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What Are the Disadvantages of Public Transportation?

Using public transportation can be stressful.
If a bus is running late, then all of its passengers may be late to their destination.
Pre-determined schedules and limited coverage for some areas can be a drawback of public transportation systems.
Threats to personal safety is a major disadvantage of public transportation.
Public transportation is often not available in places where it is most needed.
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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2014
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While using public transportation transit can be a great way to save money while traveling, it also has several disadvantages that travelers should be aware of. These include possible threats to personal safety, irregularities in scheduling, and the fact that, in some communities, mass transit has limited coverage and is available during limited hours. Travelers who plan to rely on public transportation should take the time to familiarize themselves with the systems available in places where they visit in order to avoid difficulties and danger. Pre-trip investigation is particularly important for those who have disabilities, as some public transportation systems are less accommodating than others.

A primary consideration of travelers should be whether they can actually get to the places that they wish to visit via public transportation. In some communities, routes can be very limited, which can be a major disadvantage for travelers who do not have an alternative means of getting around. If a traveler does visit a place where the main attractions or accommodation options are not near public transportation routes, he or she may need to inquire about private transportation services, such as taxicabs. Another consideration is that public transportation services do not always operate during evening, holidays, or weekend hours. Again, if a traveler is staying in a relatively remote area, this can cause significant difficulties unless the traveler can secure private transportation.

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For many travelers, the most significant disadvantage of public transportation is the possibility of being attacked or robbed. In situations where travelers are unfamiliar with the customs or language of a particular place, they may be particularly vulnerable to being targeted by criminals. Tourists may wish to speak to local guides or hotel employees about the safety of different public transportation options.

While less serious than deficits in coverage or the problem of crime, the unreliability of some systems remains one of the more significant disadvantages of public transportation. Various types of public transit are subject to malfunctioning equipment as well as service disruptions caused by emergencies and even labor strikes. These disruptions can create problems for tourists who have carefully planned their day's activities, only to find that they are significantly delayed because of track construction or a broken down vehicle. In some cases, travelers can avoid routes that are having problems by checking the status of various train lines and bus routes at stations or online.

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Discuss this Article

JessiC
Post 15

Public transportation really does offer several advantages. It helps people in urban areas function quite well without cars, and that can save a really huge expense for them.

However, for those of us who are only used to using cars because we don’t live in those urban areas, public transportation can be very confusing.

I know that when my sister left our small home town to go to a semi-large city with a bus route that she almost lost her mind figuring out the concept.

She could ride all over the city, but could never actually figure out how to get where she was going. She had never actually ridden the bus before and had no clue how to use it.

Can you imagine riding around and around on the bus until you found a spot you recognized? That’s what she had to do.

blackDagger
Post 14

I took a group of thirteen high school students to New York City a few years ago with a colleague/friend. We were both teachers, he visual art and I theatre arts. We thought that exposure to NYC would be great for these students.

We were coming from a very rural community and we knew that there were several of our children who had never even left our county, let alone flown across several states to go to a huge city.

We, however, had both been to the city several times and felt pretty well prepared.

So, you can imagine how much fun our kids made of us when we got confused with the subway maps. We just couldn’t make heads or tails of where we were on the thing.

One of our girls, a sophomore at the time, actually figured it out and was our subway navigator for the rest of the week.

summing
Post 13

One big disadvantage of public transportation is that it is incredibly expensive to set up and operate, particularly trains, subways and light rail.

I live in St Louis and we have a light rail system called Metro Link. There are not a lot of stops, the train runs in places that are not really convenient for anyone and there is often delays and service outages.

As a result there is not a lot of use of Metro Link and they loose money every year. This is on top of the fact that it cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build. If it continues to struggle as badly as it has there is a chance that the system will be shut down entirely and all that money they put into building it will have been a waste. That seems like a big disadvantage in my book.

lighth0se33
Post 12

@orangey03 - That is truly scary. I had a bad experience with a train ride, too, and I could have been seriously hurt if another passenger hadn’t stepped in to help me.

An old man sat down next to me and started telling me his life story. I listened politely, and when I eventually tried to excuse myself to go to the bathroom, he grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let me get up. I made a scene and broke free anyway.

When I came back, he was gone. I sat back down until the train stopped. I got up to leave, and he grabbed me from behind, pulling me toward the back of the train. The guy in the seat across from me saw it, and he tackled the old man. I had to fill out a police report, and they arrested him.

orangey03
Post 11

I rode a train across several states to visit my boyfriend once. It scared me so bad that I will never use public transportation again.

I sat down by myself. Perhaps I should have picked a nice normal person to sit by. Then maybe I wouldn’t have ended up next to a psychopath.

He plopped down beside me and started staring at me intently. I tried to make light conversation to ease the awkwardness. He would say a few words, but he kept smiling at me creepily, and his gaze never left me.

After about an hour of this, he started talking to me about his ex-girlfriend and how she did him wrong. He told me all the horrible things that he wanted to do to her to get revenge, but he knew he would go back to prison if he did them. He also kept telling me how much I looked like her.

StarJo
Post 10

I have a friend who lives about a mile from a bus stop in town. He does not own a car and cannot afford one, so he has to hike to the bus stop.

It is really inconvenient on days that are too cold or too hot. Also, he can’t go grocery shopping on rainy days. On days when there is a severe thunderstorm going on, he still has to walk to the bus stop to get a ride to work if none of his friends are available to take him. He had to invest in a really good raincoat and rain boots.

Perdido
Post 9

Ever since my dad and I had a wreck several years ago through no fault of our own, I have problems trusting drivers on the road. That also includes anyone driving a vehicle in which I am a passenger.

I tried riding a bus once not long after the wreck. I ended up cringing at every intersection, afraid that either someone would pull out in front of us or that the bus driver would not stop.

Because I am this way now, I just drive my car wherever I go. It probably costs more in gas, but it is worth it to keep my sanity.

Acracadabra
Post 8

Transportation and global warming are two key issues in my life. I do try to use buses and subways when I can to limit my carbon footprint. Biking is another good option for me.

The major disadvantage for me is when I am in a new place and don't know the system well.I went to another city for work and decided to do some sightsee-ing. Sadly I got on a limited express train by mistake and spent most of my free time backtracking!

popcorn
Post 7

When you are choosing a city to move into it is a good idea to check out reviews of their transportation system. You would be surprised how many cities have limited service areas and expensive fares.

I made the mistake of not investigating the disadvantages of the public transportation system in the town I moved into and found out that they had very few routes and not a lot of buses on the road. While that is fine for most people I really needed the buses to get to and from work.

Having to wait an hour to get a bus home in the middle of winter was brutal. I soon moved to another city with much better transportation. A good rule of thumb is to do all of your research on a city before moving there.

manykitties2
Post 6

One of the big disadvantages I find with public transportation is the lack of security on subways during rush hour. A lot of women face unwanted touching and groping when a car is too crowded and it is impossible to tell where the inappropriate behavior is coming from.

In many large Asian cities that have recognized this disadvantage of public transportation and have made women only subway cars that have clearly marked areas for females only. They also make sure to have enough security around to prevent anyone from getting any ideas. I think all mass transportation systems should have this kind of system in place during rush hour.

BrickBack
Post 5

@Oasis11 - I wanted to add that I also think that tourists are better off taking a cab when they are going to their destination because if they rent a car and are unfamiliar with the area they could go into dangerous neighborhoods without even realizing it.

A few years ago a group of German tourists were murdered here in Miami because their rental car noted a different county on the license plate. They ended up in a bad part of town and the perpetrators saw the out of area license plate which escalated the crime.

Now all vehicles in the state of Florida have to have their license plate read “The Sunshine State” where previously this section would denote the county where the vehicle was registered. This way no one could tell if a vehicle is a rental or not.

oasis11
Post 4

@Sunshine31 - I agree and I think that finding a place to park in some cities might give you enough of a reason to take public transportation. The nice thing about using your own car is that it is not only more comfortable, but you can play the music that you want and make sure that no one smokes in your car.

You really can’t do that in a bus or train. The operator really has to be the one to tell the person to put out the cigarette. I took a bus ride once in a theme park which was easier then taking our car each time, and I have to say that I was offended by the station that the bus driver had on.

This was a major theme park that catered to children and the bus driver was playing Howard Stern on the radio. So the choice of radio can make a big difference when you take public transportation.

sunshine31
Post 3

@SauteePan - I believe that there are advantages and disadvantages of public transportation. It is not all bad. A lot of people save money on gas by not using their car. Some people that rely on public transportation don’t even have a car by choice so they also save money by not having a car payment.

In a city like New York City where there is virtually no parking or the available parking is very expensive it makes more sense to use public transportation than a car. There are areas in Manhattan that charge about $600 a month for a monthly parking pass.

When you consider these costs along with the car payment, and insurance it is easy to understand why most people in New York City choose public transportation instead of driving in their own car.

SauteePan
Post 2

@Icecream17 - I also think that waiting for the subway train or bus can be dangerous especially at night because you are vulnerable to others. Risking your safety can give people enough of a reason to car pool or get their own vehicle. You are also dependant on the driver to get you where you are going safely.

If the driver is distracted or under the influence it can cause them to have an accident so you are also risking your life. When you are waiting around for the bus you will also be subjected to whatever the weather condition are so if it suddenly starts raining you will need to have an umbrella or you will get drenched.

icecream17
Post 1

For me the biggest public transportation disadvantage is that you are always dependent on someone else’s schedule. If a train is late, so are you. You really have no control over you day and have to make sure that you get to the bus or train station on time or else you will have to wait for the next one.

I also know that subways can be a little warm so there is a lack of comfort that you experience with a bus or a train that you don’t have with your own car.

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