rapid transit

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rapid transit,

transportation system designed to allow passenger travel within or throughout an urban area, usually employing surface, elevated, or underground railway systems or some combination of these. Rapid transit systems are generally considered to be mass transit systems, capable of moving large numbers of passengers in a single train. The large capacities of such systems make them potentially more efficient, in terms of cost and environmental effects, than automobile transportation. The principal problem to be solved in an urban rapid transit system is that of providing extra capacity to handle the volume of traffic during the morning and evening rush hours without unreasonable delays. Basically a rapid transit train consists of a number of electrically powered, self-propelled cars, each of which draws electricity from a "third rail" that runs near the tracks. Since there is an engine in each car, greater traction is produced than would be generated by a locomotive pulling a series of unpowered cars. The controls for the car motors are arranged so that an operator at either end of the train can control all of them. This arrangement eliminates involved turnarounds at the terminals.

While railways of any type may have portions of their tracks below, on, or above ground level, the term subway (or, depending on where in the world it is located, metro, underground or underground railway, or tube) is generally reserved for systems using the arrangement of cars described above and having most of their track underground. London's underground, which went into service in 1863, is the oldest in the world; initially steam-powered, it was fully electrified by 1896, the same year that the first subway began operating on the European continent in Budapest, Hungary. Boston installed (1897) the first subway in the United States; others followed in Paris (1900), Berlin (1902), New York (1904), Madrid (1919), Tokyo (1927), and Moscow (1935). Toronto's subway, completed in 1954, was the first in Canada; Montreal's subway was completed in 1966. The Beijing system, China's first, opened in 1969; the Shanghai metro, opened in 1995, is now the world's longest. By the 21st cent. there were some 160 metropolitan rapid transit systems in the world, more than half of which were traditional subway systems. In the United States, in addition to Boston and New York, there are subways in Atlanta (1979), Baltimore (1983), Chicago (1943), Cleveland (1955), Los Angeles (1993), Miami (1984), Philadelphia (1908), San Francisco (1972), and Washington, D.C. (1976); many more U.S. cities have rapid transit systems.

Some subways consist of only a single line, but others, such as the Métropolitain in Paris, the New York City Transit system, and the London underground, are networks. The Shanghai system has the longest total route (270 mi/434 km), and the Tokyo system carries the most passengers annually (3.2 billion). By far the largest underground transportation system in the United States is that of New York City. It carries 1.75 billion people and has more than 840 mi (1,352 km) of track, 660 mi (1,062 km) of which are mainline track, on some 210 mi (338 km) of total route; it also has more than 6,300 cars and 469 stations—more than any other system in the world. Moscow has an elaborate subway system with tunnels 15 to 20 ft (4.5 to 6 m) high instead of the usual 10 ft (3 m). Marble was used lavishly in constructing the stations, and Russia's best-known artists participated in their decoration.

In recent years concern over urban crowding and automotive air pollution has stimulated the construction and expansion of many rapid transit systems that incorporate automated operation and magnetic-card fare systems; among the first examples were the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in California, the Metro system in Washington D.C., and a section of the London underground. See also mass transitmass transit,
public transportation systems designed to move large numbers of passengers. Types and Advantages

Mass transit refers to municipal or regional public shared transportation, such as buses, streetcars, and ferries, open to all on a nonreserved basis.
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See C. W. Cheape, Moving the Masses (1980); T. Rallis, City Transport in Developed and Developing Countries (1988); C. Hood, 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York (1995); B. J. Cudahy, Under the Sidewalks of New York (2d rev. ed. 1996); S. Fischler, The Subway: A Trip Through Time on New York's Rapid Transit (1997).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
References in periodicals archive ?
Despite March's abiding interest in the elevated railroad, it is a violent labor strike on the city's streetcar system, the elevated train's proletarian predecessor, that brings the novel to its dramatic climax and threatens March with blindness.
pool halls, saloons, cheap night clubs, and elevated railroad stations." "You walk along 43rd any old night," an addict recounted, "and just say to one of them pool room bums, 'Seen the swing man?' and pretty soon you can get what you need."(59)
has submitted to the City Council a proposal to create a taxi stand on the east side of Harding Street, north of Franklin Street and under the elevated railroad tracks that run along the west side of Union Station.
The Highline, the elevated railroad trestle-cum-public-promenade that recently, is to the east and a smattering of restaurants and art galleries are within easy walking distance.
The truck went onto some nearby elevated railroad tracks and stopped.
He put into operation the Lake Street Elevated Railroad and built the Technical Institute in that city.
The green office/ retail project, which has topped out, straddles the forthcoming High Line, the old elevated railroad bed that is being turned into a public trailway.
The surface lot, which opened in 2004, is situated west of Union Station on the other side of the elevated railroad tracks and south of the station's bus ports.
It is located beneath and adjacent to the High Line, an elevated railroad track.
Jacobson said the city-owned parcel the city manager wants to have transferred to the WRA is on the west side of Washington Square, abutting the elevated railroad tracks that run through that area.
In the highline elevated railroad tracks and solid garages, warehouses and former factories, one can still see the physical imprint of an era in which lumberyards, breweries, factories, rail yards and piers occupied the area West of 10th Avenue.
WORCESTER - A sliver of downtown land hugging the elevated railroad tracks, once a trash-strewn parking lot, yesterday completed its long transformation into the region's Korean War Memorial.

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