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What Are the Different Types of Public Transportation Problems?

By Christina Edwards
Updated: May 23, 2024

Although it has its advantages, public transportation also has a number of problems. Many public transportation vehicles are crowded, for example, which can facilitate the spread of disease. Using public transportation can also be uncomfortable or inconvenient for some. Also, in some areas, governments may find that the costs of operating and maintaining public transportation outweigh the income generated from it.

Many people believe one of the biggest public transportation problems is the lack of privacy. Some believe buses and subways are just simply too crowded. In a personal vehicle, on the other hand, this is not typically a problem. A person can ride or drive to his destination without being bumped or generally agitated by other people.

Germs are another of the more serious public transportation problems. Since people are often within very close proximity to each other, they are more at risk of catching an illness when using public transportation as opposed to a personal vehicle. Cold and flu viruses, for instance, can be spread from one person to another either through direct contact with a contaminated surface or from the air, such as when a person sneezes. Hand washing or the use of hand sanitizer is recommended before and after riding public transportation.

Being cooped up in such a confined area with several other people is also quite uncomfortable for some. This compromised comfort is often considered another of the public transportation problems. Also, if a bus or subway is too cool or warm, heaters or air conditioners can be turned on in a personal vehicle. Using a personal vehicle also comes with the luxury of listening to music or the news on the radio during a commute.

Along with the other public transportation problems, many people do not use public transit because it is inconvenient for them. Many public transportation vehicles run on strict schedules, and these stop times will not always coincide with a person's schedule. Also, if a bus or train is running late, then all of the passengers will also be late. When using a personal vehicle for transportation, the driver is in control of where and when he goes somewhere.

One of the biggest public transportation problems for some local governments is the operating and maintenance costs of these systems. Some of these costs include fuel, drivers' wages, and vehicle maintenance. In areas with small populations, the income generated from passengers may not always be enough to cover these expenses. Government money will then often be needed to cover the difference.

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Discussion Comments
By comfyshoes — On Oct 11, 2011

@Sunshine31- Most people in New York City rely on public transportation because owning a car is incredibly expensive in New York. For example, a monthly parking pass in Manhattan can cost about $600 a month. This is just for parking. If you include the car payment and the insurance you basically have a small mortgage on your hands.

While there are some disadvantages to public transportation, I know that it is the best choice for many people that live in large urban areas like New York City. Owning a car has its advantages, but it also has a lot of pitfalls that in some locales can make public transportation a better option.

Somehow having a small delay in the train or bus schedule not really seem to be that much of a problem when you put things in perspective.

By sunshine31 — On Oct 10, 2011

@Monika -I think that another disadvantage to urban transportation involves the possibility of strikes. A few years ago there was a transit strike in New York that really affected the entire city. People were scrambling on how to get to work that normally took the subway to get to work because they were no longer running.

I think that when you take public transportation you really have to be ready for any challenges that come along the way because you really have no control over your situation. These types of strikes really don’t happen often, but when they do it is enough to make you reconsider other options to public transportation.

By Monika — On Oct 09, 2011

@sunnySkys - That is unfortunate, but I don't think that's a good reason to stop having public transportation extend outside of cities. Perhaps they should beef up their police presence in the area of something.

Anyway, I think the biggest problem with public transportation is the inconvenience of it all, time wise. My boyfriend was taking public transportation for work for awhile, and he had to leave the house a few hours before he wanted to get to work! Buses seldom come on time, and a lot of times a late bus would cause him to miss the train.

Just to put things in perspective, his job was about a half an hour away by car.

By sunnySkys — On Oct 08, 2011

One problem I've noticed with public transportation is that it spreads crime from inner cities to more suburban areas. I live near a pretty crime filled city with a public transit system.

The public transit extends north and south from the city into the surrounding suburbs. The suburbs that have stops experienced an increase in crime when the stops were opened. And the crime levels haven't gone down since!

Basically what happens is people from the city who wouldn't ordinarily have access to these "nicer" areas are suddenly able to go. Before the public transit stops, they couldn't get there because they didn't have a car! So now they can go outside of the city for fairly cheap and find a bunch of well off people to rob!

By amysamp — On Oct 08, 2011

I went to undergraduate school in a small town although the college itself was relatively large with ten to twelve thousand students. Because it was a college, people were always pushing for public transportation so that students could have rides home from bars with the hope of promoting safety and avoidance of drinking and driving.

But as it turned out, the public transport problem was different in this small town than what is typical - they actually could not get enough crowds on the public transportation.

The city and college tried unsuccessfully for years, from trying party buses to cabs, to free vans. Nothing seemed to work, but I was happy to see when I returned to the college four or five years later they had public transportation.

Whether the transportation will last or not, who knows, but at least they are still trying!

By honeybees — On Oct 08, 2011

When my son lived in Chicago he did not have a car and totally relied on mass transportation to get everywhere he needed to be. None of his roommates had a car, so this was their only means of getting around.

In a big city like Chicago this isn't usually a problem, and is often much easier than driving a car and trying to find a place to park.

There are disadvantages though, such as how close you live to a grocery store. He got in the habit of only buying a couple bags of food at a time, or even having it delivered to the apartment.

In smaller cities, I think one of the biggest disadvantages to public transportation is the scheduling. If you need to run an errand after work or need to work late for some reason, you might not be able to catch a bus that gets you home.

By myharley — On Oct 07, 2011

One summer when I was in college I relied on the public transportation system to get me back and forth to work. Thankfully it was just a short trip downtown and I was always able to get a seat.

Whenever I visit a big city where I use the public transit system, I always have a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my pocket.

When I think about how many people have touched the rails, seats, straps, etc I want to make sure I have sanitized my hands. Being in a small space with a large number of people can really get to me after awhile.

I am so glad I live in an area where it only takes me a few minutes to get to work by car. It would take some adjusting if I had to rely on public transportation every day.

By chivebasil — On Oct 07, 2011

I'd like to mention something about the costs and benefits of public transportation. A lot of times these are measured on a zero sum basis where costs going into the system must equal income coming out of the system. If their is less income the project is deemed to be a failure or a service that is unnecessary.

But what this fails to take into account is the economic impact that is generated through public transportation. It allows people with no car or other means of transport to work and shop in areas that are not immediately in their vicinity. It enables movement around the city which is crucial for a healthy economy. These numbers are difficult to measure, but when you take them into account the benefits of public transport multiple.

For this reason I don't think we should worry so much about how much money the system brings in (within reason of course). This is a program that is worth subsidizing if necessary.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Oct 06, 2011

One problem that we have had here in St Louis in recent years is a lack of funding. The city has a pretty expansive and accessible set of bus routes, but due to a lack of funds a number of stops and entire routes had to be shut down.

This was a huge problem for the people who use the bus regularly. In some cases they would have to walk well over a mile to get to a bus stop that was still open. It really cut down on the accessibility of the system and probably caused about a million headaches for the people who were most effected.

I understand that if you don't have the money you don't have the money, but public transportation plays such an important role in our society that I don't know how we can't come up with some guaranteed funding to make sure that there is a baseline level of service and access.

By robbie21 — On Oct 05, 2011

@jennythelib - Are you talking about the DC metro, by any chance? I hate that new design, too. I went to college there and still visit often. I do like the way the new cars do not have carpet, though. Who needs carpet on a train?

Now, the Metro has its whole own set of problems with public transportation because it's so badly run and chronically short of money even though it's incredibly expensive. It seems like these days, more escalators are broken than running! And forget about trying to find an elevator.

Then sometimes you see a tourist think he can hold the door open, like on an elevator. No, people. When the doors close, they *close.* Like a horse's mouth, they do not just pop back open!

On the other hand, the Metro sure is clean and convenient!

By jennythelib — On Oct 05, 2011

As a very short individual, I had my own set of problems with mass transit. If it's not crowded, no problem. I just take a seat.

If it's packed, I have two different problems. One, I am staring at everyone's armpits! Nice. Fragrant, too, especially because they're all reaching up to hold the bars.

And that's my other problem. I can't reach the hanging straps or ceiling bars. I have to find a pole to hold on to, and when the train is very crowded, it can be hard to push your way near to one. Plus, some transit systems do not have many poles anymore. They want to encourage people to move deeper into the cars, so they took out the poles near the doorways. Then I wind up holding the back of someone's seat!

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