As public support became necessary to continue operation of the unprofitable transit systems, this transition to public involvement took place in varying degrees. The most basic extreme case is when a city would actually purchase the transit system from the old private company, with the transit system becoming a new city department. The city would assume ownership of the buses and garage, and the drivers and other employees would become city employees. In many cases, the city would inherit a run down bus system, and acquisition of new buses and a modern garage would become a priority.
Subsidies/Transit Management Contracts
Sometimes prior to the city acquisition of a bus system, the city might subsidize continued operation of the private company for a period of time. Sometimes the city would assume ownership of a bus system, but contract with a private transit management company for staffing of drivers and actual operation of the system. Sometimes the original private company would assume the transit management role, sometimes a different transit management company would be brought in.
Transit Management Companies
Links to official Web sites of the largest transit management companies. Included is information on the transit systems with which these companies have contracts. Although these contracts often do not include the entire transit systems. Sometimes only a few routes, and sometimes just the dial-a-ride operations, mainly for people with disabilites.
Public transportation traditionally serves cities. And the areas outside the city limits would typically be rural areas, not justifying traditional public transportation routes. But beyond some city limits are suburban areas, or sometimes another city. Or sometimes, a continuous suburban area would extend between multiple cities. In such metropolitan areas, transit systems of a more regional nature are needed. The formation of a regional transit system would typically require special provisions in the state laws, and sometimes voter approval. A regional transit system must be created with a board makeup and representation, which is acceptable to all. In some areas, politics and political differences have made it impossible to create unified regional transit systems.
In many metropolitan areas, it is most convenient for a regional transit system to exist at the county level. Such a transit system can be a county department. But more often, the regional transit authority is an independent government unit, although generally with board representation geographically reflecting the county. Some rural areas of a county might be left out of a transit district. In addition in some areas, the law may allow a community, by referendum, to vote against having a tax percentage levied to support public transportation. And appropriately, these communities do not get served by the regional transit systems.
The largest metropolitan areas include more than one county, and will usually have large multi county regional transit authorities. The northeastern part of the United States includes a few small densely populated states, where it was practical to create statewide public transit agencies.
Rural Transit Systems/Dial-A-Ride
Perhaps the newest and most common form of regional transit in the United States, is rural transit. Rural areas are difficult to serve efficiently, using conventional public transportation. But in recent years, it has been realized in many areas, that not everybody can drive. And that alternative transportation must be available. And unlike the days of interurban trains, bus routes can be more flexible, and telephones are more affordable. Thus is born the "dial-a-ride". More inexpensive than a taxicab. And transporting people wherever they wish to go, usually in a van shared with other passengers traveling in the same general direction. Usually a ride must be reserved by telephone, typically a day in advance. Most rural transit systems use dial-a-ride operations. Some systems are available to the general public, other systems are restricted to senior citizens, or to people with disabilities. Most rural transit systems serve one county, while some areas have formed multi county rural systems. And several states have formed rural transit systems covering the entire state, although divided into regions each containing several counties. In states without such participation at the state level, some counties do exist, where there is absolutely no public transportation.
In addition to dial-a-ride systems, some rural transit systems use scheduled fixed routes. Although generally operating only a few times a day, or sometimes only a few times a week. Some such fixed routes actually offer "route deviation" service, where by advance reservation, a bus may briefly deviate off the regular route to serve a specifically requested location.
Some of these rural transit system concepts are also used by some smaller city bus systems. Although city dial-a-ride systems usually can be reserved on shorter notice. It should be noted that all cities have at least some dial-a-ride service, in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). During hours of fixed route service, and in the area within 3/4 mile of the fixed route, such service must be available by law. Such service generally can be only used by those certified by a doctor, as having difficulties in using conventional public transportation.