Millions of people in the USA use public transportation. Learn about your options to get around from place to place, such as buses and trains.
Find public transportation
Public transportation is an important part of life in the USA. Getting around can take up a lot of your time. If you live in a big city, you will have access to public transportation, including buses, taxis, the subway. Many cities also have vans or cars, especially for older adults and people with disabilities. If you are choosing where to live, try to find an apartment or house near public transportation, if possible.
At first, it may be difficult to understand directions and you may get lost. Google Maps is one of the best resources to help you find what you are looking for. It is an online tool that will give you directions to where you are going via walking, public transportation, or driving.
You will also need to learn how the buses and subways work.
Public buses are usually the cheapest way to get from one place to another. They can be crowded and slow, however.
You can often buy a weekly or monthly bus pass. Older adults and students may even be able to ride the public transportation bus for free.
You can find out how to buy a bus pass in your city by searching online. Type the name of your city and then the words “bus pass information.”
Traveling by bus can be confusing. Here are some tips to help you learn to ride the bus.
Planning your bus journey
- Most buses have a route name or number. For example, you may ride bus number 52. This bus will follow the same route every time and will stop at the same places.
- Find your bus route. There should be maps online of all bus routes in your town or city. If you need help, go to the main bus station in town and ask for help from the information desk. They may have printed maps to give you, and most bus stations have maps on large information boards. Many buses also have scheduled times to arrive at each stop.
- Buses usually have different hours on weekdays (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) and weekends (Saturday and Sunday). The bus may also have different hours or not run on holidays, such as Christmas.
- Practice your bus ride before your first day of work or school. This way, you will know the bus route (the roads the bus drives on) and recognize the bus stop where you need to get off.
Starting your bus journey
- Find your nearest bus stop. Try to be a few minutes early in case the bus is early. More often, if there is a lot of traffic or road construction, the bus may be late. You may want to take an early bus to make sure you arrive to work on time.
- When you see the bus with your number coming, stand by the bus stop sign and wave your arm. This way, the driver will know to stop and pick you up. Usually, you get on at the front door of the bus by the driver.
On the bus
- Pay the bus driver your fare, which is the price for your bus ride. It is often cheaper to buy a monthly bus pass if you will be riding the bus a lot. You need to have the exact change for the bus. This means if the bus costs $1.50 you need to have one dollar and fifty cents. The bus driver will not give you change.
- If you are unsure where to get off the bus, tell the bus driver. You can bring a piece of paper with you that says the name of the place you are going. You may also want to have your name on the paper.
- Find an empty seat or something to hold onto if there are no seats.
- Seating for people with disabilities or older adults is usually located at the front of a bus. You must give up these seats to older adults, people with disabilities, or pregnant women. If you are young and you see an older adult on the bus, it is polite to give them your seat anyway. But remember in the US, the first person to get a seat has the right to the seat, so do not feel bad if you are older and no one gives you their seat.
Getting off the bus
- Before you reach your stop, you sometimes need to ring a bell or buzzer, typically located on the wall or ceiling of the bus, to tell the bus driver to stop. Do this unless you are sure the bus stops at every stop. Ask for help if you need it.
- Normally, you use the back or side door to get off of the bus. Wait until the bus has stopped moving to get off. You can watch how other passengers get off and copy what they do.
- If the bus is not crowded, it is nice to thank the bus driver when you get off.
Subway and metro systems
Subways and metro systems are city railways that move large numbeers of people from station to station. Most of the trains travel underground in tunnels, but sometimes the trains go above the ground too. In big cities, the subway or metro system is often the most convenient and fastest way to travel because they are unaffected by traffic. However, the metro system often costs more than riding the bus.
Each big city has a different subway system. For all subway systems, some things are the same:
- You will need to buy a ticket or pass before you can travel. There are ticket machines in every station. If you need help, there will be a person at the station. There may be a ticket window with a person to help.
- Every subway system has a map to show lines and stations. Subway lines are like train lines. They have set routes and stations to stop at. You will need to learn how to read the subway map.
- Each station will have more than one platform for getting on and off the train. You will need to know which direction you are going to choose the platform.
- Most subway systems have more than one line. You will need to know what line your starting station and destination station are on. You may have to change lines and platforms at another station during your journey.
- Many big cities have online guides with instructions on how to use the subway system. There are online guides for Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington DC.
You can find information for other subway systems by searching online. Type the name of your city and then the words “subway system information.”
Other forms of transportation
If you live in a smaller town or in the rural areas of the country, you may need to get a car and a driver’s license. You may also be able to car-pool (get a ride with someone who has a car). Sometimes, the best transportation is walking or riding a bicycle.
If you live in a big city with public transportation, you probably do not need a car. However, if you live in the suburbs or in a city without a good bus or metro system, you may want to get a car. Having a car is very convenient. Before you can get a car, you must pass a driving test. You also have to be able to pay for the car and for car insurance. In the USA, the law says you must have car insurance. You will need information about driving in the USA. You will need to learn the driving regulations. To do this, you can read the US driver’s manual in many languages.
Biking is a great and low-cost way to get around your city. Biking is especially good if you live in a smaller town.
Biking alongside cars can be frightening. Many larger cities now have bicycle routes and biking lanes to make it easier to bike around the city. There are special rules for riding your bike that you should know. You should ride your bike going the same direction as car traffic, you should learn common hand signals to tell other drivers what you are doing, and you should wear a helmet. You can find your state’s bike laws.
Bicycles are easy to steal and are in great demand, so invest in a good lock and be sure to always secure the entire frame and wheels to a solid metal object. Learn how to lock your bike. Most schools and workplaces have bicycle parking areas.
A taxi is a car you hire to take you from one place to another. Taxis are common in big cities like New York, and some business people take taxis every day. However, taxis are very expensive, and they can get stuck in traffic, just like buses.
Carpooling and ride-shares
One great way to get places is to carpool with someone else who has a car or to use a ride-share. This means a group of people ride together in one car to the same location. For example, you might carpool to work if you live near someone who works at the same job as you. Or you might have your children participate in a carpool to go to school activities. If you are going to carpool, you must make sure the driver of the car has a valid driver’s license and up-to-date insurance.
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