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What Is the Difference between Private and Public Transportation?

Lainie Petersen
Updated: May 23, 2024

The differences between private and public transportation are significant and include funding, accessibility, and availability. Public transportation is funded, at least in part, through tax dollars while private transportation is established and funded through private enterprise. For travelers, choosing between private and public transportation often involves considering travel budgets, travel plans, and the safety of each option. In many cases, travelers may find that utilizing a combination of public transit and private options makes the most sense.

In many places, buses, trains, and even ferries are part of a public transportation system. While users may need to pay to use these options, passenger fares are greatly subsidized by tax dollars. Public transportation is generally organized to benefit the public good, and its services are necessarily limited by the amount of revenue it receives. As such, in many areas public transportation operates only during certain hours and days, and there may be many areas in which public transportation is not available. If a traveler is trying to decide between using private and public transportation, he or she will need to consider whether public transportation operates in the area where he or she wishes to visit.

Private transportation, on the other hand, is typically operated by private, for-profit business. As these businesses are generally not subsidized by the government, passengers must usually pay higher prices to use these services. One very common form of private transportation is a taxicab, although there are also shared passenger transportation companies that operate minivan shuttle services in certain areas, particularly to and from airports. From travelers' perspectives, using private transportation services is often a matter of convenience, as it is possible to hire these services during hours and on days in which public transportation does not operate. Taxi cabs, in particular, can often access areas in which there are no bus routes or train tracks.

Another distinction between private and public transportation is that passengers on public transportation typically must share their space with large groups of strangers, while users of private transportation may often choose to be alone or with their own party in a vehicle. For some people, privacy and transportation don't matter much, although safety may be a concern. As public transportation typically involves picking up and dropping off passengers along a preset route, it is important for travelers to recognize that public transportation often requires more travel time than private transportation. If time is of the essence during a particular trip, private transportation may be a better option.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an editor. With a unique educational background, she crafts engaging content and hosts podcasts and radio shows, showcasing her versatility as a media and communication professional. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any media organization.
Discussion Comments
By candyquilt — On Nov 22, 2011

@simrin-- If you don't like the bus but can't afford a taxi or car, you could rent one of those pay per hour cars. That's private transportation too and it costs much less than a taxi because it charges per hour rather than based on mileage. You do have to drive yourself though.

Maybe you can't rent one everyday to go to work, but if you need to go somewhere far away or if you need to do shopping, it can be a great alternative.

I also don't have a car and I don't mind taking public transportation. But I like to shop at grocery stores where public transportation doesn't go. So on the weekends sometimes, I rent a car for a couple of hours to do all my shopping. Aside from the airport shuttle, this is probably the other most affordable private transportation in the city.

By SteamLouis — On Nov 21, 2011

If I could afford to choose between public transportation vs. private transportation, I would definitely choose private.

I have to take the bus daily and not only is it very crowded, but it takes a ridiculous amount of time to get to where I'm going. A trip that only takes about seven to ten minutes by car, generally takes me forty-five minutes by bus! I have to leave my house an hour early to get to work.

It would be so nice to be able to use a taxi, but then again, if I had enough money, I would prefer to get my own car than take private transportation.

By serenesurface — On Nov 21, 2011

I didn't know that public transportation is partly funded by tax dollars. But in some areas, particularly large cities, public transportation services are much more widespread than it is in rural areas where it might even be nonexistent.

So how is this balanced out? Do people in cities pay more taxes because they use public transportation more, or does everyone in the country contribute equally to it even if they don't benefit from it?

I hope the latter is not true because that would be pretty unfair. I personally don't want to pay money to have a public bus system running when I never take the bus.

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an...
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