Need expat info for USA?

Connect with fellow expats in the USA
Join exciting events and groups
Get information in our USA guides
Exchange tips about expat life in the USA

Public Transport in the USA

Driving may be a favorite form of transportation in the US, but it is certainly not the only one. Read our article on public transport in the USA to learn more about a range of travel options, from domestic flights to US trains and coaches, as well as common forms of public transport in cities.
Chicago’s elevated trains are a famous city feature and an important part of the local public transport network.

Driving a car has a long tradition in the United States and is usually the most convenient form of transportation that you can find when it comes to everyday life in the US. This is especially the case for more rural areas and towns, where you will be hard pressed to find even a local bus service. It is hardly surprising then, that more than 90% of American households have one or more vehicles available. However, at least in bigger towns and cities, there are alternative options for those who cannot or do not want to use a car to get around, both for local and intercity trips.

Local Public Transport

Public transport can usually be found in the form of bus systems in bigger towns and cities. Charges for a one-way journey typically range around $1 to $2 and are paid in cash when getting on the bus. A number of larger cities can also offer trams or other forms of local railway systems, both over and underground. Famous examples are San Francisco’s cable car system, Chicago’s elevated trains, and the New York City subway.

If you are planning on using the public transport network in your hometown regularly, please inform yourself about the availability of weekly, monthly or yearly passes. These will not only save you the hassle of paying separately for every single journey, but are typically considerably cheaper than the sum of their single charges. In big cities with an extensive public transport network, you may also be able to get a so-called tap card with which you can pay for your trips cash- and hassle-free.

Last but not least, taxis are similarly common in big cities. You can either order one by phone, or try to flag down a cab on the street. At transportation hubs such as airports or central train stations, you will typically find some waiting for customers. Cabs are metered and prices vary greatly not only from state to state, but often also from city to city, with a national average of around $2.35 per mile. In addition, you will be charged a basic fee of $2 to $3 per trip and are expected to tip the driver approximately 15% of the total fare.

Domestic Flights

Due to the sheer size of the United States and competitive prices, interstate travel by plane has become more and more popular in recent decades. Domestic air travel in the USA is considered reliable and the US airport network is extensive. There are around 500 commercial service airports all across the country, operating numerous flights every day. Nearly 90% of all commercial service flights are domestic, i.e. used for travel in the US. 

There are many different airlines operating on the US market, both regional and international. These include, but are obviously not limited to:

  • American Airlines and US Airways merged at the end of 2013 and now form the world’s largest airline.
  • Delta Air Lines is a US airline with an extensive international and domestic network.
  • JetBlue is a low cost US airline offering both domestic as well as international flights in cooperation with international partner airlines.
  • Southwest Airlines is one of America’s biggest low-cost airlines.
  • United Airlines is also one of the world’s largest airlines.

However, while flying is certainly the fasted form of long-distance travel in the US, it is often the most expensive, especially in comparison to buses, trains or travel by car. So if you have the time and would like to save a bit of money, enjoy the scenery during your travels or bring along more than one piece of luggage free of charge, then you will surely be interested in the following, alternative forms of public transport in the USA.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.