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Commuter rail services in the United States, Canada, and Mexico provide common carrier passenger transportation along railway tracks, with scheduled service on fixed routes on a non-reservation basis primarily for short-distance (local) travel between a central business district and adjacent suburbs and regional travel between cities of a conurbation. It does not include rapid transit or light rail service.



Many, but not all, newer commuter railways offer service during peak times only, and on a round-trip basis. For example, West Coast Express commuter rail runs trains only into Downtown Vancouver during the morning rush hour, and out to the suburbs during the evening rush hour. This mode of operation is in many cases simplified by ending the train with a special passenger carriage (referred to as a cab car), which has an operating cab at one end and can control the locomotive remotely so as to avoid having to turn the train around at each end of its route. Other systems avoid the issue entirely by using bi-directional multiple units.

Many older, established commuter rail services operate their routes on an 7 day a week basis, with services running through from early morning to just after mid-night. Some like the LIRR operate key routes on a 24/7 basis. On many of these older systems patrons use the trains not just for work, or school, but for attending sporting events, concerts, theatre, and the like. Some also provide service to popular week-end getaway spots, and recreation areas.

Most commuter rail services in North America are operated by agencies of government entities or quasi-governmental organizations. Some share the tracks or rights-of-way used by longer-distance passenger services (e.g. Amtrak, VIA Rail), freight trains, or other commuter services. The 600 mile-long (960 km long) electrified Northeast Corridor in the United States is shared by commuter trains and Amtrak's Acela Express, regional, and intercity trains.

Commuter rail operators often sell reduced fare multiple-trip tickets (such as a monthly or weekly pass), charge specific station-to-station fares, and have one or two stations in the central business district. Commuter trains are typically connected to metro or bus services both at their destination and along their route to extend the range of accessibility.


In the United States, inter-city trains are operated by Amtrak over a network that is far less dense than ones found in Europe or Japan. The most heavily used routes with the greatest ridership and schedule frequencies are in the Northeast Megalopolis and the Chicago metropolitan area. About one in every three users of mass transit in the United States and two-thirds of the nation's rail riders live in the New York City metropolitan area.

The two busiest passenger rail stations in the United States are Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal, both in New York City, which also serve three of the four busiest commuter railroads in the United States (Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit at Penn Station, Metro-North Railroad at Grand Central Terminal). The commuter railroads serving the Chicago area are Metra and the South Shore Line.

Commuter rail outside of Washington DC, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto metropolitan areas is more infrequent and less extensively used relative to networks in European and Japanese cities of comparable size.

Rolling stock

Long Island Rail Road bilevel coaches

Commuter trains are usually powered by diesel-electric or electric locomotives, or in some cases use self-contained multiple units. Electric power in some instances is transmitted via third rail or overhead wire and catenary. Electric power is often favoured where it is available due to quicker acceleration, lower noise, and fewer air-quality issues. Electric power and even more so multiple-unit trains are, however, much less common than on European railways.

Diesel-electric locomotives based on the EMD F40PH design as well as the F59PHI are popular commuter motive power. Major manufacturers of coaches include Bombardier, Kawasaki and Nippon Sharyo.

List of Canadian, Mexican and U.S. commuter rail operators

There are 27 commuter rail systems in Canada, Mexico and the United States. They are:

Metropolitan Area Province / State System Official site Daily Ridership (weekday)
Montreal Quebec Agence métropolitaine de transport [1] 56,800
Toronto/Hamilton Ontario GO Transit [2] 159,300
Vancouver British Columbia West Coast Express (TransLink) [3] 10,500
Mexico City Mexican Federal District, Estado de Mexico Ferrocarril Suburbano de la Zona Metropolitana de México [4] 88,000[1]
Albuquerque New Mexico Rail Runner Express [5] 4,500
Austin Texas Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Capital Metro Commuter Rail (Opening 2010) [6] 1,500 (Projected)
Boston Massachusetts / Rhode Island MBTA Commuter Rail [7] 143,700
Chicago Illinois / Wisconsin Metra [8] 311,900
Chicago Illinois / Indiana South Shore Line (NICTD) [9]
Dallas/Fort Worth Texas Trinity Railway Express [10] 9,800
Los Angeles/Santa Ana/San Bernardino California Metrolink [11] 47,600
Miami/Fort Lauderdale/West Palm Beach Florida Tri-Rail [12] 16,100
Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota Northstar Commuter Rail [13] 4,000 (as of opening, Nov. 2009)
Nashville Tennessee Music City Star [14] 900
New Haven/Stamford/New London Connecticut Shore Line East [15] 2,000
New YorkTrenton /PhiladelphiaAtlantic City New Jersey New Jersey Transit [16] 276,000
New YorkLong Island New York Long Island Rail Road [17] 347,600
New YorkNew HavenPoughkeepsie New York / Connecticut Metro-North Railroad [18] 278,700
Philadelphia Pennsylvania / New Jersey /Delaware SEPTA Regional Rail [19] 128,000
Salt Lake City - Ogden Utah FrontRunner [20] 4,803
San Diego California Coaster [21] 6,000
San Francisco/San Jose California Caltrain [22] 39,122
San Jose/San Joaquin and Alameda counties California Altamont Commuter Express [23] 3,700
Seattle/Tacoma Washington Sounder (Sound Transit) [24] 9,979
Washington County (suburban Portland) Oregon Westside Express Service (TriMet) [25] 1,180
Baltimore/Washington Maryland / West Virginia MARC [26] 31,500
Washington, DC Virginia Virginia Railway Express [27] 16,000

Proposed and under construction

There are several commuter rail systems currently in development in Mexico and the United States.

Metropolitan Area State(s) System Official site Other sites
Aguascalientes Aguascalientes Tren Suburbano (no official name yet) [28] [29]
Guadalajara Jalisco Tren Suburbano [30]


United States of America
Metropolitan Area State(s) System Official site Other sites
Anchorage Alaska Alaska Railroad (existing long-distance railroad, proposed commuter service) [32] [33]
Ann Arbor Michigan MDOT (Temporary commuter service to bypass construction on US 23, which may become permanent) [34], [35]
Atlanta/Athens/Macon Georgia Georgia Rail Passenger Program,

Georgia Brain Train

[36], [37]
Charlotte North Carolina LYNX Purple Line [38][39]
Cleveland Ohio NEORail [40] [41][42]
Cincinnati Ohio Eastern Corridor Commuter Rail [43]
Cloverdale - Larkspur (San Francisco) California SMART [44]
Dallas/Fort Worth Texas DCTA A-Train,

FWTA Southwest-to-Northeast Rail Corridor, DART Cotton Belt Rail Line

[45], [46], [47]
Denver Colorado FasTracks [48]
Detroit Michigan SEMCOG Commuter Rail [49] [50] [51]
Greensboro North Carolina TRIAD Commuter Rail [52]
Harrisburg/Lancaster Pennsylvania CorridorOne (Capital Area Transit) [53]
Houston Texas Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas [54] [55]
Indianapolis Indiana IndyGo Commuter Rail [56]
Madison Wisconsin Dane County Commuter Rail,

Transport 2020 Commuter Rail

Milwaukee Wisconsin KRM Commuter Link [59]
New Haven/ Hartford/ Springfield Connecticut / Massachusetts New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Commuter Rail Line [60]
Oklahoma City Oklahoma OnTrac [61] [62]
Orlando Florida SunRail [63]
Oxnard - Santa Barbara California Santa Barbara - Ventura County Commuter Rail [64] [65]
Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Eastern Corridor Transit Study (no official name as of 2008) [66] [67]
Scranton, Pennsylvania / New Jersey / New York City Pennsylvania / New Jersey / New York Lackawanna Cutoff [68]
St. Louis Missouri / Illinois St. Louis Commuter Rail [69]


The following systems have ceased operations since the 1970s.

See also




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