Mass transit in the United States

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Mass transportation systems in the United States include buses, trolleybuses (or "trackless trolleys"), trams (or "streetcars"), ferries, and a variety of trains, including rapid transit (known as metros, subways, undergrounds, etc.), light rail, and commuter rail. Intercity public transport is dominated by airlines and intercity rail.


Some North American cities arranged by size along the horizontal axis and public transportation use on the vertical axis. U.S. cities have lower public transit use than similarly sized Canadian and Mexican cities.

The number of miles traveled by vehicles in the United States fell by 3.6% in 2008, while the number of trips taken on mass transit increased by 4.0%. At least part of the drop in urban driving can be explained by the 4% increase in the use of public transportation [1]

About one in every three users of mass transit in the United States and two-thirds of the nation's rail riders live in New York City and its suburbs.[2][3]

Some railroads, such as the Long Island Rail Road in earlier times, maintained a separate fleet of specially configured electric railway cars to provide a rapid transit service on designated routes that was distinct from its regular passenger operations.[citation needed]


Most medium-sized cities have some form of local public transportation, usually a network of fixed bus routes. Larger cities often have metro rail systems (also known as heavy rail in the U.S.) and/or light rail systems for high-capacity passenger service within the urban area, and commuter rail to serve the surrounding metropolitan area. These include:

Name Area Type
Marta atlanta skyline.jpg Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Atlanta Metropolitan Area Bus routes, bus rapid transit, rail track, rapid transit, and streetcar
MTAM Millford-Mill-departing-train.jpg Maryland Transit Administration Maryland Bus, light rail, heavy rail, commuter rail
Inbound Orange Line train at Assembly station, 2 September 2014.JPG Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Greater Boston Bus, bus rapid transit, light rail, commuter rail, trolleybus, and ferryboat
NFTAMetroRail.jpg Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Erie and Niagara counties, New York Bus, light rail, and rapid transit
Gtw riverline.JPG New Jersey Transit New Jersey, Manhattan, Rockland and Orange counties, New York, and Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania Commuter rail, light rail, and bus
LYNX Car 104 at TremontStation.jpg Lynx Rapid Transit Services Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina Light rail and streetcar (bus rapid transit planned)
Willow portal 070826.jpg Chicago Transit Authority Chicago Metropolitan Area Bus and rapid transit, including the Chicago 'L'
20110530 Metra.JPG Metra Chicago Metropolitan Area Commuter rail
Coventry Cleveland RTA station.jpg RTA Rapid Transit Cuyahoga County, Ohio Rapid transit, light rail, and bus
Denton A train at Downtown Denton.JPG Dallas Area Rapid Transit Dallas, Texas Bus, light rail, commuter rail, streetcar
Denver LRVs in snow, on Stout St in downtown.jpg Regional Transportation District Denver Metro Area, Colorado Bus and light rail
METRO Light Rail3.jpg METRORail Houston, Texas Light rail
Atlantic Gold Line 3.JPG Los Angeles County Metro Rail Los Angeles County, California Rapid transit and light rail
Miami-Dade Metromover.jpg Miami-Dade Transit Greater Miami Rapid transit, people mover, bus rapid transit, and transit bus
METRO Green Line, UofM, pre-opening, June 2014.jpg METRO Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area Light rail and bus rapid transit
CanalCemsKeepItCleanTram.jpg New Orleans Regional Transit Authority City of New Orleans and Orleans Parish, Louisiana Bus, heritage streetcar
NYCT R142A.jpg Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York) New York City, Long Island, Lower Hudson Valley, and Coastal Connecticut Commuter rail, local and express bus, subway (including the New York City Subway), and bus rapid transit
PATH Kawasaki 5602c.jpg PATH Newark / Hudson County, New Jersey and Manhattan, New York Rapid transit
Phoenix Exterior 7417.2008.jpg Metro Light Rail (Phoenix) Phoenix-Tempe-Mesa, Arizona Light rail
SEPTA9001.jpg Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Delaware Valley Commuter rail, interurban, rapid transit, streetcar, transit bus, and trolleybus
Pittsburgh light rail.jpg Port Authority of Allegheny County Allegheny County and bordering portions of Beaver, Washington, Westmoreland and Armstrong counties Public transit, light rail, bus rapid transit, and inclined-plane railway (funicular)
PortlandTriMetMAX.jpg MAX Light Rail Portland metropolitan area, Oregon Light rail
Sac RT Siemens.jpg Sacramento Regional Transit District Sacramento, California Bus and light rail
St Louis Metrolink train.jpg MetroLink Greater St. Louis Light rail
Red Line Trax at Daybreak Parkway.jpg Utah Transit Authority Wasatch Front, Utah Bus, light rail (including TRAX), commuter rail, and streetcar
SDT Orange Line at 5th2.jpg San Diego Metropolitan Transit System San Diego County, California Buses, bus rapid transit, light rail, commuter rail, paratransit, and streetcar
Walnut Creek BART - 011.jpg Bay Area Rapid Transit San Francisco Bay Area Rapid transit
T Third Islais.jpg San Francisco Municipal Railway San Francisco Bus, trolleybus, light rail, streetcar, and cable cars
VTA Tasman Station (August 11th, 2005).jpg Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority San Jose, California Bus and light rail
Sounder at King Street Station (14461594413).jpg Sound Transit Puget Sound region, Washington Regional express bus, commuter rail, and light rail
WMATA Breda 3000-Series car on D Route Bridge.jpg Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority The District of Columbia and parts of Maryland and northern Virginia Rapid transit (Washington Metro), bus (Metrobus), and paratransit (MetroAccess)


American mass transit is funded by a combination of local, state, and federal agencies. At the federal level, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provides financial assistance and technical assistance to state governments and local transit providers. From FY 2005 to FY 2009, the funding scheme for the FTA was regulated by the SAFETEA-LU bill, which appropriated $286.4 billion in guaranteed funding.[4] The FTA awards grants through several programs, such as the New Starts program and Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) program.


On June 26, 2008, the House passed the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act (H.R. 6052),[5] which gives grants to mass transit authorities to lower fares for commuters pinched at the pump and expand transit services. The bill also:

  • Requires that all Federal agencies offer their employees transit pass transportation fringe benefits. Federal agencies within the National Capital Region have successful transit pass benefits programs.
  • Increases the Federal cost-share of grants for construction of additional parking facilities at the end of subway lines from 80 to 100 percent to cover an increase in the number of people taking mass transit.
  • Creates a pilot program for vanpool demonstration projects in urban and rural areas.
  • Increases federal help for local governments to purchase alternative fuel buses, locomotives and ferries from 90 to 100 percent.

Advanced public transportation systems[edit]

Advanced public transportation systems (or APTS) is an Intelligent Vehicle Highway Systems, or IVHS, technology that is designed to improve transit services through advanced vehicle operations, communications, customer service, energy efficiency, air pollution reduction and market development.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "The MTA Network: Public Transportation for the New York Region". Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York). Retrieved 2006-05-17. 
  3. ^ Pisarski, Alan (October 16, 2006). "Commuting in America III: Commuting Facts" (PDF). Transportation Research Board. Retrieved 2007-03-27. 
  4. ^ SAFETEA-LU Implementation, Federal Transit Administration.
  5. ^

Further reading[edit]