Elevated vs. Underground Metros: Exploring the Pros and Cons

Have you ever wondered why Chicago is one of the few cities in the world with elevated metro lines running through its downtown area? Is there a specific reason why above-ground lines were chosen over underground ones? Let’s delve into the fascinating history and advantages of elevated metro systems compared to their underground counterparts.

The History of Elevated Metros

The concept of elevated metros dates back to the mid-19th century when cities faced increasing traffic congestion and the need for efficient public transportation. The first elevated metro line was constructed in New York City in 1867, and it quickly gained popularity due to its ability to transport large numbers of people quickly and efficiently.

Elevated metros became particularly popular in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with cities like Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia adopting this mode of transportation. However, as cities grew and traffic patterns changed, many of these elevated lines were eventually dismantled or replaced with underground systems.

Advantages of Elevated Metros

Despite the shift towards underground metros, elevated lines still offer several advantages over their subterranean counterparts:

  • Cost-effectiveness: Elevated metros are generally less expensive to construct and maintain compared to underground systems. This is because they require less excavation and tunneling, which can be time-consuming and costly.
  • Ease of construction: Elevated metros can be built more quickly than underground lines, as they do not require extensive tunneling or disruption of existing infrastructure.
  • Accessibility: Elevated metros are often more accessible for people with disabilities, as they can be equipped with ramps and elevators to accommodate wheelchairs and strollers.
  • Scenic views: Elevated metros can provide passengers with scenic views of the city, making the journey more enjoyable and reducing feelings of claustrophobia.
  • Reduced traffic congestion: By elevating metro lines, cities can reduce traffic congestion on their streets, as metros can carry a large number of passengers without taking up valuable road space.

Disadvantages of Elevated Metros

While elevated metros offer several advantages, they also have some disadvantages:

  • Noise pollution: Elevated metros can generate noise pollution for nearby residents and businesses, especially if they are not properly maintained.
  • Visual impact: Elevated metros can have a significant visual impact on a city’s skyline and may not be aesthetically pleasing to some people.
  • Maintenance challenges: Elevated metros require regular maintenance and inspections to ensure their safety and structural integrity, which can be costly and time-consuming.


In conclusion, elevated metro systems offer a unique and cost-effective solution for urban transportation. While they may have some disadvantages, such as noise pollution and visual impact, their advantages, including ease of construction, accessibility, and reduced traffic congestion, make them a viable option for many cities.

As cities continue to grow and evolve, the choice between elevated and underground metro systems will depend on various factors such as cost, geography, and urban planning goals. Ultimately, the best metro system is the one that meets the specific needs and challenges of each individual city.