Early in the 19th century, growing American cities began to experience transportation problems. One solution was the horse-drawn streetcar, developed in 1832, but it soon proved inadequate. The first elevated train was transporting passengers above the streets of Manhattan by 1871; the first subway opened 25 years later in Boston; and similar systems soon followed in Philadelphia and Chicago. Rapid transit was confined to these few cities until after World War II, when a new generation of systems began to appear. In the 1970s, light rail became an economical alternative to conventional rapid transit. By century’s end, some three dozen cities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico operated metropolitan rapid transit or light rail systems that transported five billion urban passengers annually, and still more were under construction or planned.
These diverse systems include elevated lines ranging from Chicago’s “L” to the fully automatic Skytrain metro of Vancouver, B.C.; subways from New York City’s thundering tunnels—the world’s largest underground system—to the thoroughly modern metro of Guadalajara; and light rail from lovingly restored New Orleans streetcars to the sleek, articulated vehicles of Silicon Valley.
Metropolitan Railways is a large-scale, extensively illustrated volume that deals with the growth and development of urban rail transit systems in North America. It traces the history of rail transit technology from such impractical early schemes as a proposed steam-powered “arcade railway” under New York’s Broadway through today’s sophisticated systems. Rapid transit enthusiasts as well as residents of cities that are potential candidates for rapid transit or light rail systems will find this book indispensable.