TABLE A-1 Public- and Private-Sector Roles in Providing Public Transit Service in the United States, Canada, and Selected Countries of Western Europe


National Role

State and Regional Role

Local Role

Private-Sector Role

United States

The federal government provides state and local governments with aid for the provision of transit infrastructure and equipment, contributing about half of transit capital funds. A small share of operating revenues is provided by the federal government (the share is largest for small transit systems).

Many states provide revenue for transit capital and operations. A few have state transit agencies with operating authority. Most have established regional transit districts for each metropolitan area. State-approved regional taxes (such as sales taxes) are sometimes used to generate the revenue for major capital improvements or operating subsidies.

County and city governments often provide operating subsidies for regional transit agencies. The revenue is derived from local property taxes, sales taxes, and other local sources. Transit is sometimes organized at the county or city level, rather than the regional level.

Private transit contracting is common in some states and most prevalent in California. Private businesses compete to provide specific transit services (or management functions) that are paid for and prescribed by state and local governments or by public transit authorities. The practice is most common for specialized transit services such as paratransit and support services such as maintenance. A small number of larger systems contract on a more widespread basis for fixed-rate service.

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