The chart above shows the miles of rail per square mile of land in EU and US states. The ten states with the greatest railway coverage are all in the EU. Illinois, which is the US state with the greatest railway coverage ranks 11th. On the flip side, the 14 states with the least railway coverage are all in the US with Greece, the EU state with the least rail per unit of land coming in at 15th lowest (excluding Hawaii, Malta, and Cyprus which have no rail networks).
- The difference between the state with the greatest rail coverage, Luxembourg, and the state with the least, Alaska (Hawaii, Cyprus, and Malta have no rail network), is 0.39 miles per square mile (0.24 km per square km).
- Luxembourg has 508 times the rail coverage that Alaska has.
- Only four states (Luxembourg, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Germany) have three-tenths of a mile of rail or more for every square mile of territory (0.19 km per square km).
- The mean miles of rail per square mile of land of the 78 states is 0.08 (0.05 km per square km) and the median is 0.06 (0.04 km per square km).
- EU rail length data is from 2016 except for Belgium (2009), Denmark (1998), Greece (2015), the Netherlands (2003), Austria (2007), and Poland (2015). US rail length data is from 2013.
- EU area data is from 2007. US area data is from 2010.
- Road and area data come from different sources.
- EU and US data come from different sources.
- Numbers in the chart are rounded to the nearest hundredth.
- Cyprus, Hawaii, and Malta have no rail network.
It is no surprise to see the EU dominate the US in rail. It should also be noted that US rail is used predominantly for freight so much so that one could state that it is almost exclusively used for freight, whereas in the EU rail is used predominantly for passenger use. What is surprising though is the scale of the difference, Luxembourg has over three times the rail coverage of Illinois which is the US state with the highest rail coverage.
The number of miles of railway per square mile of land for the European Union as a whole is 0.12 (0.07 km per square km) which ranks it just below Illinois (the highest ranked US state) and just above Slovakia (the numbers in the chart are rounded to the nearest hundredth). The number of miles of railway per square mile of land for the United States as a whole is 0.04 (0.02 km per square km) which ranks it just below Michigan and just above Greece (the lowest ranking EU state). So the EU as a whole has a rail coverage similar to the US state with the greatest coverage and the US as a whole has a rail coverage similar to the EU state with the least coverage.
Eurostat. 2018. "Eurostat - Data Explorer: Railway Transport - Length of Tracks." Accessed March 20, 2018. http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/submitViewTableAction.do.
United Nations. 2007. "United Nations Statistics Division - Environment Statistics." Accessed January 23, 2018. https://unstats.un.org/unsd/environment/totalarea.htm.
United States Census Bureau. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016." Accessed December 12, 2017. http://factfinder2.census.gov.
United States Department of Transportation. 2015. "State Transportation by the Numbers." Accessed March 21, 2018. https://www.bts.gov/sites/bts.dot.gov/files/legacy/_entire.pdf.