The transportation system in U.S., like any other country, can be compared to the nervous system in a human body. The nerves play an important role in the well being of the human body. Like the nerves, the public transportation system is responsible for enabling wider connectivity. The public transportation system in many parts of U.S.A. is not similar to that in say, Delhi or Mumbai. As soon as you get here you must aim to get your own car. In the meantime you have to rely on the local bus and train transit system. Depending on where you live, you will find that not all locations are connected by public transportation and you may have to walk quite far to get to the nearest bus stop or train station.
For starters get a bus or train schedule so that you can easily look at bus and train routes. Alternatively you can look at the schedules online on the website of the local transport organizations. For example, currently Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is a special purpose district responsible for public transit services in Santa Clara County in the state of California. You can look for information on the official website or get road maps and schedules in the local buses and trains. These are available for free.
- You can purchase your daily tickets from the driver on the bus. For traveling in trains you have to purchase tickets from a ticket vending machine. You can also get a monthly pass.
- In local buses, the driver does not give back any change. Always carry the exact fair.
- If you are in doubt, you must confirm about the destination stop before boarding on the bus. You may ask the driver if the bus stops at the place you want to go.
- If you are a frequent traveler it is better to take monthly pass. The monthly pass is more economical than paying daily fare. It also relieves you from the hassle of making cash payment daily.
- In few cities there are free airport shuttles that connect passengers to the nearest public transport station.
- Few airports have door to door shuttle service, which is cheaper than a cab. The difference is that unlike a cab you will be sharing a ride with a group of passengers going in the same direction and it takes longer than a cab ride.
Unlike India, there are no taxi stands in U.S. and you will not find any cabs waiting at the roadside. You can find them listed in the yellow pages. In most cases, you will just have to call up and make an appointment for a taxi. But there is a separate taxi line at the Airport or at the Railway Stations.
How to call a cab:
Call up the number from your yellow pages, and give the operator details about where you are and where you want to go. The operator will tell you how long it might take for the taxi to arrive at your place and an estimate of the total fare. You must give your telephone number so that the cab driver can call you for directions. Always ask for the estimated fare of the ride beforehand.
- Call a taxi for a particular time. Do not make the driver wait too long as the meter starts at the time you have asked for the cab. Hop into the cab as soon as possible!
- Keep some cash ($1,$5,$10) with you. Many times taxi guys do not have the change and you might end up paying a little extra.
- You can also make a request for a wakeup call, when you book a cab for early morning.
- You can also ask for a receipt, especially, if you want to get the payment reimbursed from your company.
- It is always better to have the contact numbers of some cab companies so that you can call them as and when required.
One of the most convenient websites for planning your daily route is Google Maps (www.maps.google.com). You can enter the starting address and destination. You can select the 'public transit' option and you will get many suggested routes. You can play around with the options and add destinations, choose only bus routes/bus and train routes, and plan your day accordingly. If you are new to the country, you can also use the 'terrain' option to see the walking route as well. You can also get 'live traffic' updates on Google maps.
Inter City Transport
For inter city transport, buses are available in almost all the cities with the exception of limited train connections. The schedules and prices can be looked up online. One such intercity bus services is Grey Hound. You can also book your tickets online.
The basic goal of any public transit model is to provide convenient mobility in a timely and cost-effective manner. Unlike in India, you must plan your travel in advance and it is a rare case where you can get a cab driver without making a phone call! So if you have recently moved to the country and are used to getting hold of a taxi driver very quickly in India, please start looking for time schedules of local buses and the yellow pages!