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Mass Transit

Mass Transit is comprised of the modes of travel such as busses and trains that transport large groups of people from one place to another.  Only about five percent of commuters use mass transit but overall ridership has been increasing.  However, it has been increasing at a much slower pace than the ridership of cars and using one's own vehicle.  The use of public transit is much more common in larger cities where there may be longer commuting times and costs associated with driving a car.  To learn more about congestion costs please visit our section on Automobile Externalities.  Mass transit is also most commonly used by those who have lower incomes.  This is most likely because public transportation is the most efficient in monetary costs even though it may be more time-consuming or not as pleasant overall.

Modal Choice

Modal choice is choosing which method of transportation to use to get from one place to another, usually back and forth between home and work.  The three main options are using a car, taking the bus, or riding the train.  There are three important parts to consider when deciding on which mode of transportation is best for you. The first is the collection costs of the trip.  This is the travel that exists between the place of residence and the vehicle in which they choose to travel.  The second cost is the line-haul. This is measured as the time and money spent during travel actually within the vehicle.  The distribution cost is the last part of the trip consisting of the time going from when you leave the vehicle to the actual destination.  There are monetary and time costs associated with the whole trip and these three parts added together equal the total cost which helps to decide which mode to use.  Consider the following which compares the three modes of transportation from which to choose:

Collection, Line-Haul, and Distribution Costs


(time only)
Time           Money
(time only)
Low          Highest
Very Low
Highest     Lowest
Lowest      Low

From this table we can discern why certain people may choose the modes that they do.  Because the train has the lowest in the time costs and  a relatively low money cost for the line-haul part of the commute is why many poor people take that option.  However, those with a higher income can afford to pay more money for their trip thus reducing the total time and making the trip at their own convenience.  To get more people to switch from driving their cars to using public transportation the government can impose a congestion tax or a gasoline tax.  This may discourage drivers from the road and force them to look at other methods of transportation.

Costs and Revenues

Currently, there is low revenue for public transit because ridership is down and fares haven't kept up with inflation over the years.  Most people would continue riding if the fares were to increase and there would be very few people who would stop riding due to a relatively inelastic demand for mass transit.  This would thus increase total revenue.  Another reason that revenue is low is because the costs associated with public transit have been increasing as well.  This is occurring because of low density development in areas where the ridership is lower.  Also, wages have been inflated because mass transit is highly unionized.  Also, the relationship between ridership and employment plays a factor because ridership has only increased about six percent in recent years while employment has gone up about a hundred percent. Finally, off-peak ridership is down so less people are riding it during the non-business hours of the day and on weekends. 

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