03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

New Urban Status Symbol: The Subway

It seems like everywhere you turn these days, a new high-speed train is whisking more passengers across longer distances faster than ever before. A ride to Paris from London is quicker than flying; Japanese bullet trains traverse the 320 miles from Tokyo to Osaka in two and a half hours; and magnetic levitating trains in Shanghai cut through the city at 268 miles per hour. But while high-speed trains may grab all the glamour, the more mundane business of subway construction is what's driving the biggest growth for transportation companies.

Indeed, the world is seeing an unprecedented boom in new subways and expansion to existing systems. Thanks to surging economic growth and urban populations, demand for subways is soaring in China and India. Lots of other places around the world also are building new lines, from Dubai to Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic. And many European and American cities--including even such improbable locales as Los Angeles and Phoenix--have caught the transit bug.

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