Transit Leadership Summit

Bringing together leaders of the
world's top public-transportation agencies
to exchange ideas and guide research.

Learn More

What Is TLS

Transit Leadership Summit brings together senior transportation executives from around the world to discuss common challenges and share solutions in an intimate, closed-door setting. With no more than 30 participants representing seven to 12 major cities at each summit, executives engage in a candid dialogue about promising strategies and technologies to improve the transportation experience, as well as seek the advice of their peers regarding obstacles they face.

Summits are organized around the presentation of white papers, commissioned specifically for TLS, and city case studies. The topics have included advances in fare collection and policy; improving the customer experience; capital investment priority-setting; preparing for climate variability; improving first- and last-leg connections; and strategies for value capture.

By providing space for discussions in a small group setting, the summit promotes an exchange of ideas that leads to meaningful innovation at the world’s leading transit-planning agencies.

Having a smaller setting gives you a chance to have more in-depth discussions with people and to hear their experiences…this kind of exchange, to closely connect with people, that’s a key opportunity from TLS.

Isabel Dedring, Deputy Mayor for Transport, London

Lessons Learned

The public-transit customer experience should extend beyond the environment under transit agencies’ control to include the surroundings encountered when walking or biking to transit stations.

Building the environmental and economic case for public transportation by developing new metrics is critical to ensuring that government continues to fund transit adequately.

Dramatically changing institutional structures can be beneficial at times, but is often disruptive and takes time and energy better devoted to improving service. Another approach is to adopt new systems and strategies incrementally, for example on a new line or for a new set of assets rather than simultaneously on an entire transit system.

The key to building public support for increasing fares is to address larger urban goals including livability, the environment, public safety, customer convenience and economic value. Branding and good design in physical settings and in advertising are essential for building positive customer perceptions of transit.

Involving the private sector can help agency raise upfront cash, complement public agency skills and insulate the public sector from politically difficult situations. The public sector should set the goals and closely monitor its private partners.

Diversified revenues are critical to ensuring the long-term stability of transit agencies. Value capture – secured via land values, property taxes, development fees, payroll taxes, parking fees, etc. – works best for entrepreneurial agencies and when it is clear that transit will improve the area. Agencies more dependent on government subsidy are least likely to be able to leverage this type of funding.

The Summits

Regional Plan Association convened three multiday summits in New York, Singapore and London that have brought together more than two dozen transit executives from 17 different metropolitan areas. This section encapsulates three years of research and conversations that have sought to address the management, operational, governance and planning challenges that many transit systems face daily.

Each TLS event is summarized, including key details on the venues, activities and discussions.

It was fascinating to see how similar many of our transit challenges ultimately are.

The Cities

Map of Transit Leadership Summit Cities

City profiles were developed for each of the 17 TLS cities. The profiles include an overview of the metropolitan area and background on their transit systems, including select innovative actions taken by the transit properties which they have shared at past summits. While the profiles highlight the geographic diversity of the participating cities, they also clearly show that the majority are large metropolitan areas with extensive heavy rail systems.

Metro Statistics

Year Opened:
Residents (millions):
Surface area (km2):
Density (res/km2):
Base Fare (USD):
Fare Type:
Participating Agency:

Annual Ridership (millions)

Heavy Rail:
Light Rail:
Commuter Rail:
Bus Rapid Transit: (BRT)
See the Metrics section for mode definitions.

Metrics and Data

TLS was a unique opportunity to develop a set of comparative statistics for the participating cities and their transit systems. Over the years RPA staff has updated these data through collaborations with the 17 cities and publicly available sources. This process has revealed difference in how data are defined and interpreted. For instance, agencies define ridership, costs and subsidies in various different ways. In some cases ridership includes all trips separately (unlinked trips) whereas others define a trip as the complete journey even if it includes multiple modes (linked trips). Operating costs can include long-term liabilities, such as pension and asset depreciation costs, or not. Annual formula-based subsidies also could cover capital needs or just the operating deficit. This makes creating valid “apples to apples” comparisons between cities difficult.

Metro Statistics

Residents City, 2012

Mode Share and Ridership

The modal splits show the proportion of transit riders that use each of the transit modes – light rail, heavy rail metro, commuter rail, bus, BRT and ferries. It highlights the variation of the mode share across the 17 TLS cities. It is important to consider modal share in the context of absolute ridership, since modal shares don't reflect the magnitude of riders on each system. Consider Singapore and Seoul: the two cities appear to be alike, with similar modal splits between heavy rail and light rail. Yet Seoul’s ridership levels are three times greater than those of Singapore.

A heavy rail metro system typically carries passengers within the city on an exclusive grade-separated right-of-way, elevated viaduct or embankment, subterranean tunnels or an open cut. Trains run frequently throughout the system, stations are spaced more closely together and speeds are slower than commuter rail. Journey times range from 15 to 30 minutes on average. Examples: New York City subway; London Underground.
A light rail metro system typically runs along surface streets, in some cases in mixed traffic, or on exclusive lanes. Light rail systems generally operate at lower speeds, can brake faster to avoid conflicts with pedestrians, have a lower capacity and are less expensive to build and maintain. Examples: Hudson-Bergen Light Rail; Wiener Linien (Vienna)
A commuter rail system typically transports residents from far-flung suburbs to the major job centers in metropolitan areas. Commuter trains run faster than heavy and light rail systems, rely on schedules and make less frequent stops. Examples: Long Island Rail Road; Metrolink (L.A.)
A bus rapid transit (BRT) system aims to provide high-quality surface transportation service similar to that of a rail network. Essential to its success are an exclusive right-of-way, off-board fare collection, platform-level boarding, and improved service plans. A BRT system may adapt some or all of these features depending on its urban context, leading to a range of BRT services worldwide. Examples: Los Angeles, Santiago


City Statistics

Excel (xlsx)

Tab-Separated Values (tsv)
Transposed and formatted for use with D3

Map Data

CartoDB: View mode datasets

Data Sources
Map Data

All map features are labeled with their appropriate source in the shapefile or CartoDB attribute tables.

City Statistics

Barcelona: Autoritat del Transport Metropolità (ATM), Ajuntament de Barcelona, TRAM, Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB)

Hong Kong: Mass Transit Railway (MTR), The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

London: Transport for London (TfL), Greater London Authority, Office for National Statistics,VisitBritain

Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), Metrolink, National Transit Database (NTD), U.S. Census, Discover Los Angeles

Madrid: Consorcio Regional de Transportes Madrid (CRTM), Eurostat

Mexico City: Ciudad de Mexico Secretería de Movilidad, Servicio de Transportes Elèctricos (STE)

Montreal: Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT), Société de transport de Montréal (STM)

New York City: Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ), New Jersey Transit (NJT), National Transit Database (NTD), U.S. Census, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (NYS DMV)

Paris: Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP), Syndicat des Transports en Île-de-France (STIF), Observatoire de la mobilité en Île-de-France (Omnil), National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), Eurostat

Santiago: Directorio de Transporte Público Metropolitano (DTPM), Instituto Nacional de EstadÌsticas Chile (INE)

Sao Paulo: São Paulo Metrô (SPM), Empresa Metropolitana de Transportes Urbanos de São Paulo, World Population Statistics, Prefeitura de São Paulo

Seoul: Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG), World Population Statistics, Korea Tourism Organization (KTO)

Singapore: Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA), SMRT Corporation

Stockholm: Storstockholms Lokaltrafik (SL), Statistics Sweden

Tokyo: East Japan Railway Company (JR East), Tokyo Metro, Tokyo Metropolitan Government

Vienna: Wiener Linien (WL), City of Vienna, Eurostat

Washington D.C.: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), National Transit Database (NTD), U.S. Census, Washington D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DC DMV)

GDP for all cities: Brookings Institute

Notes on Ridership Data

Current ridership numbers reflect the most recent available, 2012-2014

Notes on Financial Data

For the most part, the financial statistics in the table represent the entire metro system in each city. However, there are a few cases where only a part of the metro system or more than the metro are included:

  • Seoul: Includes Seoul Metro, one of the 4 main metro operators in the city. This represents 4 out of 18 metro lines.
  • Los Angeles & Singapore: Include both the heavy rail and light rail because the light rail systems in these cities are closely integrated with the heavy rail metro.
  • Montreal, New York City & Santiago: Include both the metro and bus systems because they are overseen by the same umbrella agency and it is difficult to separate the data.

White Papers

The six white papers focus on pressing issues that transit executives are grappling with on a daily basis or that will affect their longer-term capital decision making. At the heart of each white paper is consideration of the role of the institutions that govern the delivery of transport service, and how these interact with public and private stakeholders. The composition of the transit organization and its operating environment dictate how it will respond to the challenges it faces. Some transit organizations are ill equipped to address broader issues of funding or climate change due to their narrow operational mission, while others are embedded in government and must contend with a political agenda that can result in suboptimal operational decision making.

London Underground

Improving the Customer Experience

A survey of customer amenity improvements highlights global best practices, such as communicating with customers through social media and analyzing smart card swipes in real time. View PDF

Exiting the MTR at Sha Tin

Fare Collection and Fare Policy

A study on new fare collection technologies reveals the opportunities for more equitable and flexible fare policies. These technologies make it easier to set and collect fares. View PDF

East Side Access Construction Site

Capital Investment Priority–Setting for Transit in Large Metro Areas

A survey of the various factors that influence how transit agencies set their capital investment priorities, such as how investments in expansion projects might be weighed against existing assets. View PDF

Hong Kong IFC Mall

Value Capture Opportunities for Urban Public Transport Finance

A study of the value that transit adds to cities, including a focus on contemporary value capture mechanisms used by transit agencies. View PDF

Hurricane Sandy

Urban Transit Systems and Conditions of Enhanced Climate Variability

A study of how erratic weather and the increased threat of flooding, heat and high winds will affect transit systems, including actions institutions are taking to adjust to new coniditons. View PDF

Radstation Mönster

Door to Door: Combined Mobility and the Changing Transit Landscape

A survey of land use, urban design and organizational strategies for achieving new levels of interconnectivity, including ways to expand transit accessibility into complex regional settings. View PDF

Sponsors & Partners

The Transit Leadership Summit is made possible by a generous grant from the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations. Additional support for the summits was provided by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Singapore Land Transport Authority, Transport for London and the office of the Mayor of London.