Public transport is the collective name for transport systems in which the passengers do not travel in their own vehicles. It is called public transit or mass transit in the U.S.A and Canada. While it is generally taken to mean rail and bus services, wider definitions would include scheduled airline services, ferries, taxicab services etc., basically any system which is transporting members of the general public.

The term rapid transit refers to fast public transport in and around cities, such as metro systems.

Public transport can be faster than other modes of travel; prime examples are in cities where road congestion can be avoided, and for long distance travel where much higher speeds are possible than are permitted on roads.

Table of contents
1 Forms of public transport (in the broad sense)
2 Nodes and stops
3 Ticket systems
4 Funding
5 Public transport as a sleeping place
6 See also
7 External link

Forms of public transport (in the broad sense)

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, freight trains, etc.

Nodes and stops

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.

Ticket systems

  • must be bought in advance, one can not physically enter the railway platform etc. without, due to a turnstile or guard (usually found in metro)
  • must be bought in advance, one can not physically enter the vehicle etc. without, due to a turnstile or guard (usually found in metro)
  • must be bought in advance, one is checked by a conductor, etc., upon entry (usually found on buses in North America and Western Europe)
  • must be bought in advance, one is checked randomly by a ticket controler (usually found in Eastern Europe)
  • can be bought on entering the vehicle or during the ride
  • sometimes the ticket can be bought both in advance and during the ride, then the fare may be higher in the latter case, see also Conductor (transportation); in this case buying in advance is often possible at the point of departure, but usually not at a tram or bus stop

Special tickets 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.
  • Smartcard
  • SMS tickets


Funding for public transport systems differ widely, from systems which are run as unsubsidised commercial enterprises to systems that are free of charge:

  • Hasselt, Belgium - free bus services
  • Gent - free night bus services (weekends only)
  • Renesse (mun. Schouwen-Duiveland), Netherlands - free bus services in the area (in summer only)
  • Dordrecht - bus and ferry, some saturdays at the end of each year
  • Noordwijk/Oegstgeest - Leiden Transferium - The Hague, express bus, running on weekdays during daytime, free of charge as a test during 2004; it is intended for commuters working in The Hague and living in Leiden or beyond who would otherwise travel by car to the Hague, to promote parking the car at the Transferium and continuing the journey by bus; the aim is to reduce road traffic congestion between Leiden and The Hague. The test is paid by the province of South Holland.
  • Washington, D.C - Congressional Subway - small free metro system
  • some ferries, such as the Staten Island Ferry.
  • short-distance 'public transport' such as elevator, escalator, moving sidewalk (horizontal and inclined); these are often part of a larger public transport system or business (e.g. shop) of which the products and services are not free.
  • free bicycle services have been run in some places.

Other transportation services may be commercial, but receive benefits from the government compared to a normal company, e.g.,

  • direct payments to run unprofitable services.
  • government bailouts it 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 well maintained, high volume public transport systems alleviate this. Many complex factors affect the outcome of spendings in public transport, so success in reducing car traffic is not always assured.

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

Public transport as a sleeping place

Public transport and its terminal buildings are sometimes used by homeless people and budget tourists as a sleeping place. This can vary from the tourist who travels on purpose at night in order to sleep while travelling and dispense with the cost of a hotel, to people for whom the 'sleeping accommodation' is the purpose, and the displacement of the vehicle a somewhat inconvenient irrelevance.

For the latter a key requirement is that travelling through the night costs less than a nearby hotel. This may especially be the case with a rail or bus pass.

One popular example is the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) bus route 22, dubbed 'Hotel 22', between Palo Alto, California and San Jose, California, (Silicon Valley). A pass for 24 hours costs 4 dollars and one for a month 45 dollars, much less than a hotel, house or apartment.

See also

Timetable, Human positions, Public transport service numbering, urban economics

External link