Rapid transit facts for kids

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Krasniye Vorota
A metro station in Moscow
P1010539 Paris XIII Boulevard Vincent-Auriol reductwk
Paris elevated metro line

A Rapid transit system (commonly called a Metro), subway, underground, tube, elevated, or heavy rail system, is a railway system. Usually it is in a city or urban area. Trains run very often, and carry many passengers. Usually it lacks level crossings. Rather, grade separation keeps it separate from other traffic. Grade separation is when two streams of traffic go over and under each other, so they do not meet.

There are two major types of rapid transit—elevated railways and subways. A single rapid transit system may have both elevated and subway lines, such as the one in New York City, which is by far the largest in the world by number of lines, length of track and number of stations.

Elevated railways

Elevated rapid transit lines are cheaper to build than subways since no tunneling is required. A well-known mostly elevated rapid transit system is the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in the San Francisco Bay Area. Construction began in 1964 and the first trains began running in 1972. However, all the lines travel through subways part of the way. As in many systems, the underground parts are the inner city parts.


In England a subway is called an Underground (the only exception being the Tyne and Wear Metro), in Scotland and North America it is called Subway (except in Montreal, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Miami where it is called Metro), in Germany and Austria U-Bahn and in the rest of the world usually Metro, for example: Barcelona Metro.


The oldest rapid transit system is the London Underground. Building started in 1860 and the first part of it was opened in 1863. The first underground trains were powered by steam. Another part of the London Underground was the first rapid transit using electric trains, as is normal today. This part opened in 1890.

The first subway in North America was the subway in Boston . Building started in 1895 and the first section was opened in 1897.

The first subway in Asia was the subway in Tokyo. The first section was opened in 1927.

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