Where mass transit matters (pt 4) – light rail (LRT)

Until the recent emphasis on bus rapid transit, (BRT), light rail transit (LRT) has been the modern symbol of modern mass transit in the United States. When I refer to light rail I am including  trams, modern street cars, trolleys that generally follow or parallel streets. It does not include commuter rail (sometime referred to as heavy rail) or subways/metros.

Portland - Source: panoramio.com

In the United States, Portland, Oregon has received the most press attention and accolades for its light rail system. But, Portland is not alone. Many other cities in the states and around the world employ light rail into their multi-modal transportation network.

As an urban planner and voter, I am concerned is that the distribution of light rail transit funding appears to be lopsided towards urban areas in the south and west. Based on the lists provided below, 19 light rail systems are in the south and west, while only 11 are in the north and east. Similarly, 13 heritage streetcars operate in the south and west, while just two are in the north and east.

Here’s a list of  the  systems operating or about to open in North America:

Calgary - Source: activeminds.ca


  • Calgary, Alberta
  • Edmonton, Alberta
  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • Toronto, Ontario


  • Havana


  • Monterrey
  • Guadalajara
  • Mexico City

United States (light rail)

  • Austin, Texas
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Buffalo, New York
  • Camden, New Jersey
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Houston, Texas
  • Jersey City, New Jersey
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • Norfolk, Virginia
  • Oceanside, California
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Sacramento, California
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • San Diego, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • San Jose, California
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Tacoma, Washington
  • Washington, DC (2012)

Kenosha logo - Source: krc.goflo.com

United States (heritage streetcars)

  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Galveston, Texas
  • Kenosha, Wisconsin
  • Little Rock/North Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Portland, Oregon
  • San Francisco, California
  • San Pedro, California
  • Savannah, Georgia
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Tampa, Florida
  • Tucson, Arizona

Busiest Light Rail Systems in the USA

         City             Daily Boardings

  1. Boston               232,000
  2. San Francisco   170,900
  3. Los Angeles      169,800
  4. Portland            147,100
  5. San Diego         133,400
  6. Philadelphia        97,700
  7. Dallas                  75,400
  8. Denver                66,900
  9. Salt Lake City     55,500
  10. St. Louis              53,200
  11. Sacramento        45,300
  12. Jersey City          40,975
  13. Phoenix               40,600
  14. Houston              36,600
  15. Minneapolis        35,100
  16. San Jose            33,400
  17. Baltimore            32,400
  18. Miami                  31,100
  19. Seattle                27,100
  20. Pittsburgh           24,200
  21. Buffalo                22,200
  22. Newark              18,807
  23. New Orleans      17,500
  24. Charlotte            15,100
  25. Cleveland             8,900
  26. Camden               8,762
  27. Oceanside           8,100
  28. Norfolk                 5,100
This entry was posted in cities, climate change, density, economic development, energy, history, land use, new urbanism, placemaking, planning, rail, transit, transportation, urban planning and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Where mass transit matters (pt 4) – light rail (LRT)

  1. Alex P. says:

    You have Phoenix in the list of passenger counts, but you don’t have it in the general list above it.


  2. bloggablecity says:

    Reblogged this on Bloggable City and commented:
    Light Rail is a great thing for big cities to move people from place to place. It just makes sense to me!


  3. Mike says:

    Miami, FL does not really have light rail, unless you were referring to the downtown peoplemover. They do have the “heavy rail” mostly-elevated Metrorail, a commuter rail line, and an abandoned railroad line south of town is used for BRT.


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