Openings and Construction Starts Planned for 2020

20 new transit lines will open in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico in 2020.

These new transit lines won’t be adequate alone to counter the large-scale investment in highway construction that dominates most metropolitan regions. But they will significantly improve public transportation for thousands of riders in many large cities.

There’s also a lot more on the way. About 60 more major transit projects will be under construction in 2020 and are expected to open by 2026. Some cities, like Montréal and Seattle, will essentially double the size of their urban rail systems during that time.

Transit Explorer
Use Transit Explorer 2 to examine current, under construction, and proposed transit projects throughout North America.

This compilation of new transit projects is based on The Transport Politic’s transit database, Transit Explorer 2. This database is frequently updated and provides information about existing, under construction, proposed, and cancelled fixed-route transit throughout North America.

Thanks to support from Chicago Cityscape, Transit Explorer 2 is much faster and more usable for people accessing the site than previous versions.

In addition, the data it includes has been improved and expanded dramatically compared to the past. It includes almost 7000 transit stations (including for commuter rail, not previously included), and almost 1000 transit lines. Now additional information, such as the year that stations were opened and their grade—e.g. subway or elevated—is also available.

Data can be viewed freely on Transit Explorer 2 or purchased for $25 in Shapefile or GeoJSON formats for those who would like to use the data for research or other uses, such as using ArcGIS or QGIS.

This is the 12th year of my compilation of new transit projects on The Transport Politic. Find previous years here: 20092010 | 2011  | 2012  | 2013  | 2014  | 2015  | 2016  | 20172018 | 2019


New transit investments completed in 2019

In 2019, roughly 200 miles of new fixed-guideway transit service was opened throughout North America; these projects cost a total of roughly $7 billion to complete.

In Canada, the most exciting intervention was the opening of the Confederation Line in Ottawa, which includes a new downtown tunnel and a light rail network that replaces an oversubscribed busway; it is designed to eventually carry about 240,000 daily riders. The Confederation Line’s benefits will be magnified by several extensions planned for the next few years.

In the U.S., the opening of a new busway on 14th Street in Manhattan attracted considerable attention, as the project immediately increased transit ridership but did not ramp-up surrounding traffic. It may be a model for other American cities looking to improve their bus options—demonstrating that giving bus services dedicated lanes and freeing them from being stuck behind cars is an effective way to get people to ride.

Throughout this article click on to explore the line on Transit Explorer 2.

Regional rail (Relatively frequent service on mainline rail tracks) opened in 2019

  • Denver Gold Line—11.2 miles, part of an overall $2.1 billion project including other lines
  • SMART Train Phase 2—2.1 miles, $43 million
Denver Gold Line station at 41st and Fox. Credit: RTD.

Commuter rail opened in 2019

  • Fort Worth TexRail—27.2 miles, $1 billion

Metro rail opened in 2019

  • Panama Linea 2—13.1 miles

Light rail opened in 2019

  • Denver Southeast Rail Extension—2.3 miles, $233 million
  • Ottawa Confederation Line—7.7 miles, C$2.1 billion
  • Phoenix Gilbert Road Extension—1.9 miles, $184 million
  • Waterloo Ion Light Rail—11.8 miles, C$770 million

Bus rapid transit (Improved bus service with dedicated lanes) opened in 2019

Indianapolis Red Line. Credit: IndyGo.
  • Albuquerque ABQ Rapid Transit—14 miles, $133 million
  • Calgary Southwest Transitway—13.7 miles, C$304 million
  • Indianapolis Red Line—13.1 miles, $96 million
  • New York City M14 SBS
  • San Diego South Bay Rapid—26 miles, $126 million
  • Seattle Swift 2 Green Line—12.4 miles, $67 million

Arterial rapid transit (Improved bus service, but no dedicated lanes) opened in 2019

  • Chicago Pace Pulse Milwaukee—7.6 miles, $14 million
  • El Paso Brio Alameda—12.2 miles, $36 million
  • El Paso Brio Dyer—10.2 miles, $36 million
  • Kansas City Prospect MAX—10 miles, $56 million
  • Minneapolis C Line—$30 million
  • Tulsa Aero—18 miles

Planned openings in 2020

In 2020, several long-awaited projects will open across the continent, including three heavy-rail routes, two new light rail lines, two commuter or regional rail extensions, and 13 improved bus projects.

In Vancouver, the metropolitan region has already opened four RapidBus bus rapid transit routes, which include dedicated bus lanes, queue jumps, all-door boarding, and relatively high levels of frequencies. A fifth new line is planned for opening in April.

Miami’s new downtown station, to serve Tri-Rail trains. Credit: Tri-Rail.

In Miami, a new downtown rail link will leverage the infrastructure built by Virgin Trains to extend the region’s Tri-Rail commuter rail system into the center of the city for the first time.

But the largest investments by far are being completed in the Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington regions. In Hawaii, the first phase of that state’s first rail line—an elevated route—will open. In Los Angeles, the Crenshaw Line, a $2.1 billion light-rail route that includes a subway portion and a new station near LAX Airport, will be completed. In the Bay Area, the BART rapid transit system will continue its slow path toward downtown San Jose with a $2.4 billion extension to Berryessa station. And outside of Washington, the Silver Line will finally reach Dulles Airport, thanks to a $2.8 billion extension

L.A.’s Crenshaw Line tunnel at Martin Luther King Jr. station. Credit: L.A. Metro.

Each of these projects is considerably delayed compared to original projections. Honolulu’s rail transit first phase was supposed to open in 2012; the Crenshaw corridor was supposed to open in 2016. BART’s extension all the way into central San Jose—now put off for many years into the future, was supposed to open in 2018. And Metro service to Dulles was originally planned for 2016.

Regional Rail opening in 2020

Commuter rail opening in 2020

Metro rail opening in 2020

  • Honolulu: Rail Transit Phase 1—10 miles (East Kopolei to Aloha Stadium; remainder of project should open by 2025)
  • San Francisco Bay Area: BART to Berryessa—10 miles, $2.4 billion (first phase of project that will eventually extend to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara)
  • Washington: Silver Line Phase 2—11.4 miles, $2.8 billion (to Dulles and Loudoun County)

Light rail opening in 2020

Winnipeg’s Southwest Transitway, under construction. Credit: Winnipeg Transit.

Bus rapid transit opening in 2020

Arterial rapid transit opening in 2020


A busy decade to come

Despite the relatively limited investments made in transit improvements in the 2010s, cities throughout North America will expand their fixed-guideway transit networks substantially beyond 2020.

In this final section, I document all of the transit projects in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico that are already under construction or will enter construction in 2020 (at least preliminary work will be underway), and thus that are highly likely to be completed. The same cannot be said for the dozens of other proposed projects on Transit Explorer 2, many of which will fall to the wayside thanks to funding crises, political backlash, and other problems.

Four metropolitan regions will see extensive improvements to their transit systems in the coming years if projects under construction this year are completed.

Montréal will open the new REM automated heavy rail system in phases, roughly doubling the scale of its current metro network and creating new transit links throughout the metropolitan area.

A rendering of a future Montréal REM station. Credit: REM.

Thanks to referenda passed in 2016, both Los Angeles and Seattle will open large new extensions to their rail networks. In L.A., a new subway line will open to the west side, making travel to UCLA far less burdensome, and a light-rail subway downtown will allow commuters to travel from the west to the east side of the region without having to change trains. In Seattle, meanwhile, new light-rail extensions will open south, east, and north of the existing route, creating a regional transit network out of what is now a relatively limited service.

And in New York, the opening of the East Side Access project—which will bring Long Island Rail Road trains to Grand Central Terminal—and the Penn Station Access project—which will bring Metro-North trains to Penn Station—will radically improve the accessibility of the region’s central business district. The two projects will make it possible for people commuting from Connecticut and Long Island to have direct access to both the east and west sides of Manhattan’s central business district, saving hundreds of thousands of people each up to an hour a day in travel time.

The new terminal station under Grand Central for the East-Side Access Project. Credit: MTA.

In addition, Vancouver is expected to complete the first phase of its subway underneath Broadway—now the heaviest-used bus corridor in North America. Honolulu will complete its rail project. Boston will expand its urban rail transit system for the first time since the 1980s. San Francisco will get a new subway downtown for light-rail trains. And Washington will get the U.S.’ first true circumferential transit line with the Purple Line light-rail project.

Transit projects expected to open in 2021

Transit projects expected to open in 2022

Trans it projects expected to open in 2023

Transit projects expected to open in 2024

Transit projects expected to open in 2025

Transit projects expected to open in 2026


Despite the massive investments planned throughout North America in the coming years, cities throughout the U.S. and Canada should be investing considerably more in improved transit—especially through better buses. These countries continue to under-allocate street space for buses compared to much of the rest of the developed world, and the result is that most cities are failing to take advantage of the lowest-cost mechanism to improve public transportation options and reduce automobile dependency.

We can only hope that, as we move into the 2020s, more cities will learn from New York’s success on 14th Street and find the political means and financial capacity to dedicate more space on their streets to people, rather than to cars.


Image at top: Based on “Public Roads of the contiguous United States,” by WClarke (CC BY-SA 4.0).

26 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Thanks again Yonah, a splendid summary and analysis of the continent’s rapid transit builds.

  • Shouldn’t the Media/Elwyn Line extension to Wawa be classed as “regional rail”? After all, the entire SEPTA suburban rail system is referred to using that term, and it has the (relatively) frequent-service-throughout-the-day character you use to distinguish regional from commuter rail.

    • Good question. Do people think SEPTA’s system (whatever its official name) should be classified as regional rail or commuter rail?

      • psualex

        Though I find the frequencies leaving much to be desired, my general comfort with the system during middays, late night, and weekends (almost the only times I do use it) would lend me to calling it Regional Rail over Commuter Rail.

  • Donde Groovily

    The Tacoma Link Extension (scheduled for 2022) is actually a streetcar line, despite the name, and should probably be moved accordingly.

  • RVA_Exile

    Great work!

    It would be nice to show new stations on existing lines, 2 new examples in Virginia:
    – A Potomac Shores station on VRE’s Fredericksburg Line for 2022
    https://www.vre.org/development/station-improvements/potomac-shores/
    – A Potomac Yard station on WMATA’s Blue/Yellow Lines for 2022
    https://www.alexandriava.gov/PotomacYardMetro

    + Boston seems to be getting serious about the North-South rail link as well (don’t see it on the map)

    • Thanks—I’ll add those stations in the next update to Transit Explorer 2.

      I’m not sure about the North-South rail link, since as far as I understand it has yet to be officially accepted by government planning officials as a project to be funded in the Boston region, which is a criterion I use for projects on the map.

  • Phil Fraulino

    Two items for transit say Washington, DC but both are in Maryland(Montgomery County and are not even near Washington DC. The Purple Line is a light rail line which will be Bethesda to New Carollton. Maybe a long time ago some had an idea about some in DC called the Georgetown Branch. Secondly, another bus rapid line -The Flash- in Maryland not DC. Rt 29 DC is far away and that would be Georgia Ave where streetcars long ago disappeared ….

  • Andy Meger

    Wonderful summary Yonah! Thank you so much for compiling this information. Love the revamped Transit Explorer as well. Do you have any plans to update some of the information from 2014 and 2015 in the Transport Databook? It would be interesting to see how transit service effectiveness and funding by region today would compare to five years ago with all of the ridership and political changes.

  • ALAN BUDDE

    Its really a shame how slow BART is expanding in the Bay Area. We need Milbrae to San Jose now. And Richmond to Vallejo service and Richmond to San Rafael, probably BRT because of Carquinez/Bay crossings. In fact if it pencils out it could be one route San Rafael>Richmond BART/Amtrak>Vallejo. Maybe El Cerrito del Norte. Alignment isnt a huge deal within Richmond..

  • wanderer

    SEPTA’s regional rail trains mostly interline from one route to another, giving them a more genuinely regional character. It would also help if they restored and reopened inner city stations.

  • Kevin Wyrauch

    Raleigh, NC has the New Bern Avenue BRT opening projected for 2023.

  • Innsertnamehere

    Toronto has 2 projects opening this year missing from your list.

    The Bloomington GO commuter rail extension is scheduled to open this year, which is about 4km long (2.5miles)

    Three BRT projects just north of the city also already opened in early January, with a third scheduled to open in December.

    1. Highway 7 (Vaughan) – 4km (2.5 miles)
    2. Bathurst/Centre street (Vaughan) – 4km (2.5 miles)
    3. Yonge Street (Newmarket) – 2.6km (1.6 miles)

    In December the Yonge Street (Richmond Hill) BRT will open, which is two segments combined about 6.4km (4 miles) long.

  • Daniel Washburn

    Would like to emphasize with Kevin above that Raleigh also has a BRT line opening up in this timeframe (the New Bern Ave BRT line).

  • Dan

    Hi Yonah- on your 2019 Bus Rapid Transit openings list, would you mind adding our $133 million 14 mile long ABQ Rapid Transit (ART) project, which opened on Nov 30th, 2019? We’re pretty excited about it!
    More info: https://www.planetizen.com/news/2019/12/107448-bus-rapid-transit-opens-public-albuquerque

  • James Lyons

    You may need to note that Houston voters passed a $3.5 billion bond in Nov 2018 by a 2/3rds margin to add 16 miles of light rail, 75 miles of BRT, and improved bus service. Details are on metronext.org

  • Bob Shedd

    LA Metro just announced that the Crenshaw/LAX line will not open until early 2021.

    https://boardagendas.metro.net/board-report/2020-0195/

  • Thank you Mr Yonah Freemark for thi amazing content.

  • Such an amazing post very informative and I will definitely suggest other people about it for sure.

  • Felix Lopez

    Question – Due to COVID, will these projects still proceed? I believe the answer is “Yes, if the funding appropriations have been identified and committed.” On another blog the thinking is that the projects may be cancelled due to COVID but I don’t think so because these are long term projects. Thank you for the informative article.

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