Back in December I started a series comparing North American Transit sytems, first by Fare Prices, then by Hours of Operation. The third installment in the series has been sitting in a folder of drafts since then, half finished.
Miles of route is one of the hardest things to compare among transit systems because each transit system is so different. With subway, light rail, street car, and bus rapid transit (BRT) all being used to different extents in different cities, it’s hard to know what to include. I’ve done my best here, with the information I could find from transit sources on the web.
For the purpose of the below chart, I included only rail-based transit, and excluded any commuter-rail line (such as GO Transit in Toronto or MBTA commuter rail in Boston). This isn’t to say that this type of rail isn’t of supreme importance in the greater urban public transit picture, but only that perhaps it is best left to a second comparison. It is for this reason that I did not include Philadelphia in the below chart. As discussed previously, Philadelphia’s transit system is so complex in terms of types of routes and types of transit it was difficult to sort out what to include.
Well, New York really trumps any other North American system in terms of total amount of track, with Chicago and Washington basically tying for second. Toronto comes in 4th, largely due to my inclusion of streetcar lines in the analysis. If I were to eliminate streetcar lines, the miles of track would drop to 43 putting it below Boston. Take that as you will, keeping in mind the fact that some Streetcars have designated tracks and some don’t.
What is not quantified here is the effectiveness of each line. Which systems are built smartly? Which serve the population most effectively and which encourage the most transit use? Is it best to build outwards to serve a larger geographic area, or to build densely to serve the most densely populated areas?
These are all things I will explore in my final installment of this series.
**This is the third post in a series of posts on North American Public Transit systems**