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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs and facts. Everything you want to know about public transport.

Public Transit Facts

We use these facts and information to ensure our service is among the nation’s best for you.

Public Transportation Industry Overview:

  • Public transportation consists of a variety of services including: buses, trolleys and light rail, commuter trains, streetcars, cable cars, van pool services, paratransit services for senior citizens and people with disabilities, ferries and water taxies, and monorails and tramways.
  • There are more than 6,500 providers of public and community transportation offering Americans the opportunity and the choice to travel by means other than a car.
  • Approximately 1,500 agencies provide bus service, 5,760 provide paratransit services and 200 provide rail services as well as other modes of public transportation.
  • Public transportation is a $44 billion industry that employs more than 360,000 people.

Public Transportation Increasing Ridership:

  • In 2007, Americans took 10.3 billion trips on public transportation – the highest ridership level in 50 years.
  • 34 million times each weekday, people board public transportation.
  • Since 1995 public transportation ridership is up 32 percent.

Public Transportation Reduces Gasoline Consumption:

  • Each year, public transportation use in the U.S. saves 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline. This represents almost 4 million gallons of gasoline per day.
  • The “leverage effect” of public transportation, supporting transportation efficient land use patterns, saves 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline – more than three times the amount of gasoline refined from the oil we import from Kuwait.
  • Each year, public transportation use saves the equivalent of 34 supertankers of oil, or a supertanker leaving the Middle East every 11 days.
  • Each year, public transportation use saves the equivalent of 140,769 service station tanker truck trips clogging our streets each year.
  • Public transportation use saves the equivalent of 300,000 fewer automobile fill-ups every day.
  • The typical public transit rider consumes on average one half of the oil consumed by an automobile rider.

Public Transportation Reduces Greenhouse Gases and Conserves Energy:

  • The “leverage effect” of public transportation reduces the nation’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually – equivalent to the electricity used by 4.9 million households. To achieve similar reduction in carbon emissions, every household in New York City, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Denver and Los Angeles combined would have to completely stop using electricity.
  • People living in households within one-quarter mile of rail and one-tenth of a mile from a bus stop drive approximately 4,400 fewer miles annually as compared to persons in similar households with no access to public transit. This equates to an individual household reduction of 223 gallons of gasoline a year.

Public Transportation Enhances Personal Opportunities:

  • Public transportation provides personal mobility and freedom for people from every walk of life.
  • Public transportation provides access to job opportunities for millions of Americans as well as a transportation option to get to work, go to school, visit friends, or go to a doctor’s office.

Public Transportation Saves Money:

  • The average household spends 18 cents on transportation, and 94 percent of this goes to buying, maintaining and operating cars.
  • Public transportation provides an affordable and, for many, necessary alternative to driving.
  • Americans living in areas served by public transportation save $18 billion annually in congestion costs.
  • Transit availability can reduce the need for an additional car, a yearly expense of $6,251 in a household budget.

Public Transportation Provides Economic Opportunity:

  • Every $1 invested in public transportation projects generates approximately $6 in local economic activity.
  • Every $10 million in capital investment in public transportation yields $30 million in increased business sales.
  • Every $10 million in operating investment in public transportation yields $32 million in increased business sales.
  • Real estate – residential, commercial or business – that is served by public transportation is valued more highly by the public than similar properties not as well served by transit.
  • Public transportation enhances local rural economic growth in many ways, increasing the local customer base for a range of services – shopping malls, restaurants, medical facilities and other transportation services.

Public Transportation Eases Traffic Congestion:

  • According to the most recent Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) report on congestion in 2005, public transportation saved travelers 541 million hours in travel time and 340 million gallons of fuel.
  • Without public transportation, congestion costs would have been an additional $10.2 billion.
  • If public transit systems had never existed in American cities and their effects on our urban landscapes were completely erased, American households would drive 102.2 billion more miles per year.

Public Transportation Offers Increased Mobility Options:

  • Largely because of limited transportation options, more than 50 percent of all non-drivers age 65 and older – or 3.6 million Americans – stay at home on any given day partially because they lack transportation options.
  • Compared with older drivers, older non-drivers in the US make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor, 59 percent fewer shopping trips and visits to restaurants, and 65 percent fewer trips for social, family and religious activities.
  • By 2025, an estimated 20 percent of the population – one in five persons – will be over age 65. Providing mobility options is critical for older Americans and for those who care for them.
  • According to a national survey of individuals age 65 or older, conducted by Harris Interactive in November 2005, more than four in five seniors believe public transportation is a better alternative to driving alone, especially at night.
  • 83 percent of older Americans agree that public transit provides easy access to the things that they need in everyday life.
  • At the 2005 White House Conference on Aging, ensuring that older Americans have transportation options to retain their mobility and independence received the third most votes of 73 issues considered, with 1,002 ballots out of a maximum of 1,200.
  • Public transportation systems provide a vital link to the more than 51 million Americans with disabilities.

Public Transportation Creates Community Benefits:

  • Public transportation fosters transit-oriented development that provides convenient access to public transportation and integration of transit in the community.
  • Public transportation encourages land-use programs that generate synergies and create a range of housing types, from single-family homes to apartments, to accommodate diverse incomes and family structures.
  • Public transportation revitalizes neighborhoods, increases social interaction and pedestrian activity, enhances safety, and helps create a sense of “place” that will help make a community unique and special.
  • Public transportation generates a financial return for communities and businesses as well as individual and collective savings that can be captured and invested in housing or amenities rather than transportation, parking and auto-orientated infrastructure.
  • When commuters ride public transportation or walk, contact with neighbors tends to increase, ultimately helping to bring a community together.

Public Transportation Impacts Urban and Rural Communities:

  • Public transportation encourages economic and social activities and helps create strong neighborhood centers that are economically stable, safe and productive.
  • Approximately 12 percent of public transportation users are en route to schools. Educators and concerned parents rely on expanded public transportation services.
  • Public transportation offers mobility for residents of rural America, particularly for those without cars. From 2002 through 2005, ridership for small urban and rural public transportation systems jumped nearly 20 percent.
  • Two-thirds of rural Americans – 60 million people – are almost wholly unserved by public transportation. They live in counties that have either no service or so little service that they can only be characterized as isolated.

Public Transportation Improves Air Quality:

  • Public transportation reduces pollution and helps promote cleaner air.
  • Public transportation produces 95 percent less carbon monoxide (CO), 90 percent less in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and about half as much carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx), per passenger mile, as private vehicles. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions represent 82 percent of total US human-made greenhouse emissions.
  • By reducing smog-producing pollutants, greenhouse gases and by conserving ecologically sensitive lands and open spaces – public transportation is helping to meet national air quality standards.

Public Transportation Fosters Healthy Lifestyles:

  • Public transportation fosters a more active lifestyle, encouraging more people to walk, bike and jog to transit stops. An analysis of 2001 National Household Travel Survey data for transit users finds that walking to and from transit helps inactive persons attain a significant portion of the recommended minimum daily exercise they need.
  • Transportation is an integral part of health or social services programs. Operators of these programs rely on public transit to reach the intended target groups, and to assure access and opportunity for all Americans.

Public Transportation Provides Safety and Security:

  • In major evacuations of urban areas, only public transportation has the capacity to move millions of people quickly and to give critical support to first responders by delivering emergency equipment and transporting emergency response personnel. The 9/11 response illustrates public transit’s vital role.
  • When Americans face natural or man-made disasters, America’s public transportation systems provide comfort, safety, security and rescue.
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