Ground Transportation In The United States: Everything You Need To Know

In the U.S., the majority of people drive passenger vehicles: cars, vans, trucks and motorcycles. Some cities have more robust public transportation than others, so it’s good to know what your choices are if you’re planning a trip around the States. While you can certainly fly from city to city, ground transportation is more environmentally friendly and often offers a scenic route. Here’s a roundup of the most commonly used ground transportation options in the United States. 

ground transportation in the united states
Greyhound is the largest bus network in the United States | GREYHOUND

Buses

The most prominent bus company in the United States is Greyhound. With a large footprint, the company operates routes to nearly 3,000 destinations throughout the country. They even have routes in Mexico and Canada. Since bus transportation obviously takes longer than flying, Greyhound makes the experience as comfortable as possible by offering WiFi, restrooms, individual power outlets and reclining seats on all buses.

As the largest service provider in bus transportation, Greyhound is making responsible strides in greening their fleet. All new Greyhound buses are built with the latest emissions-reducing parts. And refurbished buses have been given the green treatment too – with upgrades that help increase engine efficiency and fuel economy. At their bus stations, they utilize energy-efficient lighting and environmentally-friendly landscaping, which we also love.

BoltBus is Greyhound’s brand of non-stop and limited-stop, premium-level bus routes. Similar to other Greyhound buses, BoltBus buses include free WiFi and individual charging outlets. They also tout leather seats and extra legroom for a premium on-board experience. Routes are focused on the Northeast and West Coast.

ground transportation in the united states
A double-decker Megabus arrives in downtown Los Angeles | MEGABUS

In addition to Greyhound, Trailways operates a fleet of 5,000 vehicles with routes across the entire United States. Megabus is another popular bus company that is a leader in sustainable bus travel. All Megabus double-decker buses are equipped with a GreenRoad system that assists in reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions, as well as provides real-time feedback to drivers on their driving style, including speed, braking, acceleration, lane-handling and turning. And while it has a predominant presence in Europe, Flix Bus also has a big footprint in the U.S.

ground transportation in the united states
Amtrak’s Capitol Limited train traveling through Pennsylvania | CHASE GUNNOE AMTRAK

Trains

Unlike many other countries, traveling by train in the U.S. can be very expensive. Sometimes it can cost just as much as a flight but takes longer to get to the destination. However, there are different rail passes you can buy depending on the length of your trip. The trains usually have large windows for you to enjoy the views of the passing landscape. 

The major train company in the U.S. is Amtrak. They service almost every state in the U.S. There are usually three classes of service: coach, business, and sleeper. The Pacific Surfliner is a very popular, scenic route that travels along California’s coast. You can travel between San Diego and San Luis Obispo. The Pacific Northwest route is another memorable scenic train experience. This train goes from San Francisco all the way north to Seattle and back.  

ground transportation in the united states
A subway station in New York, operated by the MTA | JOE ZLOMEK

Commuter Rail

Most major cities have commuter rail systems connecting to nearby suburbs. These can be perfect for day trips into the bigger cities. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is North America’s largest transportation network, serving over 15 million people across a 5,000-square-mile travel area surrounding New York City through Long Island, southeastern New York State, and Connecticut.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Commuter Rail covers the Boston area, Metra is in the Chicago area and in San Francisco, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has several options, in addition to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART).

Ride Sharing

As far as ride sharing goes, Uber and Lyft are widely used. Simply download the mobile app and type in your destination. There are many car types to choose from ranging from basic to luxury SUVs.

There are also shuttle services you can take from most airports in the country. Companies such as Go Airport Shuttle and Super Shuttle allow you to book your shuttle in advance. This is convenient because you don’t have to worry about getting to your destination once you land. 

ground transportation in the united states
A ferry pulls into the dock with Seattle’s iconic skyline in view | PAUL GALASSO

Ferries

Ground transportation in the United States also includes ferries. There are some cities in the U.S. that utilize this mode of transportation. In many cases, it’s used to take people and cars across large bodies of water where a bridge can’t be built.

The Catalina Ferry in Southern California is the perfect example. This ferry has departures out of Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point. It takes about an hour to get to Catalina Island. The Staten Island Ferry in New York shuttles passengers to and from lower Manhattan and Staten Island. It has breathtaking views of the city, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. And in Seattle, the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry transports passengers across Puget Sound daily.

-Carli Cuthbertson