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Public transport, public transportation, public transit or mass transit comprise all transport systems that transport members of the general public, usually charging set fares. While the above terms are generally taken to include rail and bus services, wider definitions might include scheduled airline services, ferries, taxicab services etc. A further restriction that is sometimes applied is that transit should occur in continuously shared vehicles, which would exclude taxis that are not shared-ride taxis.

The term public transport is preferred in the British Isles and most Commonwealth countries, whereas public transportation, public transit and mass transit are used most often in North America.[citation needed] The term transit is less likely to include long-distance forms of public transportation, such as long-distance or commuter railroads, inter-city buses, or intercity railways.

Public transport is usually regulated as a common carrier and is usually configured to provide scheduled service on fixed routes on a non-reservation basis, although share taxis provide an ad-hoc form of flexible public transport, and demand responsive transport provides a pre-bookable form of public shared transport. Taxicabs and other vehicles for hire are generally fully flexible.

The majority of transit passengers are traveling within a local area or region between their homes and places of employment, shopping, or schools.[citation needed]

In generalEdit

Template:Refimprovesect In many parts of the world private transport dominates; however, in places with public transport systems, and where private transport use is not practical or not affordable, or where the public transport is more practical or more desirable than the private alternatives, then it is used. Many towns and cities around the world are investing in public transport initiatives to increase the attractiveness and usage of public transport.

Public transport can offer significant advantages in areas with higher population densities if it is efficiently utilised, due to its potentially smaller physical and environmental footprint per passenger.

Road-based public transport risks being slower than private vehicles if it gets held up in general traffic congestion and to compound this scheduled transport vehicles have to make frequent stops to board additional passengers and an individual trip may require one or more transfers. Routes are often circuitous to increase the area serviced by the system. Transport Authorities wishing to increase the attractiveness and use of public transport often respond by increasing use of dedicated or semi-dedicated public transport lanes, and traffic light preempts, and other measures.

The term rapid transit, is often used to distinguish modes of transit possessing a dedicated right of way and having frequent, continuous service. Still, rapid transit often fails to live up to the name, as there are no firm guidelines as to how fast transit must be to be rapid.[1] Light rail is another form of public transit, comprising of a tram or trolley operating on a rail line.

A popular public transport mode in the developing world, and increasingly in the western world, is the share taxi (mini-bus, jitney etc) that run on flexible or semi-flexible routes.



Conveyances for public hire are as old as the first ferries, and the earliest public transport was water transport, for on land people walked or rode an animal. This form of transport is part of Greek mythology — corpses in ancient Greece were always buried with a coin underneath their tongue to pay the ferryman Charon to take them to Hades.

Some historical forms of public transport are the stagecoach, traveling a fixed route from inn to inn, and the horse-drawn boat carrying paying passengers, which was a feature of canals from their 17th-century origins.

The omnibus, the first organized public transit system within a city, appears to have originated in Nantes, France, in 1826 and was then introduced to London in July 1829.[2]

Modern public transportEdit

Public transportation can usefully be classified in a variety of ways:-

By the type of area served:

  • Larger urban areas with multiple interconnected transport modes, probably including metro/underground, bus, taxi, tram and ferry and complex transport interchanges
  • Smaller urban areas often using buses and taxis and simple interchanges
  • Rural areas typically relying more on buses and taxis and share taxis
  • Inter-urban and regional transport, often based on the train, coach and the plane
  • Long haul destinations, normally using the plane. Alternatively by the required infrastructure (Road, rail, water and air), or by the scheduling method (fixed timetable or not).

Alternatively by the infrastructure requirement:


File:Bush taxi minibus type.jpg


Main article: Rapid transit
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File:San Diego Green Line SDSU.jpg


File:Halifax ferry.JPG


Sloped or verticalEdit

File:Ascensor Artilleria in Valparaíso.jpg

Some of these types are often not for use by the general public, e.g. elevators in offices and apartment buildings, buses for personnel or school children, etc.

Transport InterchangesEdit

Of critical importance to attractive and successful public transport is the design of the transport interchanges where people access the system and interchange between different vehicles. These transport interchanges range for extensive multi-modal interchanges such as found at major airports to the humble bus stop.

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Stations are an important aspect of any public transportation system. Specific types include:

In addition one can alight from and usually board a taxi at any road where stopping is allowed. Some fixed-route buses allow getting on and off at suitable unmarked locations along that route, typically called a hail-and-ride section.

In recent years, an increasing emphasis has been placed on intermodal transport facilities. These are intended to help passengers move from one mode (or form) of transportation to another. An intermodal station may service air, rail, and highway transportation for example.

Main article: Intermodal passenger transport

Public transport vs. private carsEdit


In the Western world, public transport and car advocates have been debating which mode of transport is the best with considerable differences between Europe, Asia and the United States for both historical and cultural reasons.

See also: The system of Automobility, Social ideology of the motorcar, Transport in present-day nations and states, World Car Free Network, List of car-free places


Template:Refimprovesect Nordic Countries are known for having high status and high quality public transport. Sweden has created the Länstrafik system through state subsidies in order to offer good transport services to places where it isn't profitable in business terms. In Finland, the public transport tradition is working best in Helsinki, while other cities, towns and municipalities weren't as keen to keep their public transport up and working a couple decades ago. Recently the public transportation networks in other bigger Finnish towns and cities like Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Kuopio and Lahti have been developed more quickly. There is a similar system of subsidized public transport in remote areas of Finland as Sweden's Länstrafik. At the same time, city centres have weakened because of new suburban shopping centres and the construction of ringroads. Urban sprawl and growing car usage has been a problem for the Helsinki region in the 2000s as well.

United Kingdom bus usage has been rising nationally since about 1990 (although it has actually fallen by 30% in Scotland, 28% in Wales, and 22% in non-metropolitan areas in England).[3] In England, the number of bus journeys in 2006/07 was 12% less than it was in 1985/86, although London has seen bus journeys increase by 75% over the same period. Rail journeys increased by 53% between 1980 and 2006/007 in England, whilst London underground journeys increased by 86% over that period.[4]

France has built an extensive TGV network, built light rail, reassigned road lanes from cars to light transport in city centres and car usage and its social status has decreased there [1].

Germany's AIRail Service has even replaced some airline routes.

United StatesEdit

Most cities in the United States were built around the car, and in many places public transport is now almost non-existent, even in large cities, with only a few cities where public transport is in good condition, like New York City. Many public transport systems that existed prior to domination of the car were dismantled by the emergent car industry in a move came to be known as the Great American Streetcar Scandal; nevertheless, GM managed to "rip out" over 100 streetcar systems nationwide by 1950. By the time antitrust investigators could go to work, the deed was done. American mass-transit was "dead".[5]

In the 2000s, many US cities realized that widespread car usage caused serious problems, such as urban sprawl. In response to this, cities have begun to make their city centres more enticing, have canceled expressways projects and restored or improved public transport and commissioned new rail transit projects. Public transportation ridership in the US has risen 21% since 1995 – more than the same period's increase in roadway vehicle miles or airline passenger miles [2] and several U.S. states that were considered bastions of highway-only thinking, such as Colorado[6][7] and Utah (see Utah Transit Authority), had approved major public transportation investments by 2005.

For Inter-city transport within the United States the car and the airplane dominate except in the Northeast Corridor, a densely populated string of cities, which has the busiest train line in the USA, including the popular Acela Express train service operated by Amtrak. Elsewhere trains and buses (such as the Greyhound) are often only used by those with no other alternative.

Detractors point out that in investment in public transport in the USA has had almost no impact on the number of drivers. [8]

See also: Transportation of Los Angeles, Pacific Electric Railway, Modeshift


In Asia the population density is so high that widespread car usage is very hard to sustain. Japan, a very rich country, has known this for decades and its citizens use rail transit very heavily and it is very costly and difficult to use a car there. The same is true for Singapore, where a license is required to own a car. China has historically used a lot of bicycles and mopeds, but car usage is growing quickly and is causing a lot of problems like traffic jams and pollution, but there are numerous rail transit projects under construction in China today.


In most African nations, traffic tends to be less problematic. Due to low income levels, transport options may be limited to walking, animal transport, share taxi, and public transport where it exists. Where income levels are higher, traffic problems can arise. The most congested city in Africa is Cairo, where traffic jams can last many hours.[citation needed]

Economic impactEdit

Template:Refimprovesect Template:Globalize/USA


All cities need functioning transport systems that are able to get people into and out of the commercial and retail areas and provide the opportunity for general personal mobility and one of the main aims of a good public transport system it to provide sufficient capacity to allow large quantities of people to move around.

Well designed transit systems can have a major positive impact on real estate prices. The Hong Kong metro MTR generates a profit by redeveloping land around its stations. Much public opposition to new transit construction can be based on the concern about the impact on neighbourhoods of this new economic development.

Transit oriented development attempts to maximize the economic and environmental benefits of public transit investments by encouraging greater development density within walking distance of stations. Few localities have the ability to seize and reassign development rights to a private transit operator, as Hong Kong has done.

The economic costs of a congested transport system, be it a public transport system or a private car based transport system can be measured and can seriously detract from the attractiveness of an area for business and for residents [3].

DetractorsTemplate:Who point out that at times, transit unions have staged strikes, which have the potential to bring a public-transit led city to a virtual standstill, that public transit rarely covers its operating costs through fares and that no transit agency in the U.S. has achieved this for several decades [4] (as of 2003, U.S. transit operators obtained only 32.6% of their operating funding from fares, the rest coming primarily from government subsidies [5]). This may be a misleading statement, since part of a freeway's "operating" cost, that of owning and maintaining vehicles, is tacitly covered by its private users. Also, many metro systems (such as the New York Subway) are mandated by the city government to keep their fares low [9], and it is feasible that profitability could be achieved if they were free to set peak fares at (much higher) market prices.

Environmental impactEdit

Template:Refimprovesect Template:Globalize/USA Emissions from road vehicles account for over 50% of U.S. air pollution.[citation needed] Scientists estimate that public transportation already reduces emissions of carbon dioxide by over 7.4 million tons annually.[citation needed] If Americans were to use public transportation at equivalent rates as Europeans, scientists estimate that U.S. dependence on imported oil would decrease by more than 40% and that carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by more than 25%.[10][11]

In the UK, household use of private vehicles accounted for 9% of all man-made emissions of greenhouse gases in 2002, up from 8% in 1990, whilst the transport industry (including freight) accounted for 12% in 2002, up from 8% in 1990.[12]

See also Fuel efficiency in transportation

Social InclusionEdit

Template:Refimprovesect Template:Globalize/USA A important social role played by public transport is ensure that all members of society are able to travel, not just those with a driving licence and access to a vehicle.

Transit-for-all is the name given to a USA movement arguing greater investment in public transportation.[13] Advocates of transit-for-all initiatives argue that the approximately 70 billion dollars currently assigned to subsidizing cheap oil should be reinvested in public transportation. Supporters of transit-for-all initiatives claim there are three main benefits to such a strategic realignment of resources: first, it will benefit the environment and, therefore, the nation’s health; second, it will increase the economic mobility of citizens currently marginalized because of their geographic isolation and revitalize neighborhoods by reconnecting them to their surroundings; third, it will decrease American dependence on foreign oil, thereby improving U.S. national security. [14] [15]

Car dependency is a name given by policy makers to places where the those without access to a private vehicle do not have access to independent mobility, this group includes the young, the old, the poor, people with poor or no sight, Epilepsy as well as those banned from driving.

See also: Reducing Car Dependency in Australia, Car Dependency in the UK, Modeshift



File:Ônibus hibrido.jpg

Public transport systems generally rely on government subsidy to supplement fare collections, though a few systems are run as unsubsidized commercial enterprises or are entirely paid for by governments. The percentage of revenue from passenger charges is known as the farebox recovery ratio. Transit systems earn incidental revenue from their unused real estate, in the form of parking fees, leasing space to shops and vendors, advertising, and lately, leasing their tunnels and rights-of-way to carry fiber optic communication lines.

Some systems are owned and operated by a government agency; other transportation services may be commercial, but receive greater benefits from the government compared to a normal company, e.g.,

  • direct payments to run unprofitable services.
  • government bailouts if the company is likely to collapse (often applied to airlines).
  • tax advantages, e.g., aviation fuel is typically not taxed.
  • reduction of competition through licensing schemes (often applied to taxi and airline services.)
  • allowing use of state-owned infrastructure without payment or for less than cost-price (may apply for railways).

One reason many cities spend large sums on their public transport systems is that heavy automobile traffic congests city streets and causes air pollution. It is believed that public transport systems alleviate this, but reducing car traffic is not always assured.

Some city councils fund public transport infrastructure to promote business and economic growth, or to regenerate deprived ares of the city. Examples of public transport planned according to this philosophy are the Docklands Light Rail and Crossrail projects in London.

Some government officials believe that use of taxpayer capital to fund mass transit will ultimately save taxpayer money in other ways, and therefore, state-funded mass transit is a benefit to the taxpayer. Since lack of mass transit results in more traffic, pollution, and road construction to accommodate more vehicles, all costly to taxpayers, providing mass transit will therefore alleviate these costs.

Another reason for subsidies for public transit are the provision of mobility to those who reject its use on convenience, environmental or safety grounds and those who cannot afford or are physically or legally incapable of using an automobile.

Hong KongEdit

In Hong Kong, MTR Corporation Limited and KCR Corporation are given the rights to utilise lands near stations, depots or tracks for property development. Profits from land development cover the partial cost of construction, but not operation, of the urban rail systems. Similar arrangements are available to the ferry piers of franchised ferry service providers. Franchised bus operators are exempted from paying tax on diesel.

United StatesEdit

Main article: Transportation in the United States

In the United States, operations of most public transit services are financially subsidized by local and state governments, who provide matching funds to receive up to 80% capital grant aid from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation[citation needed]. This agency administers programs which provide funding and support services to state and local agencies which operate a wide range of public transportation services.

These include local urban and suburban bus and paratransit services, light rail, heritage streetcar systems, cable car, subway, rapid transit, and commuter rail services.

Special rural transportation programs of the FTA and some state governments provide assistance for bus and para-transit services in some areas. New York City has the most extensive transit system in the country, operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority MTA. About one in every three users of mass transit in the United States and two-thirds of the nation's rail riders live in the New York City Metropolitan Area. MTA FactsArlington, Texas (pop. 360,000) is the largest city in the United States without conventional fixed-route public transportation. (Arlington operates a demand responsive paratransit service( Handitran.))

Ticket systemsEdit

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File:Nyc transit authority token.png

Template:Seealso Different arrangements for fare collection are in use. Depending on the type, fares:

  • must be bought in advance, one cannot physically enter the railway platform, vehicle, etc. without passing a turnstile, fare gate or ticket inspector (usually found in a metro).
  • must be bought in advance as a voucher for a user-determined amount of money, which is encoded on a ticket or smartcard by electronic, magnetic, or optical means. A fare is deducted automatically each time the ticket is used — either just upon system entry, or at both entry and exit where the fare is variable by distance. The latter is often found in newer systems.
  • must be bought in advance, checked by a conductor or Revenue Protection Inspector etc., upon entry (usually found on buses in North America and Western Europe, and on commuter rail systems).
  • must be bought in advance, checked randomly by a ticket controller (proof-of-payment system, usually found in Europe and occasionally the United States).
  • can be bought both in advance or during the ride, with the fare sometimes being higher in the latter case, see also Conductor; in this case purchase in advance is often possible at major stations, but usually not at a typical tram or bus stop.

Passengers may be issued with a paper ticket, metal or plastic token, or an electronic card.

Multi-use ticketsEdit

Special tickets (other than for a single ride at the regular price) include:

  • passes for unlimited travel within a period of time.
  • passes for unlimited travel during a given number of days that can be chosen within a longer period of time (e.g. 8 days within a month).
  • multi-ride tickets.
  • discount tickets valid for someone with a discount pass, etc.
  • season tickets.
  • Citycards and Sightseeing Passes. Free public transport tickets are included.

Passes may be for a particular route (in both directions), or for a whole network.

Electronic fare cardEdit

Electronic fare cards are designed to be read by a computer input device and include:

Free systemsEdit

Free or Zero-fare public transport services are funded in full by means other than collecting a fare from passengers.

Main article: Zero-fare public transport

Zero-fare services may be funded by national, regional or local government through taxation or by commercial sponsorship by businesses.They usually use relatively small vehicles such as buses and trams.

Several mid-size European cities and many smaller towns around the world have converted their entire bus networks to zero-fare. Template:Seealso

Local zero-fare shuttles or inner-city loops are far more common than city-wide systems. Template:Seealso

Free travel passEdit

A Free travel pass is the right of a certain class of passengers to use a public transport service without paying a fare or presenting a ticket. They may need to present an identification card.

Main article: Free travel pass

The following types of passenger often receive free travel on transport services:

Social and Culture IssuesEdit

Food & drink Edit

Longer distance public transport sometimes sell food and drink on board, or even have a dedicated buffet car and/or dining car. Also consuming brought-along food and drinks is allowed, except in these special carriages.


Some urban transport systems forbid (the consumption of) food, drink, or even chewing gum when riding on public transport. Sometimes only types of food are forbidden with more risk of making the vehicles dirty, e.g. ice creams and French fries.

Noise Edit

In addition to talking to each other, many passengers use their cell phone in public transport. Although usually not allowed, sometimes music is played aloud. Some rail operators provide "quiet cars" where also talking is not allowed. On trains and buses in Hong Kong, buses and trains provide free TV. Buses provide gossip and hi-tech news, while trains provide news (Newsline Express)

Safety Edit

Despite the occasional highly publicized incident, the vast majority of modern public transport systems are well designed and patrolled and generally have low crime rates[citation needed]. Good lighting, CCTV, mirrors to see round blind corners and ensuring that there are always a good number of other people around can be used to increase safety and create a feeling of safety. Most transit operators have developed methods to discourage people from using their facilities for overnight shelter.

Critics of public transportation systems often claim they attract "undesirable elements" and tell of violent criminals preying on passengers and homeless people sleeping on trains and relieving themselves in public areas.[16]. On a few occasions, passengers have reacted by taking the law into their own hands (as in the notorious 1984 case of the "subway vigilante", Bernhard Goetz).

When compared to to the private car however, public transport is a very safe form of transport in terms of deaths per passenger km[citation needed]. By way of contrast, car accidents as estimated to cause some 1 million fatalities per year world wide. In the United States alone there were 42,643 automobile accident fatalities in 2003, almost three times the total number of murders (14,408).

See also: RoadPeace UK National charity for road crash victims

Sleeping Edit


In the era when long distance trips took several days, sleeping accommodations were an essential part of transportation. Today, most airlines and long-distance trains offer reclining seats and many provide pillows and blankets for overnight travelers. Better sleeping arrangements are commonly offered for a premium fare (e.g. first class, business class, etc.) and include sleeping cars on overnight trains, larger private cabins on ships and airplane seats that convert into beds. Budget-conscious tourists sometimes plan their trips using overnight train or bus trips in lieu of paying for an hotel.

The ability to get additional sleep on the way to work is attractive to many commuters using public transportation. Occasionally, a local transit route with a long overnight segment and which accepts inexpensive multi-use passes will acquire a reputation as a "moving hotel" for people with limited funds. Most transportation agencies actively discourage this. For this and other reasons passengers are often required to exit the vehicle at the end of the line; they can board again in the same or another vehicle, after some waiting. Also, even a low fare often deters the poorest individuals, including homeless people.

One example of the moving homeless shelter phenomenon is the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) bus line 22 [6] between Palo Alto, California and San Jose, California in the United States. It is often called "Hotel 22" or "Motel 22" by the homeless of Silicon Valley.[17][18]A pass for a night costs US$5.25 and $61.25 for a month, much less than a hotel, house or apartment.

Another example is the interurban rail services operated by CityRail out of Sydney, Australia. Fairly comfortable trains operate between Sydney and Lithgow or Newcastle during the night, trips of approximately 2½ hours. Age, Disability and Sole Parent pensioner excursion fares are AU$2.50 for an all-day ticket.

The New York City Subway and Chicago 'L', both which operate 24 hours per day, also see homeless people who sleep in the subway system, both in stations and on trains.


In the United States, most of the EU, Australia and New Zealand, smoking is prohibited in all or some parts of most public transportation systems due to safety and health issues. Generally smoking isn't allowed on the actual buses and trains, while rules concerning stations and waiting platforms differ from system to system. The situation in other countries varies widely.

Heritage Transport Systems Around The WorldEdit

Some means of rail-based public transport are also tourist attractions and/or well known landmarks in their own right. These include San Francisco's famous cable cars, the Molli steam powered train in Bad Doberan, the kusttram along the whole Flemish coast, the Schwebebahn Wuppertal, the Seattle Monorail, the Enoshima Electric Railway in Kamakura, Japan, Routemaster buses in central London and the Christchurch Tram

Emerging technologiesEdit

See alsoEdit


Template:Modes of Public Transport

References Edit

External links Edit


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