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Get the Most Out of Public Transportation

According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), public transit ridership topped its highest level in 50 years in 2007. And whether due to high fuel prices--currently hovering around $4 per gallon--or the desire be environmentally conscious and cut down on carbon emissions to save energy and the environment (or a little of both), the numbers are expected to continue rising.

It is estimated that the average American commutes approximately 32 miles roundtrip to and from work everyday, which in some crowded, auto-plagued cities like Los Angeles calculates to about 33 mph. But these days, a whole lot of folks are seeking ways to get the most out of public transportation.

There are numerous ways to get around, via more than 6,500 public and community transportation providers, in fact, including buses, trolleys and light rail, commuter trains, streetcars, cable cars, van pool services, paratransit services for senior citizens and people with disabilities, ferries and water taxies and monorails and tramways.

In heavily population urban areas, a good public transit system is said to not only facilitate an easier and more cost effective way to travel, but also encourage economic and social activities, and help create strong neighborhood centers that are economically stable, safe and productive, the APTA reports.

It may not be feasible for you, based on where you live, work, family activities and the like, to use public transportation everywhere you go. But if you can, even once in a while, following are a few tips to help make your journey more comfortable and enjoyable:

- "_______ Accepted Here." Find out if you need exact change, can use small coins such as pennies and nickels (i.e. for train station machines or about prepaid (and sometimes discounted) rider cards. Being prepared with the proper payment will keep the loading process rolling along for you and your fellow passengers.

- Get a printed route schedule. Knowing when and where to get picked-up and dropped off helps when planning to ride. It's also a good idea to arrive five to ten minutes early to compensate for slightly early or late transit arrivals and departures.

- Be courteous to your fellow passengers. Crowded, rush hour transit is not always the most comfortable experience, but good manners still goes a long way. Vacate front seats for passengers with special needs i.e. the elderly or disabled (a mandatory law in many cities), and offer your seat to pregnant women and/or those traveling with small children or a handful of packages, if possible.

- Hold on! There's nothing worse that playing WWF smack down with a stranger if you or they failed to hold while in transit. Even if you are seated, grab a handle, brace yourself against the armrest or take some other measure to prevent such encounters.

Lastly, enjoy the ride!

Lysa Allman-Baldwin possesses over 12 years of experience as a Freelance Writer. Her feature articles covering a wide variety of topics appear regularly in several print and on-line publications.

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