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U.S. ECONOMY > American Industries > Transportation > National Transit Summaries and Trends

National Transit Summaries and Trends (NTST)

The National Transit Summaries and Trends (NTST) presents aggregate transit operating statistics by mode. Fifteen transit modes are included in the National Transit Database, but for this publication, statistics are presented for the predominant modes: bus, heavy rail, light rail, commuter rail, demand response and vanpool. These modes provided the most transit service and change over the time frame considered, 1991 through 2003.



The most common form of mass transit service provided throughout the United States. Buses operate on fixed routes and schedules over existing roadways. Buses must be in compliance with mass transit rules including Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions.

Commuter Rail

Local (short-distance) travel operating between a central city and adjacent suburbs. Service is provided on regular schedules, moving commuters within urbanized areas or between urbanized areas and outlying areas. Multi-trip tickets and specific station-to-station fares characterize commuter rail service, with one or two stations in the central business district.

Heavy Rail

Heavy rail service is characterized by high-speed and rapid acceleration passenger rail cars operating singly or in multi-car trains on fixed electric rails; separate rights-of-way from which all other traffic is excluded; sophisticated signaling, high platform loading and a heavy passenger volume.

Demand Response

Service (passenger cars, vans or small buses) provided upon request to pick up and transport passengers to and from their destinations. Typically, a vehicle may be dispatched to pick up several passengers at different pick-up points before taking them to their respective destinations and may be interrupted en route to these destinations to pick up other passengers.

Light Rail

Light rail is an electric railway with a lighter passenger volume compared to heavy rail. Passenger cars operating singly (or in short, two-car trains) on fixed rails in shared or exclusive right-of-way, low or high platform loading characterize light rail service. The vehicle's power is drawn from an overhead electric wire.


Service operating under a ride sharing arrangement providing transportation to individuals traveling directly between their homes and a regular destination. The vehicles (vans, small buses, and other vehicles) must have a minimum seating capacity of seven. Vanpool(s) must also be in compliance with mass transit rules including Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions, be open to the public, availability must be advertised and the service must be operated by a public entity or a public entity must own, purchase or lease the vehicle(s).


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The numerical data in this section is solely for informational purposes. Please consult the original sources for updated information.