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Rapid transit

Rapid transit describes a type of urban rail transportation, generally including subway and elevated lines in the U.S., Metros in most other countries, and U-Bahnen in Germany.

Originally, the term rapid transit was used beginning in the 1800s to describe new forms of quick urban public transportation that separated the rapid transit right-of-way from street traffic. This set rapid transit apart from horsecars, trams, streetcars, omnibuses, and other forms of public transport.

Though the term was almost always used to describe rail transportation, other forms of transit were sometimes described by their proponents as rapid transit, even including local ferries in some cases.

In the 19th century, elevated steam railroads were the most common form of rapid transit, though steam powered trains were used in the London Underground tunnels in that era. Rapid transit locomotives were specially configured to start and stop quickly, the opposite of mainline railroad engines, in order to provide quick service where stations were located close together.

In the modern context, rapid transit is distinguished, with rare exceptions, by a number of characteristics:

Sites:, which includes links to operating companies, and New York City Subway Resources, an extensive site that includes many photos and much information about rapid transit systems in the U.S. and worldwide, in addition to New York City.