This industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in furnishing local and suburban mass passenger transportation over regular routes and on regular schedules, with operations confined principally to a municipality, contiguous municipalities, or a municipality and its suburban areas. Also included in this industry are establishments primarily engaged in furnishing passenger transportation by automobile, bus, or rail to, from, or between airports or rail terminals, over regular routes, and those providing bus and rail commuter services.
Mixed Mode Transit Systems
Commuter Rail Systems
Bus and Motor Vehicle Transit Systems
Other Urban Transit Systems
All Other Transit and Ground Passenger Transportation
Despite America's complaints about traffic congestion, pollution, gasoline prices, and lack of available parking, the truth is that Americans love their automobiles. However, as highway congestion continues to increase, improving and expanding mass transit systems remains on the agendas of most major metropolitan areas. By the 2000s, Americans were spending three times as many hours idling in traffic as they did in 1982. According to a 2004 study by the Texas Transportation Institute, in the 85 urban areas included in the study the total annual cost of wasted fuel and wage hours from time spent idling in traffic in 2002 was over $63 billion.
In the year 2003, 8.9 billion Americans used public transportation, with 29 million riders on an average weekday. Fifty-four percent of riders used public transportation to travel to and from work, and 46 percent of travel was nonwork-related, such as trips to and from school, shopping, the doctor, and entertainment. According to American Public Transportation Association, the mass transit industry generated over $32 billion annual and employed some 350,000 people.
Despite the obvious advantages to an expansive public transportation system, including time and fuel savings, the nation's mass transit system has struggled under tight city budgets and lower than desired ridership numbers. Although survey studies have shown that people say they would use public transportation if it was convenient, one-fourth of the population has no access to public transportation and one-half of the population has only limited access.
Passenger transit is considered an essential public service in the United States. As such, large sums of government financial assistance are pumped into transit systems throughout the country every year. Since World War II, private transit companies have been converted into public enterprises on a huge scale. This trend was facilitated by the passage of the Urban Mass Transit Act of 1964. This act was created largely as a measure to save mass transit from disappearing, since the postwar rise in automobile use had pushed many transit companies into insolvency. By 1990, public transit systems accounted for 86 percent of the industry's vehicles, 94 percent of its vehicle miles operated, and 94 percent of its unlinked passenger trips.
Local and suburban passenger transit included several different transportation modes. The most common mode found in the United States was the motorbus, which saw heavy use throughout the country. In large cities, heavy rail systems, which generally means subways and elevated rails, were also common. Commuter trains, light rails, and trolleys were also part of the local transit network. This industry also included vanpools, airport shuttles, and other transportation to transit terminals, provided they ran over regular routes on fixed schedules.
Obviously, the need for transit grows with population size. In general, smaller urban areas use more buses and vanpools, while rail systems are found primarily in only the largest cities and their metropolitan areas. More than half of the nation's road transit systems are located in urbanized areas with populations under 50,000. Of the 20 all-rail transit systems in the United States, 15 are in cities with populations in excess of two million. California and New York have the most transit systems in operation, with each state containing 362 systems. Texas, with 238, is the only other state with more than 200 transit operations.
The American Public Transit Association (APTA) is an organization of mass transit operators in the United States and Canada. Based in Washington, the APTA has more than 1,000 members. The APTA is generally considered the definitive source of transit information in the United States. Its members include organizations involved in every facet of mass transit, including construction, design, financing, planning, and supplying. The APTA was created in 1974 with the merger of the American Transit Association (ATA), founded in 1882 as the American Electric Railway Association, and the Institute for Rapid Transit (IRT). The federal agency that oversees the industry is the Federal Transit Administration (FTA; formerly known as the Urban Mass Transit Administration), an arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Urban mass transit in the United States began to appear in the early part of the nineteenth century. In 1827, a horse-drawn stagecoach line began operating in Manhattan. Designed and planned by Abraham Brower, the line started out as a single 12-passenger vehicle, built by the coach-making company Wade & Leverich, running up and down Broadway. Two years later, Ephraim Dodge followed suit in Boston. Meanwhile, a more comfortable vehicle called an omnibus was gaining popularity on the streets of London and Paris. Brower took notice of the omnibus' success in Europe and, within four years of their New York introduction, over 100 omnibuses were rolling on New York's grid of streets. By 1844, omnibus service was also available in Philadelphia, Boston, and Baltimore.
At the same time that road transit was developing in the United...