Transit Explorer Data and Sources

The Transit Explorer database provides information on existing, under construction, and planned fixed-guideway transit routes throughout much of the world, as well as a large number of closed lines. The data can be visualized on the map and downloaded.

Database information

The database includes data in both line (i.e., transit routes) and point (i.e., transit stations) formats.

For lines, the database includes the following variables (only some of which are included on the online map):

  • country: The country where the line is located (three-letter international code).
  • region: The region where the line is located (generally defined by the largest city in the region).
  • mode: The transit mode of the line. Options include:
    • Metro or Heavy Rail: metros with full grade separation
    • Light Metro: metros with full grade separation, with lighter, smaller cars, and typically automation. People mover and airport people mover services are included in this modal category
    • Monorail: metros operating on single tracks
    • Light Rail: rail service that uses light, electrified vehicles that can operate at grade, elevated, or in subway environments. Trains typically run on dedicated right-of-way, though there are examples of small portions of line that are shared with automobiles
    • Tramway: rail service common to many parts of Europe and Africa that typically has independent right-of-way, unlike streetcars, but less grade separation than typical with light rail
    • Streetcar: rail service operated on a non-dedicated right-of-way (tracks run in lanes shared with cars) using modified light-rail vehicles. Cable car services [but not cable rail or aerial trams] are described as Streetcars but the fact that they are cable cars should be described in the notes
    • Interurban: rail services using streetcar technologies over longer distances (mostly closed)
    • Cable Rail: rail service powered with cable traction designed for steep inclines. Incline and funicular services are included in this modal category
    • Commuter Rail: rail service operated on a dedicated right-of-way that focuses on providing service into city centers in the peak morning hours, and out of city centers at other times. It may be operated by either electrified or diesel vehicles. Many services, though not all, use locomotives rather than distributed propulsion
    • Regional Rail: rail service operated on a dedicated or mostly dedicated right-of-way. Regional rail services operate all day in both directions, unlike commuter rail
    • Bus Rapid Transit: also known as BRT, this is a significantly improved service that includes dedicated lanes and, in some cases, busways
    • Arterial Rapid Transit: also known as ART, this is a somewhat improved bus service that often includes relatively higher levels of service than a “typical” bus line, improved stations, and sometimes features such as transit signal priority. Note that some ART services are marketed as “BRT” by their operators
  • agency: The transit provider that operates, or will operate, the line.
  • name: The name of the line.
  • project: For lines built as part of multiple projects (e.g., phases 1, 2, and 3), this provides information about which phase this particular line segment was built under. This can be the name of the project (e.g., Second Avenue Subway Phase 1) or the name of the origin and destination of the new line segment (e.g., Q 63–86).
  • status: The status of the line. There are six options:
    • existing: Lines that exist today
    • uc: Lines that are now under construction
    • planned: Lines that are mostly funded, and headed toward construction
    • proposed: Lines that have been promoted by government organizations as possible future investments, but they have not yet acquired sufficient funding to move forward
    • cancelled: Lines that were funded and planned, but later cancelled
    • closed: Lines that were once in service but now have been closed
  • construct: The start and finish of a transit line’s construction. If the Blue Line in City X had 1992-2014 for this variable, it would mean that construction began in 1992 and was completed in 2014. For projects under construction, if the year construction started is known but not the estimated completion year, note YEAR-, e.g., “1992-”. If year construction is expected to complete is known but not the year it started, note -YEAR, e.g., “-1992”. For cancelled lines only, this variable means when the time between when planning for the project was advancing seriously to when the project was cancelled.
  • year_open: The year the line opened. It does not typically reflect the date that the line opened for modern service, but rather when it originally opened. In other words, if a line in Boston is now served by the MBTA, the year_open variable represents when it was first served, often decades before MBTA service began.
  • year_close: The year the line closed, if closed.
  • route_km: The length of the line segment; this may not include the full line, since the line is broken up by when it was completed.
  • grade: The line’s grade. Since many transit lines have several different grades and sometimes share right of way, this information may apply differently to different parts of the same line. Options include:
    • at grade: The line is located at street level.
    • elevated: The line is located above street level.
    • highway: The line is located within a highway median or along the edge of a highway. Highway means grade-separated arterial with controlled entry and exit.
    • open cut: The line is located below street level, but open to the air above.
    • subway: The line is located below street level, closed to the air above.
  • automated: Lines that have fully driverless operation.
  • limited: This field expresses who is allowed entry onto a line. Options include:
    • 0 means that the service is an open-entry, public transit system.
    • 1 means that open entry is provided, but that the service is operated as part of a complex (such as outside of an airport or theme park).
    • 2 means that entry is heavily restricted (such as on the airside of an airport or theme park attractions). Note that lines with only one stop (like some amusement park rides) are not transportation and thus are not included in the database.
  • riders: The estimated number of daily riders for lines, sourced from the transit agencies, when they were completed. This information is not the actual number of riders for a line, but rather can be used as a way to compare what lines are experiencing actually (which the user can source elsewhere) with what agencies originally estimated.
  • cost_usd: This is the cost, in millions of US dollars, for a line’s construction when it was completed, where this information is known. Note that this data has not been adjusted, say to 2020 dollars; it is based on agency-provided year-of-expenditure dollars. As with the mileage data, be careful if there are instances of lines that are repeated because they are split into segments. For more accurate cost comparisons, consider using https://transitcosts.com/
  • ffga_date: For projects that have Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGAs) from the U.S. Federal Transit Administration (FTA) under the Capital Investment Grants program, this is the year and month (YEAR-MO) that this agreement was signed. So, if a project had this signed in October 2023, this would be marked as “2023-10”.
  • ffga_cost: For FFGA projects, this is the amount that the full project was expected to cost, rounded in millions of dollars.
  • ffga_shr: For FFGA projects, this is the share (0 to 1) of the full costs that was to be covered by FTA’s Capital Investment Grant. Note that some projects covered other parts of their costs with other federal funds; these are not included in this calculation.
  • brt_rating: This field includes the rating from ITDP of the quality of BRT bus service, as found here. Ratings are generally given as a number (from 0 to 100), rather than as a color grade. However, color grades are listed in some existing data. These grades, in order from highest to lowest quality, are:
    • Gold
    • Silver
    • Bronze
    • BRT
    • Basic
    • Not BRT. Note that if a system is ‘Not BRT’ according to the BRT Standard, it is listed as ART, not BRT.
  • brt_year: The year when the project was assessed for the BRT standard.
  • web: The website of the project, if available.

For stations, the database includes the following variables:

  • line: The line(s) on which the station is located.
  • mode: The transit mode of the station (see above for options).
  • name: The name of the station.
  • name_local: The name of the station in local script (e.g., in Chinese)
  • country: The country where the station is located (three-letter international code)
  • region: The region where the line is located (generally defined by the largest city in the region)
  • status: The status of the station (see above for options).
  • year_open: The year the station opened.
  • year_clos: The year the station closed, if closed.
  • grade: The grade of the station (see above for options).
  • limited: The degree to which the station is publicly accessible (see above for options).

Source information

The database has been compiled primarily by Yonah Freemark based on publicly available information from agencies and from OpenStreetMap contributors.

Other information (referenced in the source data) was compiled from the following: