The developmental history of the U.S. public transportation industry has had much to do with shaping the declining role that mass transit plays in urban transportation today. This paper deals with the trends that have structured the industry, beginning with a discussion of the forces of decline. Many theories about the actual mechanism of this decline have been held by urban planners. Our hypothesis takes into account the possibility that inadequate understanding of the interacting mechanisms within the formerly private transit infrastructures by the various local and national governments eventually placed the operating companies on such poor financial footing as to make essential the current efforts of governments toward direct subsidy in order to rectify their previous mistakes. We have emphasized the financial and regulatory problems that have hampered the transit industry. It is recognized, however, that transit ridership has, for the past 50 years, slowly and predictably declined after leveling off during the immediate post-World War I years--well before the automobile had its major impact on suburbanization. However, any attempts by the industry to reverse its declining fortunes during the critical years of rapid urban change were hampered by the effects of the governments' antitrust actions against elements of the transit industry. Not all of the blame for the problems facing the transit industry can be placed on state and federal governments. It is our opinion that the industry's inability to respond to changing public needs within reasonable periods of time and its lag in adopting new technology, save as stopgap measures, have exacerbated declining ridership trends and accelerated change in the mobility habits of the public.

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    • Sponsored by Committee on Passenger and Freight Transportation Characteristics. Distribution, posting, or copying of this PDF is strictly prohibited without written permission of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials in this PDF are copyrighted by the National Academy of Sciences. Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
  • Authors:
    • Saltzman, Arthur
    • Solomon, Richard J
  • Conference:
  • Publication Date: 1972

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Figures; References;
  • Pagination: pp 1-11
  • Monograph Title: Public transportation and passenger characteristics
  • Serial:

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00043910
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 0309020891
  • Files: TRIS, TRB
  • Created Date: Jun 1 1973 12:00AM