Impacts of Rail Transit on the Performance of a Transportation System


Todd Litman

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, operations - performance, infrastructure - vehicle, planning - environmental impact, land use - impacts, policy - environment, policy - congestion, economics - benefits, organisation - performance, mode - rail


Vehicle miles of travel, United States, Traffic congestion, Social benefits, Ridership, Rail transit, Patronage (Transit ridership), Impacts, Gridlock (Traffic), Environmental impacts, Environmental effects, Economic benefits, Cities, Benefits, Automobile ownership


This paper summarizes research on the effects of rail transit on the performance of transportation systems in major U.S. cities. It summarizes results from the study "Rail Transit In America: Comprehensive Evaluation of Benefits," which evaluates rail transit benefits on the basis of comparison of transportation system performance in major U.S. cities. It finds that cities with larger, well-established rail systems have significantly higher per capita transit ridership, lower average per capita vehicle ownership and mileage, less traffic congestion, lower traffic death rates, and lower consumer transportation expenditures than otherwise comparable cities. These findings indicate that rail transit systems can provide a variety of economic, social, and environmental benefits and that benefits tend to increase as a system expands and matures.