TransitKC

Commuter rail before (or after) light rail?

Our last post about the regional commuter rail proposal unleashed questions about how the plan relates to the downtown streetcar proposal, and whether (or if) one is needed before the other. We decided to simply lay out some data so you can formulate your own conclusion.

The table below represents America’s “new rail cities” — metropolitan areas that built new rail infrastructure after the expansion of highway capacity and the rise of the private auto. This excludes cities that never dismantled their urban or commuter rail infrastructure in the 1950s (Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco). This provides a more balanced comparison to what KC is up against when implementing services from scratch.

Urban Rail refers to any rail line that is designed to serve an urban core with frequent, all-day service (subways, elevateds, streetcars, light rail). Commuter Rail refers to any rail line that connects outlying suburbs with the central business district with less frequent service focused primarily on rush hours.

The year corresponds to the initial year of operation. Fully-funded rail lines under construction are listed; BRT lines are not.

Metro Area Urban Rail Commuter Rail
Atlanta, Georgia 1979 N/A
Albuquerque, New Mexico N/A 2006
Buffalo, New York 1984 N/A
Charlotte, North Carolina 2007 N/A
Dallas, Texas 1996 1996
Denver, Colorado 1994 2015
Houston, Texas 2004 N/A
Los Angeles, California 1990 1992
Miami, Florida 1984 1987
Minneapolis, Minnesota 2004 2009
Nashville, Tennessee N/A 2006
New Haven, Connecticut N/A 1990
Norfolk, Virginia 2010 N/A
Portland, Oregon 1986 2009
Sacramento, California 1987 N/A
Salt Lake City, Utah 1999 2008
San Diego, California 1981 1995
Seattle, Washington 2009 2003
St. Louis, Missouri 1993 N/A
Washington, DC 1976 1984
2 comments

2 Comments so far

  1. benkrakh October 12th, 2009 5:28 pm

    I think this chart is pretty telling. For the most part, either cities only have urban rail, or they had urban rail well before they got commuter rail. There are only three examples of what Kansas City is trying to do. I say K.C. goes with the route that has been proven to work.

  2. [...] a table comparing the years in which rapid transit (defined as urban rail) and commuter rail were respectively built across American cities.  As a little background tidbit, Kansas City currently lacks both and is in the process of [...]