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What Are the Different Types of Local Public Transportation?

By Christina Edwards
Updated May 23, 2024
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For many people, local public transportation is the best option for travel. Many areas, especially large metropolitan areas, have a few public transportation systems, including buses and taxis. Local trains also run in some areas, either above the ground or below it. Taxis and ferries may also be available to residents of certain cities.

Buses are typically the most common type of local public transportation. These large vehicles can carry dozens of passengers around local towns and neighborhoods. Buses can be found in most cities and large towns around the world. Although it is typically inexpensive to ride on a bus of this sort, these vehicles will also make frequent stops. Many riders avoid them for this reason, since their commute is longer on a bus than other types of transportation.

Trains are typically a must faster option for public transportation users. These large vehicles can often carry more passengers than a bus, and they will typically make fewer stops. Using this type of local public transportation, however, may be a little more expensive than riding a bus. Trains are also usually found in very large cities, like New York City or Washington, DC.

Underground trains are more commonly known as subways, and these run on tracks placed in tunnels under the ground. Some cities may also have elevated trains, which may be part of a subway system, as part of the local transportation systems. Trams or trolleys may also be available in some areas, and these train cars run on designated rails that are built right into the local streets.

Taxicabs are another popular type of local public transportation. Sometimes simply called taxis or cabs, these vehicles travel around cities to pick up passengers. They then drop the passengers off at their desired destinations.

Most taxicab drivers turn on a meter when a passenger gets into the vehicle. This meter is used to charge the passenger, depending on how long he is in the vehicle. Some taxicab services charge by the minute, while others charge by the mile. In many cities, this is one of the most expensive forms of local public transportation, but it is also the most private.

Ferries, or water buses, are common forms of local public transportation in areas surrounded by or next to large bodies of water. These large boats are capable of transporting passengers across large bodies of water. Some ferries are also large enough to hold several vehicles as well.

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Discussion Comments

By honeybees — On Dec 01, 2011

I think it can be very cost effective for large cities to have huge public transportation systems, but it seems like the smaller cities really struggle with this.

I live in a medium sized city, and the only kinds of public transportation we have is the city bus or a taxi.

Since most people only use a taxi on a limited basis, that leaves the city bus. It has been years since I have taken the bus, and every time I see one go by, it seems like there are very few people riding them.

I think one reason they are not well used where I live is that it only takes 20 minutes to get from one part of the city to the next in your car. If you were to take the public transportation, that same trip could take you twice as long.

If I were to think about using public transportation, it would be to get back and forth to work. I can see how this would save a lot of money and you wouldn't have to worry about driving in snow in the winter time.

Our city has a pretty limited schedule on the nights and weekends, and I can't see myself ever using it during those times.

By julies — On Nov 30, 2011

Chicago has a great public transportation system. You can buy a ticket that is good for everything which includes the bus, subway and train.

When my son lived in Chicago he didn't even own a car and completely relied on public transportation to get around.

I think in an area like this, there are many times when it is faster than driving somewhere. Since parking spaces are at a premium, it is also a lot cheaper and much less of a hassle.

If you are new to a big city like this, it does take some getting used to, and learning a mass transit system like this is overwhelming for some people.

Whenever I visited him, I just relied on him to get us around. Within just a few weeks he really had the system down and could get us anywhere we needed to go.

By animegal — On Nov 30, 2011

Does anyone have any experience with the public transportation in Connecticut?

My friend and I will be going to Connecticut later this year for a short trip to visit relatives. Since our aunt will be picking us up we won't have a car to get around and were wondering if Connecticut public transportation is cheap and easy to use?

We are used to the Detroit public transportation system, and while we can get around there pretty easily, it isn't always the cleanest ride. We're hoping that Connecticut will be nicer and more up to date. Some of the buses in Detroit just aren't that nice.

By wander — On Nov 30, 2011

There are some places where I wouldn't live, just because the public transportation is poor, and I would have issues getting to and from work. I don't drive and really need to be able to get around cheaply.

So far I have found that Miami public transportation is excellent, and the MetroRail connects me to pretty much everywhere I need to go. Though, I do think there is an issue with the buses, as a lot of the routes only have one bus per hour, which is far too few.

What I do if I need to get to an area by bus is work out the schedule online first, as the MetroBus service has a fairly comprehensive guide. I hate waiting for an extended period of time.

By serenesurface — On Nov 29, 2011

@simrin-- Yes, Charlotte has a bus system called CATS (Charlotte Area Transit System). This is the main form of public transit and has the most routes in Charlotte.

There is also a rail system called LYNX, which is actually a fairly new project in Charlotte. It's scope is pretty limited though. It mainly serves South Charlotte but hopefully new lines are going to open up in several years.

Depending on where you live, you can get around using either of these systems. There is also a bus that goes to the airport and a trolley that runs on two streets downtown.

By SteamLouis — On Nov 29, 2011

Hi there! It looks like I'm going to be moving to Charlotte, North Carolina next year. It's almost definite. I'm wondering what kind of public transportation is available there because I might not take my car with me. I'm assuming that there is a bus system, but is there anything else?

Can anyone who's been to Charlotte tell me a little bit about Charlotte's public transportation?


By discographer — On Nov 28, 2011

I live in Washington DC and we have a very nice subway or metro system here. It can take you anywhere in DC and to many places in Virginia and Maryland as well. I generally ride the metro, although I have used the bus system previously.

I think the bus and metro system are the best forms of public transportation. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Metro trains are definitely much faster than than buses, but they're also jam packed during rush hour. Metro trains also malfunction very often so there are often delays en route.

Buses let you have a view unlike underground trains, but it stops so often that it takes forever to get where you're going. But both are still the most affordable and most convenient local public transport systems here.

By ElizaBennett — On Nov 27, 2011

@rugbygirl - I agree with you that mass public transportation can be a lifesaver, if sometimes a little unpleasant. My husband is able to take a bus to work, and his being able to do that is a key factor in our lifestyle working as it does.

Because he can take the bus, we need only one car. That big savings is part of what allows me to work part-time from home instead of having to have a full-time job with my kids in day care. I suppose if there were no bus he could take the car to work and leave me stranded, but that hardly seems practical! How would I get groceries, and what if one of the kids got sick?

And since the bus goes near our house, I know that if our one car is ever in the shop, I'll still be able to get where I need to go during the day.

By rugbygirl — On Nov 27, 2011

I think local bus transportation is a good investment for cities to make. They may not be able to convince a ton of people to give up their cars, but anything that makes it easier for people to get to work is a good thing!

The last time I was on a bus was a few years ago when my husband and I had only one car - and it was in the shop for a week! Fortunately, there was a small grocery store I could walk to and we were both able to walk to work.

But how was I going to get my car back? Taxi? Much too expensive. Enter the good old city bus. I think the ride was fifty cents. It took probably forty-five minutes even though it was just a few miles, but I got where I was going and got my car back!

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