Establishing and expanding urban rail networks in existing and future large cities

Why is this gap important?

A rich literature finds that the provision of reliable, convenient, and affordable public transit, and in the case of large cities, metro and light rail, not only reduces the per capita transport emissions in these cities, but can also contribute substantially to reducing levels of pollutants associated with road vehicles, and also enables reductions in the macro- and micro-economic costs of providing urban mobility.

Other studies identify economic and equity benefits that come from urban rail systems.

Technology solutions

Even the more advanced technologies employed in rail, such as those covered in Gap 3, range in readiness from TRL: 10-11, as they have been widely rolled out.

Colored bars represent the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of each technology. Learn more about TRLs

What are the leading initiatives?

Land value capture is a proven practice for securing capital to finance urban rail project construction, expansion and refurbishment, and operations. This opportunity arises where the rail transport network developers purchase land at pre-railway prices and develop residential, commercial and tertiary facilities, enabling them to capture the increase in property value induced by the railway operations. Governments may share in the risks and rewards by direct investment or through the taxation of higher value properties. The anticipated change in property value can mobilise debt financing. Such schemes have been used to finance urban rail projects in cities throughout the world.

Recommended actions

  • City governments: Integrate transport and land use planning divisions. Conduct feasibility studies to inform metro construction, improvement, and expansion plans, focusing on near-term (e.g. 10 years) and longer term (up to 30 years) potential. Develop appropriate plans to upgrade public transit (including BRT, bus, and rail), integrating analysis of co-benefits.
  • Rail construction companies: Focus on strategies to incorporate energy-efficient and customer friendly technologies.
  • Public transit operators: Identify operation strategies and technologies that can draw more customers, improve levels of service and reliability, and cut cost. Develop effective and informative public awareness and communication campaigns on the benefits of public transit.