Public transportation in the United States is a crucial part of the solution to the nation’s economic, energy, and environmental challenges - helping to bring a better quality of life. In increasing numbers, people are using public transportation and local communities are expanding public transit services. Every segment of American society - individuals, families, communities, and businesses - benefits from public transportation.
Public Transportation Consists of a Variety of Modes
- Trolleys and light rail
- Commuter trains
- Cable cars
- Van pool services
- Paratransit services for Senior citizens and people with disabilities
- Ferries and water taxis
- Monorails and tramways
- In 2012, Americans took 10.5 billion trips on public transportation, the 2nd highest annual ridership number since 1957.
- 35 million times each weekday, people board public transportation.
- From 1995 through 2012, public transportation ridership increased by 34%—a growth rate higher than the 17% increase in U.S. population and higher than the 22% growth in the use of the nation’s highways over the same period.
- Public transportation is a $57 billion industry that employs nearly 400,000 people.
- More than 7,300 organizations provide public transportation in the United States.
- 74% of public funding for public transit is spent creating and supporting hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs.
Public Transportation Enhances Personal Opportunities
- Public transportation provides personal mobility and freedom for people from every walk of life.
- Access to public transportation gives people transportation options to get to work, go to school, visit friends, or go to a doctor’s office.
- Public transportation provides access to job opportunities for millions of Americans.
Public Transportation Saves Fuel, Reduces Congestion
- Americans living in areas served by public transportation save 865 million hours in travel time and 450 million gallons of fuel annually in congestion reduction alone.
- Without public transportation, congestion costs would have been an additional $21 billion.
Public Transportation Provides Economic Opportunities
- For every dollar communities inves in public transportation generates approximately $4 in economic returns.
- Every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports and creates 36,000 jobs.
- Every $10 million in capital investment in public transportation yields $30 million in increased business sales.
- Every $10 million in operating investment yields $32 million in increased business sales.
Public Transportation Saves Money
- The average household spends 16 cents of every dollar on transportation, and 94% of this goes to buying, maintaining, and operating cars, the largest expenditure after housing.
- Public transportation provides an affordable, and for many, necessary, alternative to driving.
- Households that are likely to use public transportation on a given day save more than $9,700 every year.
Public Transportation Reduces Gasoline Consumption
- Public transportation’s overall effects save the United States 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually.
- Households near public transit drive an average of 4,400 fewer miles than households with no access to public transit. This equates to an individual household reduction of 223 gallons per year.
Public Transportation Reduces Carbon Footprint
- Communities that invest in public transit reduce the nation’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually: equivalent to New York City; Washington, DC; Atlanta; Denver; and Los Angeles combined stopped using electricity.
- A single commuter switching his or her commute to public transportation can reduce a household’s carbon emissions by 10%, or up to 30% if he or she eliminates a second car. When compared to other household actions that limit CO2, taking public transportation can be 10 times greater in reducing this harmful greenhouse gas.
For more public transportation facts, see the Public Transportation Fact Book.