The major mass transit projects under serious consideration by government agencies in the United States and Canada are listed here. Each project is described on the page related to the respective transport mode, as linked below. Smaller projects without dedicated lanes are not included here. Definitions of terms at the bottom of the page.
- HSR: High-Speed Rail: Definitions of “high-speed” rail depend on the location: in the United States, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) qualifies any train traveling above 110 mph; European and Japanese authorities only count trains going above 150 mph. That said, the newest HSR trains in Japan, China, France, and Spain move at 200 mph on some stretches. These railroads are universally electricity-powered, most relying on a pantograph/catenary system (though Maglev trains use electromagnets, of course). HSR tracks are entirely grade separated.
- CR: Commuter Rail: These railroads operate between suburbs and center cities, with stops usually located several miles apart outside of the downtown area. CR trains operate using diesel locomotives (such as LA’s Metrolink), electric multiple units (such as NYC’s Metro-North New Haven Line), and electric locomotives (such as New Jersey Transit’s Northeast Corridor line). Many CR trains operate on the same tracks as freight trains.
- Metro: Heavy Rail/Rapid Transit: Exemplified by New York’s subway or Washington’s metro, these rail lines operate with electric multiple units (EMU), usually using third rail electric transmission (though in Europe some use catenaries). These trains are completely grade-separated and share their lines with no other technologies. In center-cities, stops are usually located less than a mile apart, though distances may increase in more suburban areas. Metro is the most effective system for transporting large numbers of people in dense areas, with service possible every 1.5 minutes, long train sets, and high speed and acceleration.
- LRT: Light Rail Transit: Light Rail is by far the most popular technology for modern American rail systems, because it is cheaper than Metro technology, does not necessarily require grade separation (because it uses electric catenaries). Train sets (1-3 cars) are usually significantly shorter than Metro sets (4-10 cars). Some newer systems (such as New Jersey Transit’s RiverLine or San Diego’s Sprinter) rely on diesel multiple units (DMU) and have long distances between stations, and therefore find themselves somewhere in between LRT and CR.
- Streetcar: Street-based LRT: Streetcars run in the right-of-way of the street, though they are railways and often operate on identical technology as LRT, using catenaries. Streetcars, however, have smaller turning radii and lower boarding levels, making them ideal for short trips in dense residential or commercial areas.
- BRT: Bus Rapid Transit: The definition of BRT is highly disputed, though all BRT is meant to improve on the service of typical buses, with improved stations, better buses, faster travel times, and sometimes dedicated right-of-way. Many transit agencies (and the Bush administration) have favored BRT because it is “cheaper” than LRT… but that cheapness is usually a result of decreased service. Because LRT requires dedicated right-of-way, it is faster than cheap “BRT” operating in the street. But BRT as fast as LRT, operating in its own lanes, avoiding oncoming traffic, etc., would likely be just as expensive as LRT. In this database, the transport politic has only included BRT lines that will operate in their own fixed guideways.