Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Transit Tuesday: Elevated Underground

Transit Tuesday is a weekly feature or profile on transit.

When Washington’s rapid transit system was being planned, regional leaders specifically shied away from calling it a subway, primarily because much of the network would not be below ground. Of course, even in cities where terms like “subway” and “elevated” are used, trains are not exclusively above or below ground.

The graphs below compare America’s heavy rail system based on their relationship to the ground: how much they’re on it, under it, or above it. The first chart shows the total system mileage in each category, while the second chart shows the percentage of the system in each category.



If any system deserves the moniker "subway" it's Los Angeles, where everything except for the rail yard is underground. New York's famous subway is only 56% underground. And Chicago's L (for 'elevated') has nothing on Miami, with its high water table. Miami has no underground sections, and only a few places where it runs at grade. Miami is 95% elevated, while Chicago's L is only elevated 54% of the time.

In addition to the aboveground/underground descriptors, all-capital acronyms caught on briefly. As did 'metros,' which can be found from Washington to Los Angeles and Miami to Baltimore, along with in places around the globe.


Terrance said...

I'm very familiar with the DC Metro. I'm having a tough time remembering where the at-grade portions of the system are located. Are you counting the cut and cover portions of Green Line in Prince George's County as 'at-grade'?

Matt' said...

Actually, I'm using WMATA's numbers. But cut-and-cover would be considered underground.

The Green Line is at grade:
*From Greenbelt to just south of College Park.
*In PG Plaza Station.
*Briefly while just south of Hyattsville Home Depot.
*Briefly between Ager Road subway and West Hyattsville Station.
*Part of Fort Totten Station.
*Southern Avenue Station.
*Briefly near Suitland Pkwy & Southern Ave.
*Alongside Suitland Parkway between Naylor Road and Suitland Station.
*In a few spots between Southern Avenue and Branch Avenue Stations.

Steven said...


The entire Blue & Yellow lines heading south into Virginia once you pass the National Airport station are mostly at grade and elevated.

The entire Orange line in the I-66 median in Virginia is at grade.

The entire Blue & Orange lines in eastern DC and Maryland east of Stadium/Armory are mostly at grade and elevated.

Almost the entire Red line in Maryland after White Flint is at grade.

Rob Pitingolo said...

Nice graphs. Thanks for putting those together.