A look at benefits of public transportation

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, according to a release from the American Public Transportation Association. 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

  • Buses
  • Trolleys and light rail
  • Subways
  • Commuter trains
  • Streetcars
  • Cable cars
  • Van pool services
  • Paratransit services for Senior citizens and people with disabilities
  • Ferries and water taxis
  • Monorails and tramways

Quick Facts

  • In 2016, Americans took 10.4 billion trips on public transportation. 
  • Since 1995, public transit trips are up 34 percent, outpacing population growth, which is up 21 percent, and vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which is up 33 percent.
  • People board public transportation 35 million times each weekday.

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

  • Public transportation has a proven record of reducing congestion.
  • The latest research shows that in 2011, U.S. public transportation use saved 865 million hours in travel time and 450 million gallons of fuel in 498 urban areas.
  • Without public transportation, congestion costs in 2011 would have risen by nearly $21 billion from $121 billion to $142 billion in 498 urban areas.

Public Transportation Provides Economic Opportunities & Drives Community Growth and Revitalization

  • Public transportation offers individuals access to jobs.
  • 87 percent of public transit trips impact the economy.
  • Every $1 invested in public transportation generates approximately $4 in economic returns.
  • Every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports and creates more than 50,000 jobs.
  • Every $10 million in capital investment in public transportation yields $32 million in increased business sales.
  • Residential property values performed 42 percent better on average if they were located near public transportation with high-frequency service.

Public Transportation Saves Money

According to APTA’s Transit Saving Report, a two-person household can save, on the average, more than $9,823 a year by downsizing to one car.

Public transportation provides an affordable, and for many, necessary, alternative to driving.

Public Transportation Reduces Gasoline Consumption

  • Public transportation use in the United States saves 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.

Public Transportation Reduces Carbon Footprint

  • Public transportation use in the United States reduces our nation’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually. This is equivalent to Washington, DC; New York City; Atlanta; Denver; and Los Angeles combined stopping using electricity. 
  • One person with a 20-mile round trip commute who switches from driving to public transit can reduce his or her daily carbon emissions by 20 pounds, or more than 4,800 pounds in a year.
  • A single commuter switching his or her commute to public transportation can reduce a household’s carbon emissions by 10 percent and up to 30 percent if he or she eliminates a second car.