Openings and Construction Starts Planned for 2019

Despite recent declines in transit ridership in the U.S., the construction of major transit networks continues across the country—as well as Canada, Mexico, and the rest of North America.

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projects across

North America.

In 2019, there will be 89 major heavy rail, light rail, streetcar, bus rapid transit, and commuter rail projects under construction across the continent. These projects will add more than 830 miles of new fixed-guideway transit—generally high-quality service that will improve the lines of residents. In total, they’ll cost more than $91 billion to complete—most of which is funded by local governments.

In the U.S., the Trump Administration has repeatedly been reluctant to invest in new transit lines, even as the U.S. Department of Transportation has continually poured money into highways across the country. Nevertheless, following the Democratic takeover of the U.S. House after the November 2018 elections, the government has begun releasing funding commitments for major new projects. Those grants are likely to continue as long as Democrats continue to hold control of the House.

But, as in years past, high construction costs plague infrastructure projects in the U.S.—and those high costs make the completion of effective transit networks more difficult. Among heavy rail projects under construction in 2019, the average line in the U.S. will cost $650 million per mile—compared to just $362 million per mile in Canada (when adjusted to U.S. dollars). Among light rail projects, the average U.S. line will cost $339 million per mile to build, compared to just $146 million per mile in Canada.*

In this article, I first compare the networks that are being completed in cities in the U.S. and Canada, showing how different regions are promoting different priorities in their investments. I then document all of the projects planned for opening this year and that are under construction. These are all also mapped out, with additional data, on Transit Explorer, which I update throughout the year. Finally, I provide a table with data on all the projects under construction in North America.

This is the 11th year of my compilation of new transit projects on The Transport Politic. Find previous years here: 2009  | 2010  | 2011  | 2012  | 2013  | 2014  | 2015  | 2016  | 2017 | 2018


Network effects and scales of construction

The investments in new rail and bus corridors documented here will certainly alter the manner in which people move around cities across North America. Yet the effectiveness of these investments in making it possible for people to conduct their lives using transit will depend on more than just whether new lines are constructed. It also depends on where those lines are located and how they relate to one another.

It is possible to induce high levels of commuting into downtown office jobs by creating a radial network of lines from throughout a region into the central business district. This type of transit system works best for 9-to-5 commuters and is frequently the model used by commuter rail agencies in the U.S. Yet a radial system is less likely to allow people to conduct other elements of their lives—getting to school, to shopping, or to entertainment—because it fails in serving other parts of the city. Moreover, other than in the downtown core, where it promotes hyper-concentration, it encourages dispersal elsewhere. The alternative is a grid of routes that creates a multi-nodal, multi-destination system of transportation. This allows people to not only get downtown, but to other parts of the city, and it makes denser development possible in other neighborhoods.

The other important question in orienting the design of a transit network is whether to prioritize dense, central communities, or whether to extend the system as far as possible into the hinterlands of the region. The first approach has the advantage of serving neighborhoods that are already walkable and that have the greatest chance of encouraging people to use transit for many trips. The second approach serves people who take the longest trips, though it does so in a way that will likely work most effectively only for those aforementioned 9-to-5 commuters.

Metropolitan regions in different parts of the U.S. and Canada are using varying methods in designing their networks, as illustrated in the following maps, taken from Transit Explorer, all of which are at the same scale. I’ve included a comparison with New York City for context.

Denver, Minneapolis, and Portland are developing primarily radial networks, focusing on expanding access into their downtowns. Their lines—not only those that already exist, but also those under construction and proposed—are widely spaced across the region.

On the other hand, Atlanta, Montréal, and Toronto are largely pursuing a grid of new lines that focus on their respective regions’ densest areas. This approach is likely to increase overall transit use more effectively, though it may not provide as useful an alternative to regional traffic. Los Angeles and Seattle are pursuing transit investment programs that tow the line somewhat between the two.

Atlanta

Denver

Los Angeles

Minneapolis

Montréal

New York City

Portland

Seattle

Toronto


Projects planned for 2019 opening

In 2019, two heavy rail lines, seven light rail lines, ten bus rapid transit lines, and six commuter rail lines are expected to open. Of these, the most expensive to build was the 10-mile extension of San Francisco’s BART network to San Jose. This project, which has been under construction since 2013 and was supposed to open in 2018, is expected to serve about 46,000 daily riders; it will eventually be complemented by a further extension of BART to Santa Clara.

Yet the most expensive does not mean the most transformative. Ottawa’s Confederation Line, a new light rail project that replaces a preexisting busway and complements it with a downtown subway, will serve far more users—an expected 240,000 daily riders. In Guadalajara, the city’s third light rail line will serve even more: almost 350,000 trips a day.

Among others, San Francisco’s new Central Subway, which will extend its T-Third Muni Line through downtown, is also remarkable in that it’s been being actively discussed since the 1990s and is the first subway completed in central San Francisco since the BART Market Street tunnel in 1973.

BART Silicon Valley

Ottawa Confederation Line

San Francisco Central Subway

These projects will feature frequent, all-day service. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for each of the new lines opening this year. Fort Worth’s TEX Rail project, which commences operations on January 10, is only scheduled for hourly service between downtown Fort Worth and the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. That will limit the route’s usefulness for people who rely on transit and can’t wait an hour for the next train to show up. The system is planned for half-hourly service once additional trains arrive, yet the project is indicative of a problem among many major transit projects in the U.S.: we’re willing to spend billions of dollars on construction, but we have less interest in paying the long-term costs of making sure trains and buses on these lines are frequent and reliable.

Find a full listing of these projects below; to access their route maps on Transit Explorer, click the icon.


Other projects under construction in 2019—but opening in 2020 or later

Dozens of additional projects will be under construction in 2019 but aren’t planned for opening this year. Of these, by far the most expensive to build will be New York’s East Side Access project, which will extend Long Island Rail Road service to Grand Central Terminal by 2022 ($10.3 billion), and Honolulu’s rail transit investment, which will cross Oahu using automated, elevated trains in 2025 ($8.2 billion).

Yet other regions feature more new projects under construction. In Los Angeles, the new downtown subway for light rail trains—the Regional Connector—is expected to open in 2021, and in doing so improve service for two other light rail lines, the Crenshaw Line (2020) and the Gold Line Foothill Extension (2026). LA also has construction underway on all three phases of its Purple Line subway extension to the city’s west side (2026).

In the Seattle region, the massive expansion of the Link light rail system funded by voters in 2008 is underway, with three expansions from central Seattle east and north. In Montréal, the REM automated metro network is under construction, with scheduled completion in 2023. And in Toronto, four new light rail lines, a subway extension, and several bus rapid transit projects will be under construction this year.

Find a full listing of these projects below; to access their route maps on Transit Explorer, click the icon.


Comparing projects across the continent

The following sortable table provides detailed information about each of the 89 major transit projects under construction in North America in 2019.

The projects that are expected to serve the most number of riders on a per-mile basis—a typical measure of project effectiveness—are Monterrey’s Linea 3, New York’s East Side Access project, and Los Angeles’ Regional Connector. Each will serve more than 45,000 riders per mile on a typical weekday.

Expensive projects that nonetheless are expected to serve very few riders per mile include Fort Worth’s TEX Rail, Denver’s Gold Line, and Los Angeles’ Crenshaw Line, all of which will serve fewer than 2,000 riders per mile.

Of the eight most expensive projects in terms of their per-mile construction cost, seven are subways, including New York’s East Side Access project, San Francisco’s Central Subway, Toronto’s Scarborough Subway Extension, and Los Angeles’ Purple Line extensions and Regional Connector. Boston’s mostly at-grade Green Line extension will be almost as expensive to build.

ModeRegionProjectMilesCost ($)Cost/ MileConstructDaily ridersRiders/ MileGradeROW
Heavy RailBay Area CABART Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension1024002402013-2019460004600At gradeIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitBay Area CAEast Bay BRT9.5176192015-2019360003789At gradeIndependent (mostly)
Light RailBay Area CACentral Subway1.715789282013-20193510020647SubwayIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitBay Area CAVan Ness Avenue BRT23091552016-20212500012500At gradeIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitBay Area CAGeary BRT6.63552018-20219400014242At gradeSemi-Independent
Commuter Rail DMUBay Area CASMART Train Phase 22.143212017-2019800381At gradeIndependent
Light RailBoston MAGreen Line Extension4.723004892013-2021450009574At grade (mostly)Independent
Bus Rapid TransitCalgary ABSouthwest Transitway13.7304222016-2019460003358At gradeSemi-Independent
StreetcarCharlotte NCCityLYNX Gold Line Phase 22.5150602017-202057002280At gradeShared
Bus Rapid TransitChicago ILPace Pulse Milwaukee Line7.61422017-20194100539At gradeShared
Bus Rapid TransitChicago ILPace Pulse Dempster151012019-2020At gradeShared
Commuter Rail DMUDallas TXTEX Rail27.2996372016-201913700504At gradeIndependent
Commuter RailDallas TXCotton Belt261100422019-2022At gradeIndependent
Commuter Rail EMUDenver CONorth Metro Phase 1 (N)13343262014-2020At grade (mostly)Independent
Light RailDenver COSoutheast Rail Extension2.32331012016-201966002870At gradeIndependent
Commuter Rail EMUDenver COGold Line (G)11.221001882012-2019180001607At gradeIndependent
Light RailEdmonton ABValley Line Stage 1 Southeast8.118002222016-2020420005185Subway/At gradeIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitEl Paso TXBrio Alameda Corridor12.23632016-2019At gradeShared
Bus Rapid TransitEl Paso TXBrio Dyer Corridor10.23642017-2019At gradeShared
Bus Rapid TransitGrand Rapids MILaker Line13.37152019-20204400331At gradeShared
Light RailGuadalajara MXLinea 313.3994752014-201934800026165Elevated/SubwayIndependent
Heavy Rail AutomatedHonolulu HIHonolulu Rail Transit2081654082011-20201196005980ElevatedIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitHouston TXUptown (Post Oak) BRT4.5193432016-2019190004222At gradeIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitIndianapolis INIndyGo Red Line13.19672017-201911000840At gradeIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitIndianapolis INIndyGO Purple Line14.813992019-20219600649At gradeIndependent (mostly)
Bus Rapid TransitKansas City MOProspect Avenue MAX542018-2020At gradeShared
Light RailLos Angeles CACrenshaw Line8.520582422014-2020160001882Elevated/Subway/At gradeIndependent
Heavy RailLos Angeles CAPurple Line Extension Phase 13.928407282014-2023168004308SubwayIndependent
Light RailLos Angeles CARegional Connector1.917569242014-20219000047368SubwayIndependent
Heavy RailLos Angeles CAPurple Line Extension Phase 22.624779532018-20253610013885SubwayIndependent
Heavy RailLos Angeles CAPurple Line Extension Phase 32.520008002018-2026SubwayIndependent
Light RailLos Angeles CAFoothill Gold Line Extension to Montclair12.315001222017-2027At gradeIndependent
StreetcarLos Angeles CAOC Streetcar Santa Ana/Garden Grove4.14081002018-202173001780At gradeShared
Heavy RailLos Angeles CALAX Airport Connector2.3270011742019-20239500041304ElevatedIndependent
Heavy RailMexico MXLinea 12 Extension2.5153612016-20212600010400SubwayIndependent
Commuter RailMexico MXTren Interurbano de Pasajeros Toluca-Valle de Mexico35.91978552014-20182300006407Subway/At gradeIndependent
StreetcarMilwaukee WILakefront Line0.429732017-2020At gradeShared
Bus Rapid TransitMilwaukee WIEast-West BRT75482019-202095001357At gradeSemi-Independent
Light RailMinneapolis MNSouthwest Corridor/Green Line Extension14.518581282017-2023340002345At grade (mostly)Independent
Bus Rapid TransitMinneapolis MNC Line302018-20199000At gradeShared
Bus Rapid TransitMinneapolis MNOrange Line1715192017-2021At gradeShared
Commuter RailMonterey CAMonterey County Rail Extension3813742018-2022At gradeIndependent
Light RailMonterrey MXLinea 34.7439932013-202028000059574Elevated/SubwayIndependent
Automated Heavy RailMontreal QCReseau Express Metropolitain (REM)41.644801082018-20231670004014Elevated/Subway/At gradeIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitMontreal QCSRB Pie-IX6.8264392018-20227000010294At gradeIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitMontreal QCSauve/Cote-Vertu2.92019-20204000013793At gradeIndependent (mostly)
Commuter RailNew York NJLackawanna Cutoff Phase 17.32014-2020At gradeIndependent
Commuter Rail EMUNew York NYEast Side Access31033334442006-202216200054000SubwayIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitOmaha NEOmaha BRT83142019-2020At gradeShared
Light RailOttawa ONConfederation Line7.721002732013-201924000031169Subway/At gradeIndependent
Light RailOttawa ONTrillium Line South9.92019-2021At gradeIndependent
Light RailOttawa ONConfederation Line West9.32019-2023At gradeIndependent
Light RailOttawa ONConfederation Line East7.52019-2022At gradeIndependent
Heavy RailPanama PALinea 213.12014-2019ElevatedIndependent
Commuter RailPhiladelphia PAMedia/Elwyn Extension to Wawa3151502017-2020At gradeIndependent
Light RailPhoenix AZGilbert Road Extension1.9184972015-201940002105At gradeIndependent
StreetcarPhoenix AZTempe Streetcar3202672017-2021At gradeShared
Bus Rapid TransitPortland ORDivision Transit15175122019-202210000667At gradeShared
Bus Rapid TransitReno NVVirginia Street BRT1.880442018-2020At gradeShared
StreetcarSacramento CADowntown Riverfront Streetcar1.22091742019-2022At gradeShared
Commuter Rail DMUSan BernardinoArrow Redlands Passenger Rail Project9285322019-20211200133At gradeIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitSan Diego CASouth Bay Rapid2612852016-2019At gradeShared
Light RailSan Diego CAMid-Coast Corridor Transit10.921121942015-2021338003101At gradeIndependent
Light RailSeattle WANorthgate Link4.321004882012-20216000013953Elevated/SubwayIndependent
Light RailSeattle WAEast Link1428002002016-2023500003571Elevated/Subway/At gradeIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitSeattle WASwift 2 Green Line12.46752017-20194700379At gradeSemi-Independent
StreetcarSeattle WACenter City Connector1.31971522017-20202010015462At gradeIndependent
Light RailSeattle WALynnwood Link8.530703612018-2024700008235At gradeIndependent
StreetcarSeattle WATacoma Link2.4166692018-2022At gradeShared
Bus Rapid TransitSpokane WACentral City Line672122019-20213000500At gradeShared
Bus Rapid TransitSt. Petersburg FLCentral Avenue BRT114142019-20215400491At gradeSemi-Independent
Light RailToronto ONEglinton Crosstown11.849904232011-202117000014407Subway/At gradeIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitToronto ONViva Next Rapidways Yonge (Phase 1)52015-2020At gradeIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitToronto ONViva Next Rapidways Yonge (Phase 2)1.32015-2020At gradeIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitToronto ONViva Rapidway Highway 7 West Phase 22016-2020At gradeIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitToronto ONViva Highway 7 Rapidway Phase 22016-2020At gradeIndependent
Light RailToronto ONFinch West LRT6.812001762018-2023400005882At gradeIndependent
Commuter RailToronto ONRichmond Hill Line Extension to Bloomington822017-2019At gradeIndependent
Commuter RailToronto ONGO Extension to Niagara Falls42.612032017-2019At gradeIndependent
Commuter RailToronto ONLakeshore East Bowmanville Extension12.42019-2024At gradeIndependent
Light RailToronto ONHamilton LRT B-Line6.77601132019-2024310004627At gradeIndependent
Light RailToronto ONHurontario LRT11.61000862018-20221100009483At gradeIndependent
Heavy RailToronto ONScarborough Subway Extension3.933508592019-2026SubwayIndependent
Heavy RailWashington DCSilver Line Phase 211.427782442014-2020Elevated/At gradeIndependent
Light RailWashington DCPurple Line16.221001302017-2022690004259At grade (mostly)Independent
StreetcarWashington DCAnacostia Initial Line1.15449?-?At gradeSemi-Independent
Bus Rapid TransitWashington DCUS 29 Flash BRT13.53132018-2020At gradeShared
Light RailWaterloo ONION Light Rail Transit Phase 111.8770652014-2019270002288At gradeIndependent
Bus Rapid TransitWinnipeg MBSouthwest Rapid Transitway (Stage 2)4.75081092016-2020At gradeIndependent

Note: Canadian projects are listed in Canadian dollars, which as of January 8, 2019 are each worth 0.75 USD.

* Costs are not uniformly presented (some are year of expenditure, others are in year of planning).


18 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • John

    Hi — Do you have, or can you create, and then share with me and/or publish: maps of subway systems WITH all the stations shown, from cities around the world with the best subway or “mass rapid transit” systems (Paris, London, Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow, Berlin, Mexico City, New York, etc. etc.) ALL AT THE SAME SCALE. This would be super helpful / useful in comparing the efficiency / functionality of the systems.
    Thanks,
    john

    • John, all you have to do is click your ruby-red heels together…and take a bunch of screen shots.* The coordinates at the top of the Transit Explorer screen include a 2-digit number, which is a scale factor, or a zoom level. Adjusts your view so that all your maps are at a consistent zoom level (say 13, 14, or 15) and they’ll all be the SAME SCALE. A little tinkering in a gridded city, say Chicago or Los Angeles, will help you figure out how many inchees or pixels is a mile. (The same Google zoom level appears on Caltopo.com coordinates, so you could just find Jefferson’s 1-mile section lines on the USGS quad at 1evel 14, or turn on the 1000 meter UTM grid (anywhere), take some reference screen shots, and match up landmarks). Each zoom level is 2X the previous one; you’ll figure it out.
      TE shows all the stations already, and if you hover your cursor, each dot is named.
      *For research or your own understanding – of course to republish anything you’d want to ask, and get, permission, give appropriate credit).

  • Kevin

    Nevertheless, following the Democratic takeover of the U.S. House after the November 2018 elections, the government has begun releasing funding commitments for major new projects.

    The two are not related. The funding was appropriated well before the election. Also, the House does not allow transportation earmarks.

    • Nathanael

      The two are absolutely related. The funding, appropriated long ago, was being illegally withheld by corrupt administration officials. The new Democratic House leadership wrote a letter saying “Hey, why are you breaking the law, stop that”, and suddenly the funding was released.

      That’s not a coincidence.

  • DeeDee

    Did you know that when people are ordered to “fall in!”, that there’s an imaginary line on the ground that they’re supposed to put their toes on? Hence the origin of the phrase, “toe the line”.

    Tow the line is nonsense, and has nothing to do with what Los Angeles and Seattle are doing.

    Respectable article otherwise.

  • david vartanoff

    East Bay BRT (which I have never supported) is up to $216 million as of an AC Transit press release this month.

  • Ben Muller

    Great as always! Any thought to including ferry services in this or a future iteration of the Transit Explorer? With NYC (and to a lesser extent Boston) re-emphasizing ferry transportation as a reliable alternative to rail or driving, it might make sense to incorporate.

  • Include the commuter ferries in NYC, Boston, SF, Seattle, San Diego, and New Orleans.

  • Susan

    When transit line has it’s own ROW but has to stop at intersections, do you call that “Independent (mostly)”, or how do you categorize it?

  • poncho

    Is there somewhere I might find a list of BRT routes that actually have true dedicated lanes and/or transitways? Many “BRT” lines are just branded buses on normal streets while there are a number with real infrastructure.

  • Joshua

    I love these posts, thanks Yonah!

    1 question – how do you define the different service types? I.e. why is BART considered heavy rail, but SMART is considered commuter rail? I believe BART is mostly used for inter-city commuting. Just curious how you define these.

    • Hi Joshua—

      Unfortunately, it’s a bit arbitrary. Because every system is unique, it is difficult to identify what characteristics make for one more or another. There are some general ideas — check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passenger_rail_terminology — but there are certainly overlaps between modes based on (a) who they serve (central city vs. suburbs); (b) when they run (at peak or at all times); (c) their grade separations (subway, elevated, at ground level, shared with cars); (d) their propulsion (electric with catenary or 3rd rail, diesel); (e) their wheels (steel or rubber); (f) how frequently they stop (every block, every 1/2 mile, every 2 miles); (g) the length of their vehicles; etc.

      To define BART as heavy rail, I’m basing it on the fact that it is generally classified as such. It certainly has characteristics that would make it seem more like commuter rail. But identifying which line is which mode is never straightforward.

  • Mathieu Boucley

    Similarly Montreal ”Reseau Express Métropolitain” harldy qualify as ”Automated Heavy Rail”. It’s a light capacity light metro system mostly replacing existing transit systems (an electric commuter rail and a BRT). You can find further informations here:

    http://www.cat-bus.com/2016/05/how-the-caisses-light-rail-system-will-crumble-under-its-own-weight/

  • Nathanael

    FWIW, ridership projections are often garbage.

    The Crenshaw line in LA will be very busy, based on population and demographics.

    Boston’s Green Line is an interesting case study: the first contractor basically stole a billion dollars before being fired. If you subtract that from the costs (sigh), then it’s actually one of the more reasonably priced projects.

    Shows that contractor scamming is a BIG issue. Tutor Perini should be blacklisted for scamming money up and down the West Coast, but there are also scammers operating on the East Coast.

    • Nathanael

      Also, the Green Line extension isn’t at grade. It’s almost entirely in trenches and on embankments, with a short section of elevated. Not sure what to call that, but it’s not at grade: there are zero road crossings on the extension.

  • Don’t expect government agencies to do these things. They don’t have too much budget to build/improve our environment. You can see that they stop working in the last time and become longer

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