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Ranking: The 10 largest cities in the world without metro systems

Public mass transit systems are part of the everyday landscape of most major cities around the world. From the ultra-efficient train network of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area to the congested rail lines of Sao Paulo, metro systems move millions of people daily, making inter-city mobility more efficient and reducing travel times within cities and metropolitan regions.

Sao Paulo Metro. Source: US News

Since the opening of the first underground network in London in 1863, more than 200 metro systems have been built around the world. Beijing currently has the largest metro network in terms of length and daily ridership (807 km in length and 10.5 million trips per day). Other major metro systems are located in New York, Shanghai, Seoul, Moscow and Guangzhou.

Despite the accelerated construction of metro systems since the mid-20th century, there are large urban areas in the world that are not currently served by metro services. Some of them have implemented alternative systems such as BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) and have metro projects underway. Others do not yet have defined mass transit projects. Here are the 10 largest cities in the world that do not have metro systems currently in operation.

10- Yangon, Myanmar

Myanmar's former capital and largest city is a place where the past and present of this turbulent Asian nation overlap. Golden pagodas with giant Buddhas contrast with the chaotic traffic and the disorganised urban development the city has undergone in recent years. Today, Yangon is served by a system of city buses and regional trains, as well as Trishaws (cycle rickshaws), which flood the city's streets. The construction of a metro rail system has been envisaged and is expected to be completed by 2030.

9- Abidjan, Ivory Coast


With 5.6 million inhabitants, Abidjan is the largest city in Ivory Coast and the second most populous on the West African coast after Lagos. After decades of rapid urban expansion and harsh periods of political and economic instability, the city has begun construction of its first Metro line, which is approximately 37 km long and plans to begin operation in 2025. According to the latest estimates, the total cost of the project amounts to 1.77 billion euros and has been partially financed by a loan with the French government.

8- Khartoum, Sudan

Source: AramcoWorld

Located at the junction of the White Nile and Blue Nile, Khartoum city forms together with Omdurman one of the most populous metropolitan areas in Africa, with 6.3 million inhabitants. With chaotic traffic and poor infrastructure, public transport in Sudan's capital relies mainly on motorised minibuses and tuk-tuks known locally as "bajajs or rakshas". There are currently no known mass transport system projects for this metropolis.

7- Baghdad, Iraq

After years of war, the Iraqi capital is trying to make up for lost time and update its hard-hit infrastructure. The city of 7.7 million people currently lacks an efficient public transport system, so efforts are being directed towards the recovery and modernisation of its old railway network, as well as the construction of the first metropolitan train line, known as BET (Baghdad Elevated Train). The project, which was announced at the end of 2022 as part of the Ministry of Transport's planned investments, will be approximately 31 km long and have 14 stations. Construction work is expected to start within the next two years.

6- Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

In 2016, Dar es Salaam introduced the initial phase of its BRT system, becoming the first city in East Africa to implement this mass public transport model, which has helped to improve the daily transit of hundreds of thousands of people in Tanzania's former capital. In addition to this system, Dar es Salaam has a commuter train, providing connections to suburban areas. Despite advances in transport infrastructure, the city's rapid and unplanned growth presents a major challenge to achieving efficient urban mobility and adequate coverage.

5- Surat, India

Surat was the third city in India, after Ahmedabad and Vadodara, to implement a large-scale BRT system. The "Sitilink" network, as it is locally called, is 125 km long and is now the main public transport hub of this metropolis of 8 million inhabitants. Following the boom in rail systems in India, phase 1 of the Surat Metro is currently under construction, comprising a network of more than 40 km distributed over 2 lines. The system is expected to be operational between 2024 and 2027.

4- Luanda, Angola

Source: Xinhua

In less than two decades, Angola has gone from being a war-torn country to one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. Revenues from the sale of crude oil, which accounts for more than 95 % of national exports, have boosted the construction of various infrastructure and housing projects, which have radically transformed the urban image of Luanda and other Angolan cities. However, in terms of mobility, this metropolis of 9 million inhabitants still does not have a mass public transport system, relying only on conventional bus routes. In response, the construction of a light rail system has been proposed through a public-private partnership, which is expected to become a reality during the current decade.

3- Bogota, Colombia

Source: Futbolred

Few cities have had such a hard road to building a metro as Bogotá. The Colombian capital, with a metropolitan population of over 10 million, had to wait almost 80 years to begin construction of its first metro line, which began to be planned in the mid-20th century and which, due to financial and management problems, has been delayed until well into the 21st century, making it the largest metropolis in Latin America that still does not have an operational metro.

While Bogotá was one of the pioneering cities in the construction of BRTs, the oversaturation of the extensive "TransMilenio" system, as it is known locally, makes it urgent to have a public transport network that provides capacity and efficiency. If all goes according to plan, the first metro line is expected to be operational by 2028 and the second line in the early 2030s.

2- Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Located on the Congo River, opposite the capital Brazzaville, Kinshasa is today one of the fastest growing cities in Africa. This metropolis, with 16 million inhabitants as of 2023, is expected to surpass 20 million by 2030, posing major challenges for the capital of a country wracked by armed conflict and alarming levels of extreme poverty.

In terms of public transportation, Kinshasa is the largest city in the world without a mass transit system, relying on conventional buses, minibuses and rickshaws, creating serious mobility problems in a metropolis that lacks adequate road infrastructure. There are also ferry lines to Brazzaville and a long-distance railway line, which are not in optimal condition. The construction of a BRT system called "KINRAPID" has also been proposed, but to this date there are no real plans for implementation.

1- Karachi, Pakistan

With a population of over 17 million, Karachi is the largest metropolis in the world without a metro system. This large Pakistani city is the main port and financial centre of the country and is also considered the main transport hub and major international gateway to Pakistan. Karachi currently has a BRT network called "Karachi Breeze", which has 2 operational lines, 2 under construction and 2 more planned, making a system of 6 lines and 113 km in length. 

Karachi Breeze is the fifth BRT system implemented in Pakistan, after the experience carried out in Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan and Peshawar. Karachi also has the Circular Railway, which is partially operational and will be integrated with the BRT network. Unlike Lahore, which has a metro line in operation since 2020, Karachi has decided to invest in consolidating a large BRT network as its main transport system, following the model of cities such as Bogotá. Time will tell whether this solution is the right one for a mega-city like Karachi.



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