How Did Elevated Trains and Subways Improve Urban Transportation

How Did Elevated Trains and Subways Improve Urban Transportation

How Did Elevated Trains and Subways Improve Urban Transportation

Transportation is a fundamental aspect of urban development, connecting people to their jobs, schools, and neighborhoods. Over the years, transportation infrastructure has evolved in response to changes in cities’ needs. One major innovation in urban transport has been the introduction of elevated trains and subways, drastically increasing mobility and accessibility worldwide.

Elevated or overhead railways

Elevated or overhead railways or el trains were first developed in the late 19th century to provide rapid transit in densely-populated urban areas. The earliest elevated trains were constructed using iron or steel viaducts which raised them above street level and offered faster transportation than traditional streetcars, or horse-drawn carriages could offer.

One of the earliest and most prominent examples of an elevated train system is the New York City Subway, which opened in 1904 and quickly became a vital transportation link for millions of residents and visitors to the city. Running on elevated tracks, these trains provided a swift and efficient means of travel throughout Manhattan. Over time, however, this network was expanded with newer trains, better stations, and advanced signaling and safety components.

Urban planners and transportation experts worldwide quickly recognized the advantages of elevated trains, prompting many other cities to develop their elevated train systems. These systems helped alleviate traffic congestion, reduce travel times, and offer urban residents a more reliable and efficient mode of transport.


Another significant advancement in urban transportation was the invention of subways. Unlike elevated trains, subways run underground, providing an even faster and more efficient means of getting around for city dwellers. The first subway system was established in London during the late 19th century, quickly becoming a model for other major cities around the globe.

In the early 20th century, Boston built the first subway system in America – known as “the Boston T.” This combination of underground and elevated tracks provided rapid transit throughout the city. Soon after that, other major cities such as New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia followed suit with their subway systems.

Subways offered similar advantages to elevated trains: faster travel times, improved reliability, and easier access to jobs, education institutions, and other essential destinations. Furthermore, subways helped reduce air and noise pollution by eliminating street-level transportation.

However, the development of elevated trains and subways was challenging. Construction often proved expensive and disruptive, necessitating existing buildings and infrastructure demolition. In addition, these projects sometimes caused significant social and environmental effects – particularly on low-income or minority communities.

Despite these difficulties, elevated trains and subways remain essential elements of urban transportation. These systems continue to be improved and expanded with new technologies and design features that further boost their efficiency, dependability, and safety.


Elevated trains and subways have the distinct advantage of speedy transportation for larger groups of people. That is especially helpful in densely populated urban areas where traffic congestion can cause delays and worsen air pollution. Offering a dedicated transit mode, elevated trains, and subways help move large numbers of people quickly and efficiently, thus reducing congestion and improving air quality.

Another significant advantage of elevated trains and subways is their accessibility for people with disabilities. Stations have elevators and ramps installed for this purpose. At the same time, many subway cars feature wider doors and low floors to make boarding easier for wheelchair users. As a result, public transit has become more inclusive and accessible to an increased range of individuals.

Elevated trains and subways are integral to economic development and urban growth. By offering a fast and efficient means of transportation, they make it simpler for people to get to work, school, or other important destinations. That attracts businesses and investment into urban centers, encouraging economic expansion and development.

In addition to these advantages, elevated trains and subways can also be more environmentally friendly than other forms of transit. Since they run on electricity rather than gasoline or diesel fuel, they produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions and contribute less to air pollution. That has made them an invaluable ally in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation.

Overall, elevated trains and subways have had a profoundly positive effect on urban transportation. Though imperfect, they provide fast, efficient, and dependable modes of transit for millions worldwide. As cities expand and face new transportation obstacles, elevated trains and subways will likely remain critical players in improving mobility and accessibility for urban residents.


Elevated trains and subways have improved urban transportation, providing faster, more efficient, and dependable transit modes for city dwellers worldwide. While their development has been challenging, these systems have become essential elements of modern urban infrastructure. Moreover, elevated trains and subways will likely remain essential links for years as cities continue to expand and develop.


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