Prior to 1825, no city in the world possessed a public transportation system--which may be defined as transportation operating along a fixed route, according to an established schedule, for a single fare. In the United States, horse-drawn carriages for hire called hackneys carried the public on short trips, and stagecoaches served a similar function for more distant journeys.
The first transit system anywhere was developed in Nantes, France, in 1826, by a retired army officer who set up a short stage line between the center of town and his public baths on the outskirts. When he discovered that passengers were more interested in getting off at intermediate points than in patronizing his baths, he shifted his focus. His new "omnibus" combined the functions of the hackney and the stagecoach. Word of his success spread quickly, and by 1832, the idea had been copied in Paris, Bordeaux, Lyons, and London.
In the United States, omnibus service began in 1829 with Abraham Brower's route along lower Broadway in New York City; others took the idea to Philadelphia in 1831, Boston in 1835, and Baltimore in 1844. Typically the city government granted a private company--usually a small businessman already in the livery or freight business--an exclusive franchise to operate coaches along a given street. In return, the company agreed to maintain certain minimum levels of service.
Although the omnibus represented an obvious improvement over walking, the unpadded benches, poor ventilation, and slow speed provided an uncomfortable ride. Moreover, the heavy, twelve-passenger vehicles were hampered by the condition of city streets, which at best were paved with uneven cobblestones. Not surprisingly, even in New York City, which had the most extensive omnibus network, only about twenty-five thousand persons, or one resident in twenty-five, used this form of transportation on a daily basis in 1850.
Placing the omnibus on iron rails was the next major innovation. Initially developed by John Mason on regular railroad tracks between Prince and Fourteenth streets in Manhattan in 1832, the horse-drawn streetcar, popularly known as the horsecar, combined the low cost, flexibility, and safety of animal power with the efficiency, smoothness, and all-weather capability of a rail right-of-way.
The great expansion of horse-drawn railways came after 1852, when Alphonse Loubat developed a grooved rail that lay flush with the pavement. This was an essential improvement because the earliest horsecars had used rails that protruded six inches or more above street level, seriously interfering with coach and wagon traffic. By 1855, the horsecar had forced the omnibus off the major thoroughfares and onto secondary routes in New York; by 1860, the same process was taking place in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Montreal, and Boston.
The great advantage of the horsecar obviously lay in its use of rails, which made possible a much smoother ride at a speed (six to eight miles per hour) almost twice as fast as the omnibus, an important consideration if one lived at a distance from work. Moreover, the reduced friction enabled a single horse to pull a thirty- to forty-passenger vehicle that had more inside room, an easier exit, and more effective brakes than the typical omnibus. All these advantages lowered operating costs, ultimately reducing the average fare for a single ride from fifteen cents on the omnibus to ten cents on the horsecar. The only person whose ride was not noticeably improved was the driver, who sat unprotected from the weather on an open platform. It was thought that if the platform were enclosed, the driver's attention and alertness might be compromised.
By the mid-1880s, there were 415 street railway companies in the United States operating over six thousand miles of track and carrying 188 million passengers per year, or about twelve rides for every man, woman, and child who lived in a city of at least twenty-five hundred persons. Horsecar railways were built much more slowly in Europe. As late as 1875, the total ridership of Paris, London, Vienna, and Berlin combined was much less than that of New York City alone. In Tokyo, the largest city in Asia, the horsecar was not even introduced until 1882.
The Cable Car
In 1867, a maverick New York City inventor, Charles T. Harvey, developed an overhead vehicle connected by a releasable grip to a constantly moving cable and installed a primitive prototype over a three-block run in Greenwich Village. The effort ultimately failed, however, and it was left to Andrew Smith Hallidie, a Scottish immigrant who had found wealth in San Francisco as a wire-rope manufacturer, to attempt an urban duplication of the English mining technique of hauling cars by large cables. Passenger vehicles ran along tracks similar to those of the horse railways, but the power came from giant steam engines that moved the cable. Easily adaptable to the broad, straight avenues of American cities, as opposed to the narrow, sinuous streets of European urban centers, the cable car was particularly suited to Nob Hill and other perilous inclines of the City by the Bay. Chicago, however, quickly developed the world's most extensive cable system, particularly to its South Side, and by 1894, the city boasted more than fifteen hundred grip and trailer cars operating on eighty-six miles of track. Philadelphia opened its first cable line in 1883, followed by New York and Oakland in 1887. By 1890, when cable transportation reached its peak, there were five hundred miles of track in twenty-three cities carrying 373 million passengers per year.
But since cable car construction costs were several times those of the horsecar, cable operations had to be restricted to the most heavily traveled routes where passenger revenues would be sufficient to recover the investment. Not surprisingly, the popularity of cable systems soon waned, and most cities remained with the horsecar. Only San Francisco retains Hallidie's invention, primarily for nostalgia and tourism.
The Steam Railroad
The first American railroads were designed for long distance rather than local travel. But they sought ridership wherever they could find it and very early on built stations whenever their lines passed through rural villages on the outskirts of the larger cities. In the nation's largest metropolis, rudimentary commuter travel by steam railroad began in 1832, and by 1837 the New York and Harlem Railroad was offering regular service to 125th Street. Meanwhile, the New York and New Haven Railroad along Long Island Sound reached New Haven in 1843, and the Harlem River line toward Albany reached Peekskill in 1849. Similarly, the Long Island Railroad and the New York and Flushing Railroad enabled former Manhattanites to commute from the east. Over the next half century population growth along these tracks was substantial, and by 1898 the three major passenger lines to the north of the city were alone disgorging 118,000 daily commuters into Grand Central Terminal. This pattern was duplicated elsewhere, and by 1900 railroad commuting was well established in Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago.
Relative to other forms of public transportation, however, railroad travel was both expensive and time consuming. Steam engines were difficult to start and stop; unlike the horsecar or the electric streetcar, the steam engine generated speed slowly. The practical result of this limitation was that railroad suburbs were usually discontinuous and located at least a mile or two from each other. Typically, they developed like beads on a string; the towns were connected by the railroad line but were not initially contiguous either to each other or to the central city.
The Electric Streetcar
The trolley--called a tram in Europe--was born in the United States. The first practical applications were by Leo Daft in Baltimore in 1885, Charles J. Van Depoele in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1886, and Frank Julian Sprague in Richmond in 1887. Sprague in particular demonstrated the feasibility of moving many cars simultaneously by means of an overhead electric wire. By the turn of the century, half the streetcar systems in the United States were equipped by him, and 90 percent were using his patents.
The typical trolley resembled a nineteenth-century railroad car. It had metal wheels, open platforms front and rear, and large windows all around. About half the size of a modern bus, it swayed and clanged down the small railroad tracks that were especially designed for its use. With its constantly humming motor controlled by a driver in a glassed-in cubicle, the vehicle ordinarily had no front or back because it could not be turned around at the end of the line.
Pollution-free electric traction possessed many advantages. Faster than either the cable car or the horse-drawn streetcar, it raised the potential speed of city travel to twenty miles per hour (the average was ten to fifteen miles per hour) and was capable of additional acceleration in low-density areas. Similarly, it achieved substantial economies over other forms of transit. It required neither the extensive underground paraphernalia of the cable car nor the heavy investment in animals, feed, and stables of the horsecar. Because trolleys tended to be larger than horsecars, the cost per passenger mile was reduced by at least half. The average fare dropped from a dime to a nickel.
The American people embraced the trolley with extraordinary rapidity and enthusiasm. In 1890, when the federal government first canvassed the nation's rail systems, it enumerated 5,700 miles of horsecar track, 500 miles for cable cars, and 1,260 for the trolley. By 1893, only six years after Sprague's successful Richmond experiment, more than 250 electric railways had been incorporated in the United States, and more than 60 percent of the nation's 12,000 miles of track had been electrified. By the end of 1903 America's 30,000 miles of street railway were 98 percent electrified. It was one of the most rapidly accepted innovations in the history of technology. By comparison, the automobile, which was invented at about the same time, was a late bloomer.
The rapidity of the American adoption of the trolley was especially striking in comparison with Europe. In 1890, for example, the number of passengers carried on American street railways (including cable and elevated systems) was over 2 billion per year, or more than twice that of the rest of the world combined. In cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants, the average number of rides per person each year was 172, a figure that included children and other persons who rarely traveled. Berlin, which then had the best system in Europe, would have ranked no higher than twenty-second in the United States. At the turn of the century, when the horsecar had virtually disappeared from American streets, it was still the dominant form of urban transport in Britain. In Tokyo, the electric streetcar did not appear until 1903, and in 1911 its system was less than one-tenth as large as that of New York City.
Because the streetcar, whether powered by an animal or an electric wire, could not eliminate congestion on the streets, transit experts turned early to the notion of a public right-of-way for their busiest lines. Two methods were possible--elevated trains and subways. The elevated was the older mode, the first line in New York having opened in 1870. Faster and more capital-intensive than the horsecars with which it initially competed, the "els" were noisy, unsightly, and dirty, even after electrification began to replace the small steam engines after 1900. A better solution was underground transit, which became necessary when the elevated structures themselves became an impediment to the smooth flow of traffic. The first American subway opened in Boston in 1897, long after London (1863) and shortly after Glasgow (1896) and Budapest (1896). But New York City, when its initial underground line opened in 1904, became the world pacesetter for two reasons--its immense size and technological innovation. Gotham's competing transit companies built new lines and extended old ones with unmatched vigor, and by 1937 the region had 308 route miles (and more than 700 track miles) of rapid transit service and was handling 4.2 million passengers per day, exclusive of bus and streetcar patronage. As designed by Chief Engineer William Barclay Parsons, New York's subway was the first in the world with a fully integrated express and local system. Parsons chose the cut-and-cover method of digging, and his underground became a model for the construction of rapid transit elsewhere.
The Twentieth Century
The public transportation system of the United States, easily the best in the world in 1900, slipped badly in the following decades, and by 1920 it had been overtaken by the government-subsidized systems of Germany, France, Holland, and Britain. The number of American streetcar riders peaked in 1923 at 15.7 billion. Patronage declined slowly in the 1920s (to 14.4 billion in 1929) and precipitously in the 1930s (to 8.3 billion in 1940). By 1990, the clang of the trolley could be heard on only a few lines in Boston, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Newark. Initially, the streetcars were replaced by gasoline-powered buses, but this method of conveyance also proved unable to compete with the private automobile. In the last decade of the twentieth century, America's public bus lines offered poor service at high prices in comparison to transit systems elsewhere in the world.
Commuting by steam railroad survived automotive competition better than did the trolleys and subways. Indeed, the golden age of railroad commutation was during the 1920s, when every major eastern and midwestern city benefited from frequent rail service. The depression years saw a sharp drop in patronage, but the demise of the once magnificent passenger railroad system of the United States did not come until the 1950s, when bankruptcy and deteriorating service were the inevitable result of a national transportation policy that subsidized air and automobile travel and taxed the railroads. By 1990, only a handful of cities--including New York, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia--could boast of impressive railroad commuter traffic.
Meanwhile, the private automobile became the primary form of transportation in the United States. Led by Henry Ford and his moving assembly line, American automobile registrations climbed from 1 million in 1913 to 10 million in 1923, when Kansas alone had more cars than France or Germany, and Michigan counted more than Great Britain and Ireland combined. By 1927, when the American total had risen to 26 million, the United States was building about 85 percent of the world's automobiles, and there was one motor vehicle for every five people in the country.
The triumph of the private automobile was greatly aided by federal policy. Unlike European governments, Washington treated public transportation as if it were a private business, while regarding the motorcar as worthy of immense public subsidies. Indeed, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin reported that between 1945 and 1980, 75 percent of government expenditures on transport went for highways, and only 1 percent went to public buses, trolleys, or subways. The inevitable result of the bias in American policy, a bias that began even before the Interstate Highway Act of 1956 and one that has no counterpart in either Europe or Asia, was that by 1991 the United States had the world's best road system and very nearly its worst public transit offerings.
Harry J. Carman, The Street Surface Railway Franchises of New York City (1919); Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (1985); John P. McKay, Tramways and Trolleys: The Rise of Urban Mass Transport in Europe (1976).
Kenneth T. Jackson
Types and Advantages
Mass transit refers to municipal or regional public shared transportation, such as buses, streetcars, and ferries, open to all on a nonreserved basis. An important form of mass transit is rapid transit, such as subways and surface light rail systems, designed for commuting between urban and suburban (or exurban) centers. Mass transit can be divided into fixed route systems (often involving rails), such as streetcars and subway trains, and nonfixed route transit (along surface streets or water), such as buses and ferries, but does not usually include airplanes, taxis, or long-distance rail with more formal ticketing procedures. Mass transit systems offer considerable savings in labor, materials, and energy over private transit systems. Since far fewer operators are required per passenger transported, they can be better trained and more strictly licensed and supervised.
When utilized to any reasonable fraction of their capacity, mass transit vehicles carry a far higher passenger load per unit of weight and volume than do private vehicles. They also offer fuel savings, not only because of the relative reduction in weight transported, but also because they are large enough to carry more efficient engines. Further, if emphasis is given to mass transit in the planning of future ground transportation systems, smaller rights of way will be possible, lessening the amount of landscape that must be paved over for highways and roads. Although mass transit offers many savings, it does require some sacrifices in personal convenience. These are the necessity to travel on a fixed rather than an individually selected schedule and to enter and disembark from the system only at certain designated locations. The obvious goal for a mass transit system is to have as few unused passenger accommodations as possible.
See also rapid transit.
The history of mass transportation is intimately connected to industrialization, urbanization, and the separation of residence from workplace. By the beginning of the 20th cent., London, New York, Boston, Paris, Budapest, and other major cities had fixed-rail subway systems (sometimes elevated); by the 1920s buses were common. In the United States, patronage of mass transit grew steadily from 1900 (six billion passengers per year) to 1927 (over 17 billion), but plummeted during the Great Depression. Patronage grew again during War II, peaking in 1946 at 23 billion riders, but then dropped steadily every year until the mild renaissance of public transit in the early 1970s.
The total number of riders in 1970 was less than that of 1910. The reasons for these declines are complex and often political. Los Angeles, for example, had over 1,000 miles of trolley and interurban lines before 1930; this system was taken over by a private company, dismantled, and replaced with noisy, polluting, and comparatively slow buses. Since few people chose to ride them, costs rose, thereby cutting the number of passengers further. To reduce costs, private companies eliminated outlying branches and smaller stations. These trends, along with inexpensive gasoline, suburban and highway development, the deterioration of older subway lines, and the greater freedom cars offered, helped turn the United States into a car culture.
However, as the public has grown increasingly concerned over the impact of cars on the environment and the quality of life in urban areas, there is growing support for the development of more efficient and comfortable mass transit systems. Models for such systems were developed in Europe and Japan. Trains in the Paris Metro, for example, operate on rubber tires and can reach speeds of 48 mph (77 km). Smaller cities are watching developments in Edmonton, Canada, which built a 4.5-mi (7.2-km) rapid transit system of lightweight trains at a cost of $65 million instead of adding five new freeways at ten times the cost.
In the United States, efforts to upgrade mass transit systems have experienced mixed results. The trend has been away from private ownership; by 1990 over 90% of North American mass transit was publicly owned and managed. The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system serving San Francisco and neighboring cities maintained service during the 1989 earthquake, but it has never attracted the number of riders originally anticipated. Washington, D.C.'s Metro system (144 million riders in 1988) included a wider area of service and more efficient schedules. Currently buses account for 60% of mass transit rides in the United States; innovations such as articulated buses and reserved lanes on highways are balanced by the problems of noise, air pollution, and traffic. The issue of mass transit has come full circle; it is once again a central social and political issue.
See R. Fogelson, Fragmented Metropolis (1967); S. Fischler, Moving Millions (1979); B. Cudahy, Cash, Tokens and Transfers: A History of Urban Mass Transit (1991); R. C. Post, Urban Mass Transit: The Life Story of a Technology (2006).
Public transport (North American English: public transportation or public transit) is a shared passenger transport service which is available for use by the general public, as distinct from modes such as taxicab, car pooling or hired buses which are not shared by strangers without private arrangement.
Public transport modes include buses, trolleybuses, trams and trains, rapid transit (metro/subways/undergrounds etc) and ferries. Public transport between cities is dominated by airlines, coaches, and intercity rail. High-speed rail networks are being developed in many parts of the world.
Most public transport runs to a scheduled timetable with the most frequent services running to a headway. Share taxi offers on-demand services in many parts of the world and some services will wait until the vehicle is full before it starts. Paratransit is sometimes used in areas of low-demand and for people who need a door-to-door service.
Urban public transport may be provided by one or more private transport operators or by a transit authority. Public transport services are usually funded by government subsidies and fares charged to each passenger. Services are normally regulated and possibly subsidized from local or national tax revenue. Fully subsidized, zero-fare (free) services operate in some towns and cities.
For historical and economic reasons, there are differences internationally regarding use and extent of public transport. While countries in Old World tend to have extensive and frequent systems serving their old and dense cities, many cities of the New World have more sprawl and much less comprehensive public transport.
Conveyances for public hire are as old as the first ferries, and the earliest public transport was water transport: on land people walked (sometimes in groups and on pilgrimages, as noted in sources such as the Bible and Canterbury Tales) or (at least in the Old World) rode an animal. Ferries are part of Greek mythology – corpses in ancient Greece were buried with a coin underneath their tongue to pay the ferryman Charon to take them to Hades.
Some historical forms of public transport are the stagecoach, traveling a fixed route from coaching inn to coaching inn, and the horse-drawn boat carrying paying passengers, which was a feature of European canals from their 17th-century origins. (The canal itself is a form of infrastructure dating back to antiquity – it was used at least for freight transportation in ancient Egypt to bypass the Aswan cataract – and the Chinese also built canals for transportation as far back as the Warring States period. Whether or not those canals were used for for-hire public transport is unknown; the Grand Canal was primarily used for shipping grain.)
The omnibus, the first organized public transit system within a city, appears to have originated in Paris, France, in 1662, although the service in question failed a few months after its founder died; omnibuses are next known to have appeared in Nantes, France, in 1826. The omnibus was introduced to London in July 1829.
The first passenger horse-drawn railway was opened in 1806 between Swansea and Mumbles in South Wales, United Kingdom. In 1825, George Stephenson built the Locomotion for the Stockton and Darlington Railway, north east England, which was the first public steam railway in the world.
An airline provides scheduled service with aircraft between airports. Air travel has high up to very high speeds, but incurs large waiting times prior and after travel, and is therefore often only feasible over longer distances or in areas where lack of ground infrastructure makes other modes of transport impossible. Bush airlines work more similar to bus stops; an aircraft waits for passengers and takes off when the aircraft is full.
Bus services use buses on conventional roads to carrying numerous passengers on shorter journeys. Buses operate with low capacity (i.e. compared with trams or trains), and can operate on conventional roads, with relatively inexpensive bus stops to serve passengers. Therefore buses are commonly used in smaller cities and towns, in rural areas as well for shuttle services supplementing in large cities. Bus rapid transit is an ambiguous term used for buses operating on dedicated right-of-way, much like a light rail. Trolleybuses are electric buses that employ overhead wires to get power for traction. Online Electric Vehicles are buses that run on a conventional battery, but are recharged frequently at certain points via underground wires.
Coach services use coaches (long-distance buses) for suburb-to-CBD or longer distance transportation. The vehicles are normally equipped with more comfortable seating, a separate luggage compartment, video and possibly also a toilet. They have higher standards than city buses, but a limited stopping pattern.
Passenger rail transport is the conveyance of passengers by means of wheeled vehicles specially designed to run on railways. Trains allow high capacity on short or long distance, but require track, signalling, infrastructure and stations to be built and maintained. Urban rail transit consists of trams, light rail, rapid transit, people movers, commuter rail, monorail suspension railways and funiculars.
Commuter rail is part of an urban area's public transport; it provides faster services to outer suburbs and neighboring towns and villages. Trains stop at stations that are located to serve a smaller suburban or town center. The stations often being combined with shuttle bus or park and ride systems at each station. Frequency may be up to several times per hour, and commuter rail systems may either be part of the national railway, or operated by local transit agencies.
Intercity rail is long-haul passenger services that connect multiple urban areas. They have few stops, and aim at high average speeds, typically only making one of a few stops per city. These services may also be international.
High-speed rail is passenger trains operating significantly faster than conventional rail—typically defined as at least 200 kilometres per hour (120 mph). The most predominant systems have been built in Europe and Japan, and compared with air travel, offer long-distance rail journeys as quick as air services, have lower prices to compete more effectively and uses electricity instead of combustion.
Trams are railborne vehicles that run in city streets or dedicated tracks. They have higher capacity than buses, but must follow dedicated infrastructure with rails and wires either above or below the track, limiting their flexibility.
Light rail is a modern development (and use) of the tram, with dedicated right-of-way not shared with other traffic, (often) step-free access and increased speed. Light rail lines are, thus, essentially modernized interurbans.
Systems are able to transport large amounts of people quickly over short distances with little land use. Variations of rapid transit include people movers, small-scale light metro and the commuter rail hybrid S-Bahn. More than 160 cities have rapid transit systems, totalling more than 8,000 km (4,971 mi) of track and 7,000 stations. Twenty-five cities have systems under construction.
Personal rapid transit is an automated cab service that runs on rails or a guideway. This is an uncommon mode of transportation (excluding elevators) due to the complexity of automation. A fully implemented system might provide most of the convenience of individual automobiles with the efficiency of public transit. The crucial innovation is that the automated vehicles carry just a few passengers, turn off the guideway to pick up passengers (permitting other PRT vehicles to continue at full speed), and drop them off to the location of their choice (rather than at a stop). Conventional transit simulations show that PRT might attract many auto users in problematic medium density urban areas. A number of experimental systems are in progress. One might compare personal rapid transit to the more labor-intensive taxi or paratransit modes of transportation, or to the (by now automated) elevators common in many publicly accessible areas.
Cable-propelled transit (CPT) is a transit technology that moves people in motor-less, engine-less vehicles that are propelled by a steel cable. There are two sub-groups of CPT – Gondola lifts and Cable car (railway). Gondola lifts are supported and propelled from above by cables whereas cable cars are supported and propelled from below by cables.
While historically associated with usage in ski resorts, gondola lifts are now finding increased consumption and utilization in many urban areas – built specifically for the purposes of mass transit. Many, if not all, of these systems are implemented and fully integrated within existing public transportation networks. Examples include Metrocable (Medellín), Metrocable (Caracas), Portland Aerial Tram, and Roosevelt Island Tramway and London's Emirates Air Line (cable car).
A ferry is a boat or ship, used to carry (or ferry) passengers, and sometimes their vehicles, across a body of water. A foot-passenger ferry with many stops is sometimes called a water bus. Ferries form a part of the public transport systems of many waterside cities and islands, allowing direct transit between points at a capital cost much lower than bridges or tunnels, though at a lower speed. Ship connections of much larger distances (such as over long distances in water bodies like the Mediterranean Sea) may also be called ferry services.
In the Philippines and elsewhere, motorcycles are used as public transportation. The motorcycles can be used singly or with a sidecar attached, the latter often referred to as "tricycles". They can either be hired for personal trips, like a taxi, or used for shared trips, with set routes, like a bus.
All public transport runs on infrastructure, either on roads, rail, airways or seaways; all consists of interchanges and way. The infrastructure can be shared with other modes of transport, freight and private transport, or it can be dedicated to public transport. The latter is especially true in cases where there are capacity problems for private transport. Investments in infrastructure are high, and make up a substantial part of the total costs in systems that are expanding. Once built, the infrastructure will further require operating and maintenance costs, adding to the total costs of public transport. Sometimes governments subsidize infrastructure by providing it free of charge, just like is common with roads for automobiles.
Interchanges are locations where passengers can switch from one public transport route to another. This may be between vehicles of the same mode (like a bus interchange), or e.g. between bus and train. It can be between local and intercity transport (such as at a central station or airport).
Timetables (or 'schedules' in North American English) are provided by the transport operator to allow users to plan their journeys. They are often supplemented by maps and fare schemes to help travelers coordinate their travel. Online public transport route planners, sometimes combined with pre-sold tickets, help make planning easier. Services are often arranged to operate at regular intervals throughout the day or part of the day (known as clock-face scheduling). Often, more frequent services or even extra routes are operated during the morning and evening rush hours.
Coordination between services at interchange points is important to reduce the total travel time for passengers. This can be done by coordinating shuttle services with main routes, or by creating a fixed time (for instance twice per hour) when all bus and rail routes meet at a station and exchange passengers. There is often a potential conflict between this objective and optimising the utilisation of vehicles and drivers.
The main sources of financing are ticket revenue, government subsidies and advertising. The percentage of revenue from passenger charges is known as the farebox recovery ratio. A limited amount of income may come from land development and rental income from stores and vendors, parking fees, and leasing tunnels and rights-of-way to carry fiber optic communication lines.
Most—but not all—public transport requires the purchase of a ticket to generate revenue for the operators. Tickets may be bought either in advance, or at the time of the journey, or the carrier may allow both methods. Passengers may be issued with a paper ticket, a metal or plastic token, or an electronic card (smart card, contactless smart card). Sometimes a ticket has to be validated, e.g. a paper ticket has to be stamped, or an electronic ticket has to be checked in.
Tickets may be valid for a single (or return) trip, or valid within a certain area for a period of time (see transit pass). The fare is based on the travel class, either depending on the traveled distance, or based on a zone pricing.
The tickets may have to be shown or checked automatically at the station platform or when boarding, or during the ride by a conductor. Operators may choose to control all riders, allowing sale of the ticket at the time of ride. Alternatively, a proof-of-payment system allows riders to enter the vehicles without showing the ticket, but riders may or may not be controlled by a ticket controller; if the rider fails to show proof of payment, the operator may fine the rider at the magnitude of the fare.
Multi-use tickets allow travel more than once. In addition to return tickets, this includes period cards allowing travel within a certain area (for instance month cards), or during a given number of days that can be chosen within a longer period of time (for instance eight days within a month). Passes aimed at tourists, allowing free or discounted entry at many tourist attractions, typically include zero-fare public transport within the city. Period tickets may be for a particular route (in both directions), or for a whole network. A free travel pass allowing free and unlimited travel within a system is sometimes granted to particular social sectors, for example students, elderly, children, employees (job ticket) and the physically or mentally disabled.
Zero-fare public transport services are funded in full by means other than collecting a fare from passengers, normally through heavy subsidy or commercial sponsorship by businesses. Several mid-size European cities and many smaller towns around the world have converted their entire bus networks to zero-fare. Local zero-fare shuttles or inner-city loops are far more common than city-wide systems. There are also zero-fare airport circulators and university transportation systems.
||This section may contain original research. (December 2008)|
Governments frequently opt to subsidize public transport, for social, environmental or economic reasons. Common motivations include the desire to provide transport to people who are unable to use an automobile, and to reduce congestion, land use and automobile emissions. Other motives may include promoting business and economic growth, or urban renewal in formerly deprived areas of the city. Public transit systems rarely operate without government support. Some systems are owned and operated by a government agency; other transportation services may be commercial, but receive special benefits from the government compared to a normal company.
Subsidies may take the form of direct payments for financially unprofitable services, but support may also include indirect subsidies. For example, the government may allow free or reduced-cost use of state-owned infrastructure such as railways and roads, to stimulate public transport's economic competitiveness over private transport, that normally also has free infrastructure (subsidized through such things as gas taxes). Other subsidies include tax advantages (for instance aviation fuel is typically not taxed), bailouts if companies that are likely to collapse (often applied to airlines) and reduction of competition through licensing schemes (often applied to taxis and airlines). Private transport is normally subsidized indirectly through free roads and infrastructure, as well as incentives to build car factories and, on occasion, directly via bailouts of automakers.
Land development schemes may be initialized, where operators are given the rights to use lands near stations, depots, or tracks for property development. For instance, in Hong Kong, MTR Corporation Limited and KCR Corporation generate additional profits from land development to partially cover the cost of the construction of the urban rail system.
Some supporters of mass transit believe that use of taxpayer capital to fund mass transit will ultimately save taxpayer money in other ways, and therefore, state-funded mass transit is a benefit to the taxpayer. Some research has supported this position, but the measurement of benefits and costs is a complex and controversial issue. A lack of mass transit results in more traffic, pollution, and road construction to accommodate more vehicles, all costly to taxpayers; providing mass transit will therefore alleviate these costs. (Perhaps, although right-wing think tanks disagree)
||The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (July 2012)|
Expansion of public transportation systems is often opposed (particularly in the United States) by critics who see them as vehicles for violent criminals and homeless persons to expand into new areas (to which they would otherwise have to walk). According to the Transportation Research Board, "[v]iolent crime is perceived as pandemic .... Personal security affects many peoples' [sic] decisions to use public transportation." Despite the occasional highly publicized incident, the vast majority of modern public transport systems are well designed and patrolled and generally have low crime rates. Many systems are monitored by CCTV, mirrors, or patrol.
Nevertheless, some systems attract vagrants who use the stations or trains as sleeping shelters, though most operators have practices that discourage this.
Though public transit accidents attract far more publicity than car wrecks, public transport has much lower accident rates. Annually, public transit prevents 200,000 deaths, injuries, and accidents had equivalent trips been made by car. The National Safety Council estimates riding the bus as over 170 times safer than private car.
Although there is continuing debate as to the true efficiency of different modes of transportation, mass transit is generally regarded as significantly more energy efficient than other forms of travel. A 2002 study by the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute found that public transportation in the U.S uses approximately half the fuel required by cars, SUV's and light trucks. In addition, the study noted that "private vehicles emit about 95 percent more carbon monoxide, 92 percent more volatile organic compounds and about twice as much carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide than public vehicles for every passenger mile traveled".
A 2004 study from Lancaster University concluded that there was no environmental benefit to be gained from persuading car or plane travelers to switch to trains. Environmental group Friends of the Earth were skeptical of the findings, claiming the results are not in line with previous studies. The study showed that trains had failed to keep up with the advances that the automotive and aviation industries had made in improved fuel efficiency. Express trains travelling from London to Edinburgh consumed 11.5 litres more fuel per seat than a modern diesel car and Pendolino trains weigh more per seat than the Airbus A380 airliner. A representative from Modern Railways magazine is reported as having said:
"I know this will generate howls of protest, but at present a family of four going by car is about as environmentally friendly as you can get."
Studies have shown that there is a strong inverse correlation between urban population density and energy consumption per capita, and that public transport could facilitate increased urban population densities, and thus reduce travel distances and fossil fuel consumption.
Supporters of the green movement usually advocate public transportation, because it offers decreased airborne pollution compared to automobiles. A study conducted in Milan, Italy in 2004 during and after a transportation strike serves to illustrate the impact that mass transportation has on the environment. Air samples were taken between 2 and 9 January, and then tested for Methane, Carbon Monoxide, non-methane Hydrocarbons (NMHCs), and other gases identified as harmful to the environment. The figure below is a computer simulation showing the results of the study “with 2 January showing the lowest concentrations as a result of decreased activity in the city during the holiday season. 9 January showed the highest NMHC concentrations because of increased vehicular activity in the city due to a public transportation strike.”
Based on the benefits of public transport, the green movement has impacted public policy. For example, the state of New Jersey released Getting to Work: Reconnecting Jobs with Transit. This initiative attempts to relocate new jobs into areas with higher public transportation accessibility. The initiative cites the use of public transportation as being a means of reducing traffic congestion, providing an economic boost to the areas of job relocation, and most importantly, contributing to a green environment by reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Using Public transportation can result in a reduction of an individual’s carbon footprint. A single person, 20-mile round trip by car can be replaced using public transportation and result in a net CO2 emissions reduction of 4,800 lbs/year. Using public transportation saves CO2 emissions in more ways than simply travel as public transportation can help to alleviate traffic congestion as well as promote more efficient land use. When all three of these are considered, it is estimated that 37 million metric tones of CO2 will be saved annually. Another study claims that using public transit instead of private in the U.S. in 2005 would have reduced CO2 emissions by 3.9 million metric tones and that the resulting traffic congestion reduction accounts for an additional 3.0 million metric tons of CO2 saved. This is a total savings of about 6.9 million metric tones per year given the 2005 values.
In order to compare energy impact of public transportation to private transportation, the amount of energy per passenger mile must be calculated. The reason that comparing the energy expenditure per person is necessary is to normalize the data for easy comparison. Here, the units are in per 100 p-km (read as person kilometer or passenger kilometer). In terms of energy consumption, public transportation is better than individual transport in a personal vehicle. In England, bus and rail are popular methods of public transportation, especially London. Rail provides rapid movement into and out of the city of London while busing helps to provide transport within the city itself. As of 2006–2007, the total energy cost of London’s trains was 15 kWh per 100 p-km, about 5 times better than a personal car. For busing in London, it was 32 kWh per 100 p-km, or about 2.5 times that of a personal car. This includes lighting, depots, inefficiencies due to capacity (i.e., the train or bus may not be operating at full capacity at all times), and other inefficiencies. Efficiencies of transport in Japan in 1999 were 68 kWh per 100 p-km for a personal car, 19 kWh per 100 p-km for a bus, 6 kWh per 100 p-km for rail, 51 kWh per 100 p-km for air, and 57 kWh per 100 p-km for sea. These numbers from either country can be used in energy comparison calculations and/or life cycle assessment calculations.
Public transportation also provides an arena to test environmentally friendly fuel alternatives, such as hydrogen-powered vehicles. Swapping out materials to create lighter public transportation vehicles with the same or better performance will increase environmental friendliness of public transportation vehicles while maintaining current standards or improving them. Informing the public about the positive environmental effects of using public transportation in addition to pointing out the potential economic benefit is an important first step towards making a difference.
Urban space is a precious commodity and public transport utilises it more efficiently than a car dominant society, allowing cities to be built more compactly than if they were dependent on automobile transport. If public transport planning is at the core of urban planning, it will also force cities to be built more compactly to create efficient feeds into the stations and stops of transport. This will at the same time allow the creation of centers around the hubs, serving passengers' daily commercial needs and public services. This approach significantly reduces urban sprawl.
An important social role played by public transport is to ensure that all members of society are able to travel, not just those with a driving license and access to an automobile—which include groups such as the young, the old, the poor, those with medical conditions, and people banned from driving. Automobile dependency is a name given by policy makers to places where those without access to a private vehicle do not have access to independent mobility.
Above that, public transportation opens to its users the possibility of meeting other people, as no concentration is diverted from interacting with fellow-travelers due to any steering activities. Adding to the above-said, public transport becomes a location of inter-social encounters across all boundaries of social, ethnic and other types of affiliation.
Public transport allows transport at an economy of scale not available through private transport. Advocates of public transport claim that investing in mass transit will ultimately reduce the total transport cost for the public. Time saved can also be significant, as less cars can translate to less congestion, and faster speeds for remaining motorists. Transit-oriented development can both improve the usefulness and efficiency of the public transit system as well as result in increased business for commercial developments.
Because of the increased traffic and access to transit systems, putting in public transit frequently has a positive effect on real estate prices. For example, the Washington DC Metro system has increased land desirability around its stations, and The Hong Kong metro MTR generates a profit by redeveloping land around its stations. Much public opposition to new transit construction can be based on the concern about the impact on neighborhoods of this new economic development. Few localities have the ability to seize and reassign development rights to a private transit operator, as Hong Kong has done.
Investment in public transport also has secondary positive effects on the local economy, with between $4 and $9 of economic activity resulting from every dollar spent. Many businesses rely on access to a transit system, in particular in cities and countries where access to cars is less widespread, businesses which require large amounts of people going to a same place may not be able to accommodate a large number of cars (concert venues, sport stadia, airports, exhibitions centres,...), or businesses where people are not able to use a car (bars, hospitals, or industries in the tourism sector whose customers may not have their cars). Transit systems also have an effect on derived businesses: commercial websites have been founded, such as Hopstop.com, that give directions through mass transit systems; in some cities, such as London, products themed on the local transport system are a popular tourist souvenir. Research in the Washington, DC area shows that public transport does a better job of providing high-skill residents with access to high-skill jobs than it does mid-skill residents to mid-skill jobs and low-skill residents to low-skill jobs.
However, public transport projects frequently have very large upfront costs, requiring large investments from either local government or private investors. Initial estimates of project cost and timescale are frequently underestimated, and nearly all public transport requires government subsidies and/or direct government support in order to remain operational.
The existence of a transit system can lower land values in some cases, either through influence on a region's demographics and crime rate (actual or perceived), or simply through the ambient noise and other discomforts the system creates.
Longer distance public transport sometimes sell food and drink on board, and/or have a dedicated buffet car and/or dining car. However, some urban transport systems forbid the consumption of food, drink, or even chewing gum when riding on public transport. Sometimes only types of food are forbidden with more risk of making the vehicles dirty, e.g. ice creams and French fries, and sometimes potato chips.
Some systems prohibit carrying open food or beverage containers, even if the food or beverage is not being consumed during the ride.
In Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Norway, the United States, and most of the European Union, smoking is prohibited in all or some parts of most public transportation systems due to safety and health issues. Generally smoking is not allowed on buses and trains, while rules concerning stations and waiting platforms differ from system to system. The situation in other countries varies widely.
Some mass transit systems have restricted the use of mobile phones. Long distance train services, such as the Amtrak system in the US, have "quiet cars" where mobile phone usage is prohibited.
Some systems prohibit passengers from engaging in conversation with the operator. Others require that passengers who engage in any conversation must keep the noise level low enough that it not be audible to other passengers.
Some systems have regulations on the use of profanity. In the United States, this has been challenged as a free speech issue.
Certain items considered to be problematic are prohibited or regulated on many mass transit systems. These include firearms and other weapons (unless licensed to carry), explosives, flammable items, or hazardous chemicals and substances.
Many systems prohibit live animals, but allow those that are in carrying cases or other closed containers. Additionally, service animals for the blind or disabled are permitted.
Some systems prohibit items of a large size that may take up a lot of space, such as bicycles. But more systems in recent years have been permitting passengers to bring bikes.
In Sydney, it is illegal to carry spray cans or permanent markers on public transport, as they can be used to vandalise the vehicles and stations. This rule also applies to sharp instruments that could damage the train, such as screwdrivers that could be used to make "scratchitti", a form of vandalism where tags are carved into a window.
Many systems have regulations against behavior deemed to be unruly or otherwise disturbing to other passengers. In such cases, it is usually at the discretion of the operator, police officers, or other transit employees to determine what behaviors fit this description.
Some systems have regulations against photography or videography of the system's vehicles, stations, or other property. Those seen holding a mobile phone in a manner consistent with photography are considered to be suspicious for breaking this rule. This is another issue that is challenged in the courts in the United States as a "Free Speech" issue.
In the era when long distance trips took several days, sleeping accommodations were an essential part of transportation. (On land, the lodging involved was often part of the infrastructure: the inn or ryokan, which did not move, sheltered travelers. People also slept on ships at sea.) Today, most airlines, inter-city trains and coaches offer reclining seats and many provide pillows and blankets for overnight travelers. Better sleeping arrangements are commonly offered for a premium fare and include sleeping cars on overnight trains, larger private cabins on ships and airplane seats that convert into beds. Budget-conscious tourists sometimes plan their trips using overnight train or bus trips in lieu of paying for a hotel. The ability to get additional sleep on the way to work is attractive to many commuters using public transport.
Because night trains or coaches can be cheaper than motels, homeless persons often use these as overnight shelters, as with the famous Line 22 ("Hotel 22") in Silicon Valley. Specifically, a local transit route with a long overnight segment and which accepts inexpensive multi-use passes will acquire a reputation as a "moving hotel" for people with limited funds. Most transportation agencies actively discourage this. For this and other reasons passengers are often required to exit the vehicle at the end of the line; they can board again in the same or another vehicle, after some waiting. Even a low fare in some cases often deters the poorest individuals, including homeless people.
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