The COVID-19 crisis put a damper on transit expansion throughout much of the world in 2020. Construction sites were paused for months, and then slowdowns followed, intended to address concerns related to worker safety. Tax revenues meant to pay for project costs declined. And ridership dropped precipitously on existing transit lines as white-collar employees were instructed to work from home. In the United States, questions were raised about what role future bus and rail service would have in an altered, post-COVID world.
Despite the death and pain the pandemic has caused, 2020 was also a year for optimism about the future of transit, especially, perhaps surprisingly, in the United States.
The pandemic made apparent to all of us the reliance our society and its economy have on underpaid, essential workers who are better users of transit than anyone else. The Black Lives Matter movement unmasked the systemic racism that underpins American society—and pointed toward the potential for new policies to promote increased social justice. The Congress made major steps toward increased funding for the nation’s transit systems, allocating $39 billion in two laws to keep trains and buses moving. And a new president, much more focused on ensuring effective public services, achieving social equity, and addressing climate change, was elected.
One can only hope, then, that 2021 will be a better year for us all. Let it be the year 1,000 transit systems bloom!
In this post, as in every year for the past 13, I catalogue all of the fixed-guideway transit projects opening and under construction in the United States. This post is built off the Transit Explorer 2 database, which is frequently updated and provides information about existing, under construction, proposed, and cancelled fixed-route transit throughout North America.
The database has been expanded to include transit systems not only across North America, as previously, but also all of Africa and much of Western Europe. It includes more than 16,000 transit stations and about 3,000 transit lines, more than double what was available one year ago. In addition, for the first time, the database includes intercity rail lines, such as high-speed rail systems in France and Spain, and proposed projects in the United States.
Data can be viewed freely on Transit Explorer 2 or purchased for non-commercial use for $35-55 in Shapefile, GeoJSON, and CSV formats for those who would like to use the data for research or other uses, such as Excel, R, ArcGIS, or QGIS.
New transit investments completed in 2020
The COVID-19 crisis slowed work on projects throughout the world. As a result fewer investments were completed than initially planned.
Nevertheless, some major rail and bus expansions took flight. In the Bay Area, the BART rail system continued its relentless expansion around the Bay, this time making it to Berryessa on the outskirts of San Jose–the first step on an eventual route into downtown and Santa Clara. And a long-planned BRT line, the Tempo, opened, connecting parts of central Oakland.
That East Bay BRT line was one among several new-generation bus lines to open this year. Like the Uptown BRT in Houston and the Southwest Transitway in Winnepeg, the Tempo Line takes advantage of dedicated right-of-way, meaning faster service and a real improvement for passengers desperate for reliable, on-time transit.
The list below identifies projects completed in 2020 in North America. Click on the icon to locate the project on Transit Explorer 2.
- Albany: BusPlus Blue Line—15 miles, $42 million.
- Denver: N Line Phase 1—13 miles, $343 million.
- Grand Rapids: Laker Line BRT—13.3 miles, $71 million.
- Guadalajara: Linea 3 LRT—13.3 miles, ~US$1 billion.
- Houston: Uptown Silver Line BRT—4.5 miles, $193 million.
- Montréal: Sauvé/Côte Vertu BRT—2.9 miles.
- Omaha: Omaha BRT—8 miles, $31 million.
- San Francisco Bay Area: BART to Berryessa—10 miles, $2.4 billion (project will eventually extend to Santa Clara).
- San Francisco Bay Area: East Bay Tempo BRT—9.5 miles, $216 million.
- Washington: US 29 Flash BRT—13.5 miles, $31 million.
- Winnipeg: Southwest Transitway BRT—4.7 miles, C$508 million.
- Vancouver: RapidBus R1 King George Boulevard; R2 Marine Drive; R3 Lougheed Highway; R4 41st Avenue; R5 Hastings Street.
Planned openings in 2021
If 2020’s limited number of transit openings were disappointing, 2021 is expected to pack a wallop. Eight enormous urban rail construction programs are finally coming to a head in the United States. In Honolulu, the first phase of a long-planned automated, elevated light metro line will open to serve the city’s western suburbs. In the western suburbs of Washington, D.C., the WMATA Metrorail system will finally reach Dulles Airport and, from there, head into Loudoun County. New light rail extensions in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Seattle–all under construction for decades–will finally reach completion. Streetcar projects are planned for opening in Charlotte and Tempe.
Boston’s Green Line extension into the suburban cities of Somerville and Medford, finally, will be that region’s first rapid-transit expansion for decades, adding service to downtown to some of the densest communities in the country.
Outside the United States, Edmonton and Monterrey will both be getting large expansions of their light-rail networks. Lagos will get its first heavy-rail transit line–and Alger will see an expansion of its metro into the south suburbs. In France, Rennes will get the second line in its automated metro system, and Paris will get both a new tramway line and a metro extension.
- Honolulu’s Rail Transit Phase I, connecting Kapolei to Aloha Stadium, not yet making it to the airport or downtown. The remainder of the line may take until 2033 to open, despite the project originally scheduled for completion in 2020—and at half the cost.
- Washington’s Silver Line Phase II, providing new service west from the current terminus at Reston, and providing a new elevated station at Dulles Airport—11.4 miles for $2.8 billon. This project was delayed from a 2020 opening.
- Boston’s Green Line Extension, providing service west of Lechmere into Somerville and Medford on two branches, the first Boston-region rapid transit expansion in decades—4.7 miles for $2.3 billion.
- Los Angeles’ Crenshaw Line, running from the Expo Line to the Green Line, designed to allow a future connection to the LAX airport people mover—8.5 miles for $2.1 billion. This project was delayed from a 2020 opening.
- San Diego’s Mid Coast Corridor, linking the central city with University of California at San Diego along a route mostly parallel to commuter rail services—10.9 miles for $2.1 billion.
- Seattle’s Northgate Link, extending the region’s north-south light rail corridor north from the University of Washington, partly in a subway—4.3 miles for $2.1 billion.
- Charlotte’s CityLYNX Gold Line Phase II, extending the city’s fledging downtown streetcar in both directions into the surrounding neighborhoods—2.5 miles for $150 million.
- Tempe’s Streetcar, an C-shaped in the eastern suburbs of Phoenix, connected to that region’s light rail system—3 miles for $200 million.
Bus Rapid Transit
- Albany’s Purple Line/Washington-Western BRT, the third in the region’s improved bus network—8.5 miles for $81 million.
- Jacksonville’s First Coast Flyer Southwest Corridor, extending the region’s growing arterial rapid transit network—12.9 miles for $33 million.
- Las Vegas’ Convention Center Loop, a short tunnel designed for Tesla cars that Elon Musk has promoted as the future of public transit—with little evidence to support that contention.
- Minneapolis’ Orange Line, taking advantage of the renovation of the I-35W highway to create new dedicated bus running ways and special stations from downtown Minneapolis to the south suburbs—17 miles for $151 million.
- Reno’s Virginia Street BRT—1.8 miles for $80 million.
- San Francisco’s Geary Boulevard BRT, offering new connections from downtown to the west side of the city after decades of planning—6.6 miles for $300 million (this is phase 1 — just the eastern section of the project).
- San Francisco’s Van Ness Avenue BRT, creating a new north-south corridor on one of the city’s most-used bus routes—2 miles for $170 million.
- Marin County’s SMART Train Extension to Windsor, adding a few miles to the line—3 miles for $65 million.
- Miami’s Downtown Link, taking advantage of the construction of Brightline’s intercity rail terminus to bring commuter trains to the city center for the first time—9 miles for $69 million. This project was delayed from a 2020 opening.
- Philadelphia’s Media/Elwyn Extension, creating a short extension of SEPTA’s regional rail network—3 miles for $151 million.
Elsewhere in North America
- Edmonton’s Valley Line Stage I Southeast—8.1 miles for about $1.8 billion.
- Monterrey’s Linea 3, expected to serve 280,000 riders a day—4.7 miles for about $440 million.
- Toronto’s Richmond Hill Metrolinx Extension to Bloomington—an $80 million project.
- Alger’s Line 1 extension to Baraki, a short expansion of the recently opened metro system in this coastal city.
- Cairo’s 41-mile interurban line linking Cairo with the new capital city at 10th of Ramadan.
- Johannesburg’s Rea Vaya Phase IC bus rapid transit line, building up a network of effective local public transportation network.
- Lagos’ Blue Line, a 16.8 mile rapid transit system that will ensure speedy travel in this sprawling megalopolis.
- Rennes’ Metro B, an 8.8-mile second heavy rail route for this medium-sized city in western France. The line will be fully automated.
- Paris’ M4 to Bagneux, a 1.7-mile extension of the city’s second-most frequently line south to the suburb of Bagneux and a future link to M15.
- Paris’ Tramway 9, a new 6.4-mile line linking the city limits with the suburbs of Ivry, Vitry, and Orly, and the most recent addition to a regional tramway network that now serves more than one million daily riders.
Under construction, with planned opening in 2022
2022 is expected to bring even more new transit openings, all over the world. Los Angeles and San Francisco will both get new downtown tunnels for their light-rail networks. In Canada, Montreal will open the first stage of its massive REM automated light metro program, and Toronto will start running trains through the lengthy east-west Eglinton light rail project, much of which is being built in a subway.
- Birmingham’s Xpress BRT, an arterial rapid transit line running 10 miles east-west through Alabama’s capital.
- Chicago’s Pace Pulse Dempster, a new arterial rapid transit route from Evanston to the city’s northwestern suburbs—15 miles for $10 million.
- El Paso’s Brio Montana BRT—19 miles for $49 million.
- Indianapolis’ Purple Line BRT, a full-featured route that doubles the extent of the city’s electric bus rapid transit system—15.2 miles for $155 million.
- Jersey City’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Rte 440/Bayfront extension—0.7 miles for $220 million.
- Los Angeles’ Regional Connector LRT, a new downtown subway for light rail lines, allowing through running between Santa Monica and East L.A., and between Long Beach and the San Gabriel Valley—1.9 miles for $1.8 billion.
- Miami’s South Dade TransitWay Corridor, the conversion of an existing busway with additional stations and better service—20 miles for $368 million.
- Milwaukee’s Lakefront streetcar extension, adding a small portion to the city’s downtown service—0.4 miles for $29 million.
- Milwaukee’s East-West BRT—9 miles for $54 million.
- Minneapolis’ D Line, an arterial rapid transit line from North Minneapolis to Bloomington–$75 million.
- New York’s East Side Access, the commuter rail link for Long Island Rail Road Access to Grand Central Terminal—roughly 3 miles for $11.1 billion.
- Orange County’s OC Streetcar, connecting to Metrolink commuter rail service—4.1 miles for $408 million.
- Portland’s Division Transit BRT, creating dedicated lanes and flow improvements on the city’s most-used bus route—15 miles for $175 million.
- Salt Lake City’s Ogden/Weber State University BRT, adding dedicated lanes and a high-quality link to light rail service—5.3 miles for $100 million.
- San Bernardino’s Arrow Redlands commuter rail extension—9 miles for $360 million.
- San Francisco’s Central Subway LRT, creating a second downtown corridor for light rail routes—1.7 miles for $1.6 billion.
- Seattle’s Line T Hilltop extension, extending Tacoma’s streetcar service in anticipation of future light rail connections—2.4 miles for $166 million.
- Spokane’s City Line BRT, creating improved bus service in the largest city in eastern Washington—6 miles for $72 million.
- St. Petersburg’s SunRunner BRT, a dedicated-lane bus service along Central Avenue to the beach—11 miles for $44 million.
- Vancouver, Washington’s the Vine Mill Plain BRT—$50 million.
Elsewhere in North America
- London’s Downtown Loop BRT, creating new dedicated lanes for buses through downtown.
- Mexico City’s Linea 12 extension, the latest expansion to North America’s second-most-used metro system—2.9 miles for about $150 million.
- Mexico City’s Tren Interurbano de Pasajeros Toluca, a modern commuter rail service for the city’s southwest—35.9 miles for about $2 billion.
- Montreal’s SRB Pie-IX BRT, dedicated lanes for buses along a major north-south corridor on the city’s east side—6.8 miles for about $400 million.
- Montreal’s REM Phase I, new automated rail service, partly on tracks previously used for commuter rail.
- Ottawa’s Trillium Line South, adding new service to a light rail line integrated into a broader regional system—9.9 miles for about $1.7 billion.
- Panama City’s Linea 2 extension to the airport, a 1.2-mile elevated addition to the city’s fledging metro system.
- Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown LRT, an east-west light rail project with a subway section through the city’s midtown—11.8 miles for around $6.4 billion.
- Alger’s Metro 1 extension to the airport.
- Cairo’s Line 3 extension to Kit Kat.
- Casablanca’s T3 and T4 tramway lines, adding 8.7 miles to the system.
- Lagos’ Red Line, a 23-mile heavy-rail line that will build on the new Blue Line Corridor.
In France & Spain
- Bordeaux’s 3.1-mile Tramway A extension to the airport.
- Malaga’s Metro lines 1 and 2 extensions.
- Paris’ M12 metro extension north to Aubervilliers.
- Paris’ Tramway 12 Express, running 12.4 miles of tram-train service east-west across the south suburbs.
- Paris’ Tramway 13 Express, a north-south tram-train line running 11.7 miles in the western suburbs.
- San Sebastian’s Metro Donostialdea/Topo E2 extension.
Other projects under construction, with future openings
The following list documents all of the other major transit projects in North America, Africa, and much of Western Europe that are either currently under construction, or that are expected to enter into the construction process in 2021.
This period will include the first elements of Paris’ massive Grand Paris Express project, which will connect much of that region’s suburbs with new metro lines. It will also bring subway service to Los Angeles’ West Side through an extension of the Purple Line–and massive expansions of Seattle’s light rail system, with new lines opening to the east, north, and south.
- Boston’s South Coast Rail Phase 1, an extension to MBTA commuter rail promised for decades–$1 billion.
- Dallas’ Silver Line, new rail service along the Cotton Belt corridor—26 miles for $1.1 billion.
- Los Angeles’ D Line (Purple) extension Phase I, more subway for the city’s west side—3.9 miles for $2.8 billion.
- Lyon’s Metro B extension—1.5 miles of new service to the southwest.
- Paris’ M11 eastern extension, running to Les Lilas and a future connection with M15—3.4 miles.
- Paris’ RER E western extension, adding a new commuter rail tunnel through the city center and better access to La Defense (tunnel portion).
- Paris Tramway 3b Extension, adding to the city’s circumferential tramway route with a new connection through Porte Maillot—2 miles.
- Paris Tramway 10, building a connection in the south suburbs—5.1 miles.
- Seattle’s East Link Blue Line, new light rail service for Bellevue and other eastern suburbs—14 miles for $2.8 billion.
- Toronto’s Line 6 Finch West, a new east-west light rail service northwest of downtown—6.8 miles for about $1.2 billion.
- Abidjan’s Metro line 1.
- Bordeaux’s St-Aubin-Medoc BRT—13.1 miles for about $200 million.
- Kansas City’s Riverfront streetcar extension, a 0.55-mile addition to the successful streetcar line, for about $22.2 million.
- Lisboa’s metro green line extension, allowing the creation of a circular metro corridor through the city.
- Madrid’s L5 0.9-mile extension to Barajas Airport.
- Minneapolis’ Southwest Corridor Green Line, a light rail line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie—14.5 miles, $1.9 billion.
- Montreal’s REM, all phases—total of 41.6 miles for about $4.5 billion.
- New York’s Penn Station Access, offering new Metro-North commuter rail service to Penn Station.
- Ottawa’s Confederation Line east, the latest extension of that city’s light rail system—7.5 miles for about $1.3 billion.
- Paris’ M14 south—8.7 miles linking central Paris with Orly Airport.
- Paris’ M14 north to St. Denis-Pleyel—1.1 miles of automated rail connecting St. Denis with a major new intermodal center in time for the Olympics.
- Paris’ M16/M17 first phase—the first of Paris’ four new metro lines, forming part of the Grand Paris Express metro expansion program.
- Phoenix’s Northwest Phase II light rail—1.6 miles of new service.
- Phoenix’s South Central corridor light rail—5.5 miles for $1.3 billion.
- Seattle’s Federal Way Link extension—7.8 miles.
- Seattle’s Lynnwood Link, a new light rail extension north of the Northgate line—8.5 miles for $3.1 billion.
- Seattle’s Madison Street RapidRide G BRT—2.4 miles for $120 million.
- Seattle’s Downtown Redmond Link extension light rail—3.4 miles.
- Toronto’s Hurontario LRT, north-south light rail in the city’s western suburbs—11.6 miles for about $1 billion.
- Washington’s Purple Line light rail, a circumferential link in the Maryland suburbs—16.2 miles for $2.1 billion. Project could be delayed further because of problems related to PPP contract in 2020.
- Chicago’s West Lake South Shore Line Extension
- Edmonton’s Metro Line Northwest extension phase I
- Kansas City’s Main Street streetcar extension to UMO-KC—3.6 miles for $263 million.
- Los Angeles D Line (Purple) extension Phase 2—2.6 miles for $2.5 billion.
- Montpellier’s Tramway 5 line.
- Ottawa’s Confederation Line west—9.3 miles for about $1.6 billion.
- Paris’ M15 south—20.5 miles.
- Paris’ M16 extension to the eastern suburbs.
- Paris’ RER E western extension, adding a new commuter rail tunnel through the city center and better access to La Defense—34.2 miles of new service to Mantes (tunnel portion opens in 2023).
- Seattle’s Center City Connector streetcar—1.3 miles for $286 million (though the future of this project is unclear because of funding constraints).
- Vancouver’s Broadway Subway Skytrain—3.5 miles for about $2.8 billion.
- Montreal’s Blue Line metro extension—3.6 miles for about $3.9 billion.
- Paris’ Tramway 1 eastern extension to Val-de-Fontenay—4.8 miles.
- San Jose’s Eastridge to BART Regional Connector light rail—2.4 miles for $453 million.
- Calgary’s Green Line Phase 1—12.4 miles for about $3.9 billion.
- Edmonton’s Valley Line Stage 2 West—8.7 miles for about $2 billion.
- Los Angeles’ D Line (Purple) extension Phase 3—2.6 miles for $3.6 billion.
- Los Angeles’ Gold Line Phase 2B to Montclair—12.3 miles for $1.5 billion. Financing not yet in place for full extension to Montclair; current funding extends to Pomona.
- Paris’ M17 Phase I north.
- Paris’ M18 Phase I.
- Toulouse’s M3 metro line—16.8 miles.
- Honolulu’s Rail Transit Phase 2, completing the line to the airport and downtown.
Have fun exploring these projects throughout Transit Explorer 2!
Note: Several minor additions and corrections made at 12 pm ET 30 Jan.