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This set rapid transit apart from horsecars, trams, streetcars, omnibuses, and other forms of public transport.Though the term was almost always used to describe rail transportation, other forms of transit were sometimes described by their proponents as rapid transit, including local ferries in some cases., the real-life story of three men whose brave act turned them into international heroes during a highspeed railway ride.

Bus subways are uncommon but do exist, though in these cases the non-underground portions of route are not called subways.Subway is most commonly used in the United States and the English-speaking parts of Canada, though the term is also used elsewhere, such as to describe the SPT Subway in Glasgow, Scotland, and in translation of system names or descriptions in some Asian and Latin American cities.Some lines described as subway use light rail equipment.Sometimes the term is qualified, such as in Philadelphia, where trolleys operate in an actual subway for part of their route and on city streets for the remainder. In some cities where subway is used, it refers to the entire system; in others, only to the portions that actually are underground.Naming practices often select one type of placement in a system where several are used; there are many subways with above-ground components, and on the other hand, the Vancouver Sky Train and Chicago 'L' include underground sections.