For many travelers, public transit is the cheapest way of getting around. Still, the cost of public transportation can vary significantly between destinations and even within a city or town. The factors that affect the cost of mass transit include the availability of tax funds to support it, the level of service provided and the method of public transit used. Another factor that affects the cost of public transportation is the ability of a public transportation system to establish relationships with other businesses from which the system can gain revenue to offset its operating costs.
Public transportation is generally supported by a combination of tax revenues, fares from people that use the system, advertising and sometimes licenses from concessions. The amount of tax revenue received will greatly affect the budget for an area's public transportation system and have a great impact on the types and amount of services available. With sufficient tax funding, an area's mass transit system might be able to provide comprehensive services to the community for relatively low fares. Without sufficient tax funding, commuters might be expected to pay higher fares for using public transportation and services, and amenities might be limited. For example, with minimal tax funding, public transportation might operate only during daytime hours, and there might be large sections of the community that are not served by public transportation.
Some public transit systems actively seek out partnerships with private businesses. These private businesses might be permitted to rent space in public transportation stations to sell food, magazines or other goods and services. The funds paid by these vendors can contribute significantly to the operating budget of the mass transit system. In other cases, a public transportation company might pair up with an advertising company that sells advertising space in or on public transportation vehicles and stations. Again, the proceeds from this advertising might help a transit system reduce the cost of public transportation for its users.
Additional factors that affect the cost of public transportation include the type of vehicles used in mass transit, the cost of staffing the vehicles and fuel charges. In some areas, for example, fares for trains might be higher than the fares for buses because of the expense of maintaining the trains, the tracks and paying the staff that is necessary to effectively and safely operate the train system. In addition, variances in the cost of fuel also can affect the cost of public transportation; in periods when the cost of fuel is high, passenger fares might have to be raised to prevent cutbacks in service.