According to The Free Dictionary:


Noun 1. mass rapid transit - an urban public transit system using underground or elevated trains rapid transit public transit - a public transportation system for moving passengers

I found strange that the Wikipedia MRT entry only lists certain countries, mainly in Asia.

Is MRT a common word to refer to subways all around the world?

(Because I used MRT to describe the subway system in Japan. I want to know if the use was inappropriate. If it was, which word should I have used?)

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    I thought you meant magnetic resonance therapy. And I am not a doctor, and I do use public transport every single day. So I guess that's a clear no from me. – RegDwigнt Nov 4 '13 at 15:55
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    No it is not.... Subway, Metro, Underground are used much more than this which I had to read a few times – mplungjan Nov 4 '13 at 16:00
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    "Rapid transit system" is used as a technical term (I trained as a civil engineer many years ago), but it's not in common vernacular use in the West. – Andrew Leach Nov 4 '13 at 16:18
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    You should use the terminology for the specific subway/underground system you are referring to. If it's Paris it's the Metro, if it's San Francisco it's BART, if it's Phoenix it's the Light Rail, if it's Boston it's the T, in Chicago it's the L, etc. – Jim Nov 4 '13 at 17:01
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    Local transportation systems, like local foods, acquire local nicknames. In Boston it's the T, in Chicago it's the L, in Paris it's the Métro, in London it's the Tube, etc. I know of no internationally used TLA that is common in use. – John Lawler Nov 4 '13 at 19:39

I do not think a layman would think of a train network upon hearing MRT except in Bangkok, Singapore, and other cities where it happens to be part of the official name.

As you can see from Wikipedia's page on passenger rail terminology, there is no single common word for these transportation systems (beyond train or railway perhaps), because there is no universally agreed upon set of characteristics for them, because local usage varies from the definitions of transportation planners, and because individual systems themselves blur the lines and contradict parts of their own names. If you do choose a common name, you will need to define it.

Local usage prevails. In Chicago, the subway refers to the underground portions of the Blue and Red lines of the "L." On the other hand, many Philadelphia natives refer to the whole Blue Line, whose downtown portion is entirely underground, as the El. In New York, the entire urban system operated by the MTA is called the Subway, including both underground and elevated portions. Yet no part of the coexisting PATH system, underground or above ground, is called the subway; it is simply the PATH (or for an older generation, the tubes). Confusing the PATH for the Subway just because it is a subway will mark you as a tourist. Washington's Metro is a regional, not a metropolitan system, and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority operates many more non-rapid (i.e. bus) routes than rapid (i.e. rapid rail) ones.

You'll also encounter problems of overlapping and conflicting terminology in discussing freeways / expressways / motorways, but both of these pale in comparison to the debates over what constitutes a car / motorcar , automobile, or motor vehicle.


I think it was inappropriate as people in Japan may not know what you meant by MRT. You should have instead said 'train' or 'subway'

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