In some ways, public transportation is all the same: a vehicle of size moves people from an origin to a destination. But the various types of transit can be as different as a cat is from a lion. Sure, they’re both members of the feline family and share some similarities, but we’re pretty sure you’d prefer to have little Fluffy eating in the kitchen rather than Mufasa. So, while buses, light rail, and streetcars are all designed to move people, they all, like members of a family, have their distinct characteristics. 

Let’s take a look at the members of our transportation family, detailing their unique traits. Which member do you align most with?

Bus:

Careful and Dependable.

The bus is the backbone of the transportation framework; the eldest sibling in the transit family. Buses are dependable, incredibly efficient, and convenient. They are also the most flexible form of public transit because they are not dependent on external power sources or tracks. Buses are cost-effective, too. Start-up expenses are minimal because buses run on city streets, bus stops are relatively inexpensive to construct, and routes can be altered easily to meet changes in passenger demand.  Buses can be fun to ride because passengers can meet new people or look out the window and see what’s happening in the passing neighborhoods.

Streetcar:

Resourceful and Hard Working

Our environmental superstars - the streetcar is the connected, resourceful tree hugger of the transit world. Streetcars are magnets for economic development and are, therefore, experiencing a major comeback in cities across the United States! They are symbols of civic pride and can enhance a city’s image. They have that “wow” factor. Businesses love streetcar lines as they are a permanent infrastructure improvement that is evidence of a long-term commitment to an area, and tourists love them because they are stylish and upscale. They run on electricity, so they are quiet, clean, and emit no vehicle exhaust. Because they run on tracks, they tend to provide a smoother and more comfortable ride than many other modes of transportation, allowing passengers to stand safely and giving streetcars the ability to maximize capacity, while minimizing their carbon footprint.

Light Rail:

Assertive and Energetic

Light rail is the streetcar’s energetic muscular cousin who wrestles in the high school gym. Light rail vehicles are usually a bit bigger than streetcar; they tend to run as multi-car units, often have their right-of-way, travel longer distances, and on average make less frequent stops than streetcars. These characteristics make light rail attractive to commuters who are looking for a dependable, uneventful, and quick trip into the city. The light rail allows riders to grab a seat and pull out some reading material while enjoying an efficient ride. Like their streetcar cousins, light rail runs on electricity, making it a quiet, smooth, and an ecologically friendly way to travel.

Transportation Network Company (TNC):

Clever and Creative

TNCs, like Uber and Lyft, use online platforms to connect passengers to drivers who use their personal vehicles to provide transportation. TNCs are convenient and flexible. They are the epitome of the “on-demand” economy.  Using a mobile app, a passenger must merely press a few buttons, and a ride is on the way. The app allows the passenger to track the assigned car in real time, pay without exchanging any cash, and rate the service. This mode of transit tends to be pricier than other forms of transportation particularly when demand is high as TNCs use surge pricing to boost fares, making this mode of transit the cool tech-savvy aunt who always arrives just in time, and always in style.

Bike and Scooter Sharing:

Altruistic and Humble

The free-spirited, spontaneous child with long, curly, uncontrolled hair who dances in the grass without any shoes. Dock-less, motorized bikes, and scooters (think Lime, Bird, and Jump) are great solutions to the first and last mile challenge. Particularly popular with younger riders who only need to go a short distance (perhaps a mile or two), they are convenient, good for the environment … and fun! These micro-mobility superstars provide personal health benefits, reduce pollution, and cut down on traffic congestion. They do, however, come with a caveat: they are not necessarily advisable for uncoordinated or easily distracted riders because they operate alongside vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and have yet to be regulated in many areas where they are operable. 

When a child asks a parent which sibling that parent loves the most, the answer is always, “I love you all the same.” Well, the same goes for our transit family. At any given time, one may be more convenient than another, or one may be more accessible or cost-effective than another. But, in general, public transportation that is well connected and highlights the unique qualities each mode of transit has to offer continues to build smart cities and connect our passengers to everyday life – and for that, we love them all! 

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