List of Largest Cities in the USA with No Metro / Passenger Rail

List of Largest Cities in the USA with No Metro / Passenger Rail

August 30, 2013 20 By Tad Reeves

Updated May 2019: Having lived & worked in some of the best cities in the USA for transit (Portland, OR, Boston, DC, New York, Chicago, SF Bay) as well as some of the worst (LA, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay), there really is no question about how the availability of alternatives to driving on roads affects one’s quality of life in the city.

However, I never cease to be amazed at those cities that are transit-deprived who run vehement anti-transit PR campaigns, attempting to convince folks that they shouldn’t fund transit projects.

So, as a counterpoint to this, I’ve compiled a list of the 10  largest cities in the USA  with no Metro system of any sort – where your only option getting to work is either (a) sitting in your car in traffic, or (b) sitting in a bus that’s sitting in the same traffic as your car would be.

Worst offender: Tampa Far and away the largest metro area with no rail is the Tampa Bay area in Florida.  Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater is a sprawling metropolis with over 3 million people, which jumps to 4 million if you include the Sarasota area.

The fact of the Tampa area being so car-centric has repeatedly landed Tampa on the #1 list for the most bicycle deaths per-capita in the USA, and is one of the most dangerous cities for cyclists in the WORLD.

Attempts at building any form of transit system have repeatedly failed.   This article is a FANTASTIC read, with some extremely telling maps and graphics that describe just how dire the situation is.

Some of the most-telling maps from the article above:

So, without further ado, the list of largest US cities without rail transit:

City Metro Area Population Rail Transit Commuter / Intercity Rail
Tampa / St. Pete / Clearwater, FL 3,032,171 No metro or light rail.

There’s a downtown heritage trolly in Tampa, but this is not meant to be a bona-fide transit option.

No commuter rail. Daily Amtrak service for inter-city.
San Antonio, TX 2,429,609 Nope, just buses. Daily Amtrak trains (no commuter rail).

There are long-term plans in mind as well to develop a high-speed commuter rail train between Austin and San Antonio to relieve the I-35 corridor, but this is still in the planning stage.

Indianapolis, IN 2,103,574 No metro or light rail.  The city actually currently has a BAN on light rail, and when attempting to lift that ban, lawmakers actually wrote language that “prohibited Marion County from using any transit dollars for light rail until the county has “substantially remedied” the pothole problem this year. “ No commuter rail. Amtrak for inter-city.
Columbus, OH 2,093,185 No metro or light rail.   Columbus is actually the largest city in the USA with no passenger train service of any kind whatsoever. No passenger rail service of any sort.
Raleigh-Durham, NC 1,795,750 No metro or light rail.  There was a light-rail network in the planning stages, which was essentially torpedoed by Duke University as they objected to the trains. No commuter service. Amtrak serves inter-city.
Oklahoma City, OK 1,373,211 No metro or light rail.

The Oklahoma City Streetcar recently broke ground and is under construction with a 7-mile loop and estimate of December 2018 to be in revenue service.

Amtrak provides daily service to Ft Worth via the Heartland Flyer.  No Commuter rail service.
Memphis, TN 1,342,842 No metro or light rail The Amtrak City of New Orleans operates one daily train in each direction between New Orleans and Chicago.
Richmond, VA 1,294,204 No metro or light rail.  The city opted in 2003 to drop plans for light rail owing to the city’s sprawl, and instead pursued a Bus Rapid Transit line called the Pulse. Richmond has two Amtrak stations which serve intercity traffic to Norfolk and Washington, DC.
Louisville, KY 1,283,430 No metro or light rail
Louisville is the second largest city in the USA with no passenger rail service of any sort.
No intercity or commuter rail service.
Rochester, NY 1,078,879 No metro or light rail Amtrak provides intercity service.

: Updating this for November 2018, as there are a few cities previously on the list when I first wrote this (Detroit, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Orlando) that have rolled out rail transit services for commuters.   I’m striking from this list any city that does now have an option for transit that doesn’t involve getting gridlocked into the rest of the city’s road infrastructure.  So, light rail, streetcar and commuter rail count.

Recently Stricken from the List:  (i.e. cities which now have passenger rail options for commuters)

City Metro Area Population Rail Rapid Transit Commuter / Intercity Rail
Milwaukee, WI 1,757,604 The Milwaukee Hop Streetcar opened on November 2, 2018, an initial 2-mile loop in what (hopefully) will be a more extensive streetcar network in the city, connecting the downtown core with the intermodal train station that offers regular Amtrak train service to Chicago. No commuter rail, and governor recently snubbed inter-city rail to Madison. Only passenger rail service is 1x/daily Empire Builder and 7x/daily Hiawatha service to Chicago.
Detroit, MI 5,207,434 There is a 2.9 mile people-mover loop in the downtown area, and the new Q-Line service is a 3-mile streetcar. No commuter rail. Amtrak for inter-city service.
Orlando, FL 2.861,296 No metro or light rail.  SunRail is now open!  Also, high-speed rail will soon connect Orlando to the Miami / FLL corridor, and Amtrak Silver Service provides intercity to Tampa, Miami and points north.
Cincinnati, OH 2,179,965 No light rail or metro.  The city tried to construct a subway in 1927, but it was never completed – leaving a massive un-used tunnel under the city.  Every plan to try to bring train service to Cinci failed until the new Cinci streetcar system which broke ground in 2012, and opened in 2015. No commuter rail. Amtrak service for inter-city.
Kansas City, MO 2,122,908 The new KC streetcar opened in 2015 as a starter line for what (WE HOPE!) will be a larger transit network to serve the city. No commuter rail. Amtrak service for inter-city.