The Place of Public Transportation in History

The Place of Public Transportation in History
  • Opening Intro -

    Public transportation. If you live off campus, you might need it to get to your courses.

    If you're preparing to enter the workforce for the first time, you'll probably depend on some form of it to commute.


There may not be an official class on it, but understanding the place of public transportation in history might make you appreciate the convenience a little bit more.

The First Travel Systems

You could define the origins of public transportation in many ways—hitching a ride on your medieval neighbor’s mule, for instance, or stowing away on a Viking ship for a quick trip to Constantinople to pick up some spices. But in terms of organized community transport, you would look to the invention of the bus.

In 1662, the great thinker Blaise Pascal came up with the idea for horse-drawn carriages with lots of seats that ran on a schedule across Paris. His idea failed for one fundamental reason: the system catered to the wealthy—and they already had their own carriages. It took two more centuries for France to figure out that the common man needed public transportation more than the nobility.

Shaping Communities

It wasn’t until train tracks started spreading out in the 1800s that city workers could move out of expensive cities. The world’s first suburbs formed along these lines, near stations that the locals could easily access.

Public transportation became a lifeline, especially for people who had to commute to their jobs and students who needed access to schools. This affected society in the following ways:

  • It created jobs and stimulated economies.
  • It opened up career possibilities for many people.
  • It eased traffic and residential congestion in urban areas.
  • It provided access to better facilities and services.
  • It proved to be much safer than traveling by car.
  • It linked different cities and countries for a new tourism industry.
  • It empowered residents who had a stake in their local transport.

Helping the Planet

Today, public transportation’s place is to stem the damage that solo travel has on the planet. Now, there are endless options for anyone who needs to get from here to there, including:

  • Buses
  • Commuter trains
  • Subways
  • Ferries and water taxis
  • Streetcars and trolleys
  • Cable cars
  • Monorails and tramways
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As options increased over the years, so did group travel—cutting down on individual transportation like cars, which release harmful emissions into the air. Public transportation has reduced gasoline consumption and our carbon footprint overall.

As awareness of environmental issues spread, more people are making it a point to support public transportation and urge others to do so, too. Millennials and Generation Z, who grew up with more information about the environment than their parents, are leading the charge.

Electric power is the next big move for many travel modes, which will encourage more commuters and be even kinder to the environment. Advances in public transportation connect us all, and they’re in no danger of slowing down.

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