History of rapid transit
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The history of rapid transit began in London with the opening of the Metropolitan Railway, which is now part of the London Underground, in 1863. By World War I, electric underground railways were being used in Athens, Berlin, Boston, Buenos Aires, Budapest, Glasgow, Hamburg, Liverpool, New York City, Paris, and Philadelphia.
In the 21st century, China became the world's leader by number of rapid transit systems as well as the fastest growth of such systems, and many other Asian countries began construction of their own rapid transit systems.
Smoke was less of a problem in steam-hauled elevated railways, the first of which opened in New York City in 1870. In 1890 London's City & South London Railway used electric traction to overcome the issue of tunnel air quality.
Before any plans were made for transit systems with underground tunnels and stations, several railway operators had used tunnels for freight and passenger trains, usually to reduce the grade of the railway line. Examples include Trevithick's Tunnel in 1804, built for the Penydarren locomotive, the 1829 Crown Street Tunnel at Liverpool and the 1.13 mile (1,811 meter)-long 1836 Lime Street Tunnel, also at Liverpool. Part of this tunnel remains in use, making it the world's oldest active tunnel.
The first urban underground railway was the Metropolitan Railway, which began operations on January 10, 1863. It was built largely in shallow cut and cover tunnels. It was worked by steam trains and despite the creation of numerous vents, was unhealthy and uncomfortable for passengers and operating staff. Smoke collected in the tunnels, leading to proposals to build pneumatic or cable-hauled railways to overcome this problem between 1863 and 1890, though none were successful. Nevertheless, its trains were popular from the start.
The Metropolitan Railway and the competing Metropolitan District Railway developed the inner circle around central London that was completed in 1884. It featured an extensive system of suburban branches to the northwest (extending into the adjoining countryside), the west, the southwest and the east that was mostly completed by 1904. These systems eventually became part of the London Underground.
In 1890, the first electrified underground urban railway, City & South London Railway, opened. Since the tunnels were tubular, the term "tube", eventually became synonymous with the London Underground. It was originally planned to be cable-hauled, but the company contracted to supply cable-haulage technology went bankrupt. The railway company's Parliamentary Act specifically prohibited the use of steam power. This led the City and South to consider electric traction. It operated locomotive-hauled trains with three carriages, initially without windows, because it was thought that passengers would not need to know where they were if they were in tunnels.
The UK's only elevated electric railway opened in 1893 in Liverpool. The Liverpool Overhead Railway was the world's fourth metro system and the world's first fully formed elevated railway to run electric trains from the start. The LOR pioneered Electric Multiple Units of three car trains. Automatic electric light signals were also a first for the railway. The presence of the "El" helped Liverpool earn the nickname "Britain's North American City". The LOR was demolished in 1957 and Liverpool is served today by a partially underground urban rail network known as Merseyrail.
A major breakthrough in the development of electrically driven rapid transit occurred when the American inventor Frank J. Sprague successfully tested his system of multiple-unit train control (MUTC) on the South Side Elevated Railroad (now part of the Chicago 'L') in 1897. MUTC, which allowed all the motors in an entire train to be controlled from a single point, freed rapid transit systems from dependence on locomotive-hauled coaches.
Budapest opened the first electrified underground line on the continent, the M1, in 1896. It ran from Gizella tér (now Vörösmarty tér, the city centre) to City Park and the local zoo, a distance of 3.7 kilometres (2.3 mi). It is now part of the Budapest Metro and has largely been restored. The Budapest system was the first underground with overhead cables rather than the more common third rail system. Car #18 is preserved at the Seashore Trolley Museum.
The first line of the Paris Métro opened in 1900. Its full name was the Chemin de Fer Métropolitain, a direct translation into French of London's Metropolitan Railway. The name was shortened to métro, and many other languages have since borrowed this word.
The Berlin U-Bahn (for underground railway) opened in 1902; because large sections of the line were elevated, it was also called "Hochbahn" (high railway) until the 1920s. Germany's second system, the Hamburg U-Bahn opened in 1904.
The Athens-Piraeus Electric Railway was built as a steam-hauled suburban line in 1869 and acquired an underground section in the capital in 1874. It was electrified in 1904 and became part of the Athens Metro in 2011.
Boston has the oldest subway tunnel in the United States that is still in use, part of the MBTA's Green Line downtown, dating from 1897. The original construction was a short four-track tunnel, with only two stations downtown, originally built to take streetcars from outlying areas off the streets in the most congested area. In 1901-1908, heavy rail trains temporarily shared the tunnel as part of the original configuration of the Main Line Elevated, the first elevated railway in Boston. Later subway lines built in Boston carry heavy rail trains; the Green Line still operates with light rail equipment.
The New York City Subway, which became one of the world's largest, opened its first section in 1904, a fully independent four-track line stretching 9 miles (14.5 km) from City Hall to 145th Street. Extensions were soon built, reaching the Bronx and Brooklyn; this became part of the IRT system. Two major subway systems, operated by the BMT and the IND were constructed later, and many pre-existing elevated railway lines were incorporated into the BMT and IRT systems. The Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, which opened a subway tunnel in Manhattan in 1908 and connected with New Jersey, remained a separate railroad company, later coming under the control of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH). Some New York City subway lines run on right-of-way first used in 1863 by railroads, and converted R44 subway cars run on the 1860 Staten Island Railway.
The oldest subway in the Southern Hemisphere, "Subterráneos de Buenos Aires" (Subte), opened in 1913 as an underground tramway in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Line A of the Subte used La Burgeoise wood and metal carriages, which were in continuous operation for 100 years. In 2013 the cars were replaced with new rolling stock.
Cairo was the first African city with a metro system (opened 1987), which was partly converted from a railway line. It is under development. The second African metro opened in Algiers in November 2011. Tunis has a tram system that is referred to as a metro despite not being rapid transit. Pretoria, Lagos and some other African cities have plans to build rapid transit networks.
The first of many China's metro systems, Beijing subway, began operation in 1969, operating on a trial basis until 1981. Other major cities followed: Tianjin (1984), Shanghai (1993), Guangzhou (1997), Wuhan (2004), Shenzhen (2004). Nearly sixty cities have or are planning rapid transit systems and new Chinese metro systems open every year.
In 1979, Hong Kong's subway line, the MTR, began operations. It operates 10 lines, including four that run underneath Victoria Harbour. By 1982, the British Section of the Kowloon-Canton Railway, known later as KCR East Rail and now MTR's East Rail Line, started to provide metro-like service as electrification was completed. In 2007 the merger of the KCR line into the MTR system was completed.
Since 1974, South Korean cities have developed subway systems. The first lines were converted from existing heavy railway lines. The largest, Seoul, operates twelve lines extending approximately 314 km. Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Daejeon and Gwangju also have subway systems. Seoul and Incheon are connected by metro.
Pyongyang in North Korea notably has a well adorned and deep metro with non-geographical names of stations (unique in the world) and was built to serve as a bomb shelter in case of a war.
India's oldest metro is in Kolkata, started in 1984, followed by the elevated rapid transit system Chennai MRTS. Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai built metros after that. In June 2017 Kochi Metro in central Kerala became operational. Cities such as Nagpur, Pune and Hyderabad are constructing metros. Patna and other cities have hired engineers and civil planners to plan the locations of future metro lines.
In 1987, Mass Rapid Transit in Singapore opened. It was the world's first heavy rail system to feature platform screen doors on its underground stations. The network operates five lines with three more lines planned to open by 2030.
Haifa, Israel opened an underground funicular railway in 1959, the Carmelit. At a narrow section of the Jerusalem Light Rail (since 2011), the road was tunneled rather than the rail. Sections of the Tel Aviv Light Rail (under construction) are underground. Not all three systems are heavy rail.
In Mecca, Saudi Arabia, a 20 km first line of ground and elevated metro system was completed in 2011. A total of 5 metro lines with long trains are planned to carry masses of pilgrims to the religious sites. Another two metros are under construction in Riyadh and Jeddah.
In the interwar period the first metros were established at the continent's periphery: The Madrid Metro opened on October 17, 1919 under the direction of the Compañía de Metro Alfonso XIII. Metro stations served as air raid shelters during the Spanish Civil War. Today, Madrid's subway is one of the longest systems in the world. Barcelona Metro followed in 1924.
The first underground in the USSR (in Russian метрополитен metropoliten or метро metro) opened in 1935 in Moscow. The first line, between Sokolniki and Park Kul'tury, was 11.2 km long. Two of the first stations, Krasnye Vorota and Mayakovskaya, were awarded a Grand Prix at the 1937 and 1939 World's Fairs in Paris and New York. The Moscow metro is one of the world's most elaborately decorated undergrounds. Its stations (especially those built in the Stalin era) were often called underground palaces. As of 2014, the Moscow metro has 325 kilometers of railways and 194 stations and is one of the world's busiest. In Russia and other republics of the former Soviet Union as a whole, subways opened in Saint Petersburg (1955), Kiev (1960), Tbilisi (1966), Baku (1967), Kharkov (1975), Tashkent (1977), Yerevan (1981), Minsk (1984), Nizhniy Novgorod (1985), Novosibirsk (1986), Samara (1987), Yekaterinburg (1991), Dnipro (1995) and Kazan (2005). In Volgograd and Kryvyi Rih in the 1980s a "metrotram" opened – it runs underground, along with common city trams.
The Toronto Subway opened in 1954. One experimental trainset used the first aluminum subway cars, which reduced weight and therefore operating costs. With the next car order in 1963, only aluminum was used. The new cars, at 75 feet/23 m, were at the time the longest in the world. The Montreal Metro, was the second subway system in Canada and was opened in 1966 as part of Expo 67 that would be held in Montreal.
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in the San Francisco Bay Area and The capital's Washington Metro in Washington, D.C. opened in 1972 and 1976 respectively, as part of changing attitudes towards transportation in the United States, leading to subway and LRT systems opening in many cities that had done without.
The most recently completed fully underground heavy rail metro line in North America is the LACMTA Red Line in Los Angeles, which goes from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to North Hollywood in the San Fernando Valley. Construction was started in 1986 and completed in 2000. In autumn 2005, several politicians including Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa indicated a desire to complete the originally conceived subway route along Wilshire Boulevard to West Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Phase One to La Cienega Blvd has been approved.
While most Australian capital cities have commuter rail rapid-transit services, Sydney is to be the first Australian city to have a rapid transit metro network. The Sydney Metro is scheduled to open in 2019.
In Brazil, the first underground rapid transit service opened in 1974 in São Paulo, and now the Metrô carries some 4 million passengers on an average weekday. Part of it consists of converted older railways; with stations dating back to the 1880s. Underground lines have been built in Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Recife, Porto Alegre and in the Federal District, serving the federal capital Brasília and its immediate surroundings.
Metro de Santiago is the metro system serving Santiago, the capital of the Republic of Chile. It is a network of five lines with a total of 85 stations, and the only South American rubber tired metro.
Medellín, Colombia is served by one of the few profitable metro systems in the world. Operated by the Metro de Medellin Company, it carries fewer than 500,000 passengers a day. This system operates on an elevated infrastructure in downtown area and on-level parallel to the river. The construction of the system had astronomical cost overruns that led to a large public debt.
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