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Public transportation

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Public transportation

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    This article is a travel topic

Public transportation (or simply public transport) includes bus, rail, taxicab, ferries, and other services whose purpose is to move people between two places, mostly within a city or region. In most urban areas, a public transportation system of some type exists. It is usually open to all without any prior reservation, all for the payment of a modest fare.

Vehicle types


The most common type of vehicle used for public transport is the bus. Nearly all cities that have other types of vehicles operating part of their public transportation systems also have buses. Buses come in a variety of sizes and styles and vary in seating capacity.

All buses have a human driver whose duty it is to drive the bus. On some buses, the driver also collects fares, while on others, there is another person who performs that task, and on some buses, fares are placed in a box.

Buses typically have routes that are identified by a number or letter. A sign, which could be fixed or electronic, often states the route number and final destination of the bus.

Fixed-route bus lines will operate along a predetermined route, and will stop at designated stops along that route, typically marked by bus stop signs on the street. Some bus stops will have benches and/or shelters; others will not. 

Heavy rail

Many large urban areas have heavy rail systems. Often referred to as "subway," "metro," or similar, these trains operate on a closed off track that could be above, below, or at grade level, varying depending on the part of the route. 

Light rail

Light rail is also a common form of public transport. Light rail trains typically operate at grade level, and on some parts of their route may share the street with vehicle traffic, very much like trolleys. Some light rail trains tunnel underground for part of their route.


Trolleys or streetcars are vehicles that operate along rails built into the street with overhead electrical lines.


Ferries are maritime vehicles used to transport people and sometimes automobiles across bodies of water.

Cable cars

In some places, particularly mountainous regions, cable cars are used 


Some mountains have inclines 


Most public transportation require payment of a fare in order to ride. On buses, the fare is typically paid upon boarding. Rail services generally have machines at stations from which tickets or tokens can be purchased, and these are placed in a slot, after which the passenger passes through a turnstile. Some rail services use a proof-of-payment system in which the ticket is displayed to a conductor or fare enforcement officer who either is present on all trains, or may check random trains.

On some systems, there is a flat fare, regardless of the distance traveled. Others use a zone system, where the fare varies, depending on the number of zones in which one travels.

When it comes to a multi-vehicle trip, some systems offer transfers that allow riders to change vehicles, which may be for a fee or no charge. Some systems sell all day passes that allow for unlimited travel within a region.

Multi-trip tickets exist in most places too, allowing people to use the service 

Route maps and schedules

Most bus lines follow a fixed route along a single street or road or a series thereof. Generally, a map is published of this route, showing riders that route.

Bus and rail lines also have schedules of when trips run. The schedule is generally published in a timetable which usually reads in chart form.

Routes and schedules are usually published in printed brochures available in the area served by the line (and sometimes on buses) and/or on the internet.

The schedule of a bus or rail route may vary by time of day or day of the week.

Hours and frequency

Each service has operating hours, which in most cases, are not around the clock. Some lines may be limited to certain days of the week or peak hours.

Frequency refers to the intervals between scheduled runs. The frequency of a bus or rail service may vary by time of day or day of the week.