section. [18] At grade alignments with a dedicated right-of-way are typically used only outside dense areas, since they create a physical barrier in the urban fabric that hinders the flow of people and vehicles across their path and have a larger physical footprint. This method of construction is the cheapest as long as land values are low. It is often used for new systems in areas that are planned to fill up with buildings after the line is built. [50]

Underground tunnels move traffic away from street level, avoiding delays caused by traffic congestion and leaving more land available for buildings and other uses. In areas of high land prices and dense land use, tunnels may be the only economic route for mass transportation. Cut-and-cover tunnels are constructed by digging up city streets, which are then rebuilt over the tunnel; alternatively, tunnel-boring machines can be used to dig deep-bore tunnels that lie further down in bedrock. [21]

Elevated railways are a cheaper and easier way to build an exclusive right-of-way without digging expensive tunnels or creating barriers. In addition to street level railways they may also be the only other feasible alternative due to considerations such as a high water table close to the city surface that raises the cost of, or even precludes underground railways (e.g. Miami). Elevated guideways were popular around the beginning of the 20th century, but fell out of favor; they came back into fashion in the last quarter of the century—often in combination with driverless systems, for instance Vancouver's SkyTrain, London's Docklands Light Railway, [51] the Miami Metrorail, and the Bangkok Skytrain. [52]


The Getafe Central station on Line 12 of Madrid Metro has several levels. Getafe Central interior.JPG
The Getafe Central station on Line 12 of Madrid Metro has several levels.

Stations function as hubs to allow passengers to board and disembark from trains. They are also payment checkpoints and allow passengers to transfer between modes of transport, for instance to buses or other trains. Access is provided via either island- or side platforms. [53] Underground stations, especially deep-level ones, increase the overall transport time: long escalator rides to the platforms mean that the stations can become bottlenecks if not adequately built. Some underground and elevated stations are integrated into vast underground or skyway networks respectively, that connect to nearby commercial buildings. [54] In suburbs, there may be a "park and ride" connected to the station. [55]

To allow easy access to the trains, the platform height allows step-free access between platform and train. If the station complies with accessibility standards, it allows both disabled people and those with wheeled baggage easy access to the trains, [56] though if the track is curved there can be a gap between the train and platform. Some stations use platform screen doors to increase safety by preventing people falling onto the tracks, as well as reducing ventilation costs.

The deepest station in the world is Arsenalna station in Kiev, Ukraine [57] (105.5 m).

Particularly in the former Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries, but to an increasing extent elsewhere, the stations were built with splendid decorations such as marble walls, polished granite floors and mosaics—thus exposing the public to art in their everyday life, outside galleries and museums. The systems in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tashkent and Kiev are widely regarded as some of the most beautiful in the world. [58] Several other cities such as Stockholm, Montreal, Lisbon, Naples and Los Angeles have also focused on art, which may range from decorative wall claddings, to large, flamboyant artistic schemes integrated with station architecture, to displays of ancient artifacts recovered during station construction. [59] It may be possible to profit by attracting more passengers by spending relatively small amounts on grand architecture, art, cleanliness, accessibility, lighting and a feeling of safety. [60]

Stratford Station in London is shared by London Underground trains (left) and main line rail services (right), as well as the Docklands Light Railway (not shown). Stratford x pltfm.jpg
Stratford Station in London is shared by London Underground trains (left) and main line rail services (right), as well as the Docklands Light Railway (not shown).

Since the 1980s, trams have incorporated several features of rapid transit: light rail systems (trams) run on their own rights-of-way, thus avoiding congestion; they remain on the same level as buses and cars. Some light rail systems have elevated or underground sections. Both new and upgraded tram systems allow faster speed and higher capacity, and are a cheap alternative to construction of rapid transit, especially in smaller cities. [25]

A premetro design means that an underground rapid transit system is built in the city center, but only a light rail or tram system in the suburbs. Conversely, other cities have opted to build a full metro in the suburbs, but run trams in city streets to save the cost of expensive tunnels. In North America, interurbans were constructed as street-running suburban trams, without the grade-separation of rapid transit. Premetros also allow a gradual upgrade of existing tramways to rapid transit, thus spreading the investment costs over time. They are most common in Germany with the name Stadtbahn. [45]

Suburban commuter rail is a heavy rail system that operates at a lower frequency than urban rapid transit, with higher average speeds, often only serving one station in each village and town. Commuter rail systems of some cities (such as German S-Bahns, Chennai rail, Australian cityrails, Danish S-tog etc.) can be seen as the substitute for the city's rapid transit system providing frequent mass transit within city. As opposed to some cities (such as the Dubai Metro, Shanghai Metro, MetroSur of the Madrid Metro, Taipei Metro, Kuala Lumpur Rapid Transit etc.) the mainly urban rapid transit systems have lines that fan out to reach the outer suburbs. With some other urban or "near urban" rapid transit systems (Guangfo Metro, Bay Area Rapid Transit, Los Teques Metro and Seoul Subway Line 7, etc.) serving bi- and multi-nucleus agglomerations.

Some cities have opted for two tiers of urban railways: an urban rapid transit system (such as the Paris Métro, Berlin U-Bahn, London Underground, and the Tokyo subway) and a suburban system (such as their counterparts RER, S-Bahn, future Crossrail & London Overground, JR Urban Lines respectively). The suburban systems may have their own purpose built trackage, run at similar "rapid transit-like" frequencies, and commonly are operated by the national railway company. In some cities these suburban services run through tunnels in the city center and have direct transfers to the rapid transit system, on the same or adjoining platforms. [61] [62] California's BART, Federal District's Metrô-DF and Washington's Metrorail system is an example of a hybrid of the two: in the suburbs the lines function like a commuter rail line, with longer intervals and longer distance between stations; in the downtown areas, the stations become closer together and many lines interline with intervals dropping to typical rapid transit headways.

Costs, benefits, and impacts

The Docklands Light Railway in London allows for dense land use, while retaining a high capacity. Heronquays.jpg
The Docklands Light Railway in London allows for dense land use, while retaining a high capacity.

As of March 2018, 212 cities have built rapid transit systems. [63] The capital cost is high, as is the risk of cost overrun and benefit shortfall; public financing is normally required. Rapid transit is sometimes seen as an alternative to an extensive road transport system with many motorways; [64] the rapid transit system allows higher capacity with less land use, less environmental impact, and a lower cost. [65]

Elevated or underground systems in city centers allow the transport of people without occupying expensive land, and permit the city to develop compactly without physical barriers. Motorways often depress nearby residential land values, but proximity to a rapid transit station often triggers commercial and residential growth, with large transit oriented development office and housing blocks being constructed. [64] [66] Also, an efficient transit system can decrease the economic welfare loss caused by the increase of population density in a metropolis. [67]

Rapid transit systems have high fixed costs. Most systems are publicly owned, by either local governments, transit authorities or national governments. Capital investments are often partially or completely financed by taxation, rather than by passenger fares, but must often compete with funding for roads. The transit systems may be operated by the owner or by a private company through a public service obligation. The owners of the systems often also own the connecting bus or rail systems, or are members of the local transport association, allowing for free transfers between modes. Almost all transit systems operate at a deficit, requiring fare revenue, advertising and subsidies to cover costs.

The farebox recovery ratio, a ratio of ticket income to operating costs, is often used to assess operational profitability, with some systems including Hong Kong's MTR Corporation, [68] and Taipei [69] achieving recovery ratios of well over 100%. This ignores both heavy capital costs incurred in building the system, which are often subsidized with soft loans [70] and whose servicing is excluded from calculations of profitability, as well as ancillary revenue such as income from real estate portfolios. [68] Some systems, particularly Hong Kong's, extensions are partly financed by the sale of land whose value has appreciated by the new access the extension has brought to the area, [50] a process known as value capture.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Light rail, light rail transit (LRT), or fast tram is a form of urban rail transit using rolling stock similar to a tramway, but operating at a higher capacity, and often on an exclusive right-of-way.

S-train metro-like railway system in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark.

The S-train is a type of hybrid urban-suburban rail serving a metropolitan region. Some of the larger S-train systems provide service similar to rapid transit systems, while smaller ones often resemble commuter or even regional rail. They are especially common in Germany and Austria, where they are known as S-Bahn, which in the 1930s was an abbreviation of either Schnellbahn, Stadtbahn or Stadtschnellbahn, depending on the city, but they must not be confused with U-Stadtbahnen. Similar S-train systems exist also in Denmark, there known as S-tog, the Czech Republic as Esko, Switzerland also as S-Bahn, and northern Italy as Servizio ferroviario followed by either the word "metropolitano" or "suburbano".

Metro station railway station of a rapid transit system

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Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Metro and light rail system in Taiwan

Kaohsiung Rapid Transit System is a metro and light rail system covering the metropolitan area of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The metro lines are commonly known as Kaohsiung MRT for "mass rapid transit". Construction of the MRT started in October 2001. The MRT opened in 2008 and the Circular light rail in 2015. KRTS is operated by the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corporation under a BOT contract the company signed with the Kaohsiung City Government.

New York City Subway stations Wikimedia list article

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Urban rail transit term for various types of local rail systems

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Platform screen doors in subway stations, a door that separates the platform from the train, due to architectural constraints, climate control, or for safety

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RandstadRail light rail network in South Holland

RandstadRail (RR) is the official name of a public transportation rapid transit network in the southern part of the Rotterdam The Hague Metropolitan Area in the west of the Netherlands, connecting The Hague, Zoetermeer and Rotterdam. The network mainly uses former train and existing tram tracks, with a new flyover in The Hague and a new tunnel in Rotterdam. RandstadRail is a hybrid system of low-floor tram-train-like carriages used between The Hague and the city of Zoetermeer, and high-floor metro/subway-like carriages between The Hague and Rotterdam. The stations used by both lines have extended platforms with a high and a low part. Moreover, the network includes two bus lines.
The name can be somewhat confusing as for travellers RandstadRail only refers to tram 3 and 4 to Zoetermeer. All other connections as described above are fully integrated in existing metro and bus networks. On the other hand, Hague exploitant HTM considers a regular tram line as RandstadRail, only because it uses the RR-vehicles.

Medium-capacity rail system

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History of rapid transit

The history of rapid transit began in London with the opening of the Metropolitan Railway, which is now part of the London Underground, in 1863. By World War I, electric underground railways were being used in Athens, Berlin, Boston, Buenos Aires, Budapest, Glasgow, Hamburg, Liverpool, New York City, Paris, and Philadelphia.

Transit map

A transit map is a topological map in the form of a schematic diagram used to illustrate the routes and stations within a public transport system—whether this be bus lines, tramways, rapid transit, commuter rail or ferry routes. The main components are color coded lines to indicate each line or service, with named icons to indicate stations or stops.

Rapid transit in the United Kingdom

Rapid transit in the United Kingdom consists of five systems in four cities: the London Underground and Docklands Light Railway, Tyne and Wear Metro, the Glasgow Subway and Merseyrail in the Liverpool City Region. Rapid transit has also been proposed in other U.K. cities including Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, and Cambridge.


High-floor describes the interior flooring of commuter vehicles primarily used in public transport such as trains, light rail cars and other rail vehicles, along with buses and trolleybuses. Interior floor height is generally measured above the street surface or above the top of the rail. High-floor designs usually result from packaging requirements: mechanical items such as axles, motors, crankshafts, and/or transmissions, or luggage storage spaces are traditionally placed under the interior floor of these vehicles. The term is used in contrast with low-floor designs, which offer a decreased floor and entry height above the street surface. Since low-floor designs generally were developed after high-floor vehicles, the older high-floor design is sometimes also known as conventional or the “traditional” design.



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