A Guide to America's Most Ambitious Transit Projects

The U.S. is currently planning 721 regional transit projects. Don't hold your breath for their completion, though.

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Reconnecting America

First, the good news: there are 721 fixed guideway transit projects being planned in American cities. These include commuter rail, subways, streetcars, and certain bus lines, and would create or improve networks in 109 regions, providing transit access to millions of households and jobs.

The bad news? With current federal funding levels, it would take 78 years to construct the two-thirds of those lines that have cost estimates.

These are some of the conclusions of the Transit Space Race 2013, an exhaustive data project undertaken by the nonprofit Reconnecting America. With information from planning documents, reporting, and talks with local officials, the group has updated its 2011 Space Race, and the number of projects has increased from 643 to 721.

"This isn't an endorsement," says Jeff Wood, the chief cartographer at Reconnecting America. "But it shows how much regions are thinking about expanding fixed guideways. There's a larger universe of projects out there."

The biggest barrier they face is a very small pot of federal funding. 497 current projects have a cost estimate; in total, they would require $250 billion in funding. 52 of these are under construction, and a few hundred others are in various stages of development: 88 in Alternatives Analysis, 99 in Engineering, 43 currently stalled.

The most expensive municipal-level transit project in the country is, of course, New York's Second Avenue Subway, which has been appearing on regional plans since 1929.

The interactive map is only the cover for a highly detailed database of transit initiatives. In addition to location, projects can be sorted by area population, cost, technology, and stage of development. Nearly every corridor, loop and extension comes with a hyperlink to a source explaining the plan in further detail.

Statewide or interstate projects such as high-speed rail are not featured.

Image via Reconnecting America.

About the Author

  • Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.