Make Public Transportation Work for You (and Save Money)

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The following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, SK. SK writes about the reasons we get into debt, changing the patterns that get us into debt, and examines small business ownership and real estate investing at her blog, American Debt Project. Please welcome her to the MPFJ family! 

I live in Southern California, which is generally synonymous with car culture.

Heck, we even have Cars Land at Disneyland, which looks like an old Western town you might find along the 10 freeway 100 miles east of Los Angeles. We love our cars, and we do a lot of single-rider driving in our vehicles. I grew up here and never rode a bus until I was studying abroad in Spain, when the miracle of public transportation hit me. It’s only 55 cents to ride the bus, and it saves me a 30-minute walk or a 6 euro cab ride? What is this magical bus concept, I must know more! I’ve been much more receptive to public transportation ever since, and the following are a few tips to get over your hesitation to use public transportation.

1) You’re paying for it!

That’s right, you are paying for public transportation in your region already! Whether it comes from property taxes or a special sales tax (in LA, all future rail projects are funded by Measure R, a half-cent sales tax for the next 30 years), taxpayers fund public transportation. And it’s a lot of money! New capital projects are incredibly expensive. Light rail lines cost anywhere from $100 million to $3 billion dollars, and bus rapid transit projects cost up to $100 million dollars. Service costs money as well, and all of these costs are funded in part by local taxpayers and in a smaller percentage with federal funds (still your money). So, if you see a brand new bus line or light rail in your town, try it out and see if you can use it for some of your transportation needs. After all, it’s out in place to serve your community and you paid for it!

2) Use public transportation for simple but long routes

I use public transportation fairly often, but I am lazy. I like to keep things simple. If I see the route I need to take has 4 bus transfers, I’m just going to drive. But, a rapid bus that goes straight from my house to downtown LA? I’ll take it. The $6 Flyaway bus that goes from LAX to Union Station? Nice! If you regularly find yourself traveling across town, research your public transit options—they might be easier than that drive you’ve been doing daily. Plus, it’s more than likely going to be less stressful for you doing the driving yourself!

3) Bring your pets, your bike, and your headphones

Not every bus or train allows pets, but you would be surprised to see that many do. Most buses also now have bike racks in front of the bus and you can bring your bike onto a train as well. Don’t forget music or a book to read- the best part of not driving is that you can actually use your time to do something productive! I recommend listening to a Joe Rogan podcast or Pandora’s Urban Comedy station.

4) Stay safe and alert

No matter what, you should take common sense precautions for safety. Don’t fall asleep on the bus, don’t mad dog anyone, and sit closer to the front. But, be sure to give up your seat for disabled people or seniors.

Public transportation doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Check out your service’s website and learn about the routes, schedules and fares. You can find a route to take every now and then or even more frequently to save money and try something different!

How about you all? How often do you use the public transportation in your area? Which mode of public transport do you like the most? 

What things have turned you off from taking public transportation in the past?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of


    1. Thomas S. Moore says:

      I love public transport. I use to take the train to work and I would just bring my iPad or iPhone and let the time pass by. I didn't have to worry about traffic or getting in an accident. Only thing I would say that is a bother is when its really full. Seems like there are some days that it impossible to find seating.
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