The Many Forms of Public Transit (And Why They Matter)

By September 27, 2018Blog

Importance of Public Transit | WHYSgiving

As cities grow and expand, an ever-present question in the mind of government agencies is how to allow for movement. Whether it’s between home and work, school and the doctor, the ability to move around a city matters. The state of public transportation varies greatly across the country, and this can be a huge problem for people. In fact, transportation has been shown to be a key factor in pulling individuals out of poverty cycles. Car ownership cannot (and should not) be the solution in every case. keep in mind that public transit serves more than just low-income populations. In large cities like San Francisco, 14 percent of kids take public transit to school. These services also provide options for disabled people. Plus, we haven’t even touched on the environmental benefits of public transit. With ridership on the rise in the US, let’s take a look at the different options.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Subway Systems

These underground trains are limited to the larger cities in the US currently, but their benefits are many and varied. Since they’re constructed underground, they’re not subject to traffic concerns. They also don’t have the same issues with releasing pollution into the air in general. Studies that used satellite data found that cities with subways had lower pollution rates. As far as public transit goes, it is very expensive to build. In fact, the US has particularly expensive subway construction projects. There’s plenty of room for improvement if more cities decide to take the plunge (underground).

Importance of Public Transit | WHYSgivingPhoto by Alex Smith on Unsplash


This is one of the most common forms of public transit in the US. There are city buses, but also buses that service specific populations. Some even carry riders between states for their regular commutes. It’s easy to add bus lines, and inexpensive to alter routes around a neighborhood as needs change. Plus, you’re much safer taking the bus compared to driving a car. It’s easy to make ADA-accessible buses these days, too.

Importance of Public Transit | WHYSgivingPhoto by Alex Smith on Unsplash

Train & Light Rail

Trains and light rail public transit systems require a bit more infrastructure than bus lines, but far less than subways. Individual communities do sometimes struggle with accommodating the changing landscape the new tracks necessitate. High-speed trains are what allow places like New York City to accommodate the millions of people who commute in every day. Trains can also generally allow for higher ridership numbers as well.

Importance of Public Transit | WHYSgivingPhoto by Patrick Robinson on Unsplash


Ferries are a vital service for more isolated communities. A publicly run ferry can sometimes be one of the only options keeping an area accessible. If you think having to own a car to get around town is difficult, imagine having to own a boat!

The next time you’re stuck behind a bus or waiting for a train, consider the vital role they play in any community. For those with access to public transit, it helps shape their environment to be more inclusive. And for those without, life can can be unnecessarily difficult.