Airport Public Transit Directory
Using public transportation is one of the cheapest, and in many places, the best way
to get around a city.  However, using it can be confusing, intimidating and daunting for
those not familiar with it.  Even those who are must learn how each system in each
city works.  Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years.  And don't be too
concerned about it, you’ll pick it up quick.


FINDING THE BUS STOP

One of the hardest things about riding the bus from the airport is finding the stop.  The
quickest and easiest thing to do is ask the attendant at the tourist information booth,
the airport information booth, or an airport employee.  If you need to find it yourself,
find where the passenger pickup and drop off area is for the airport.  It is usually
somewhere around there.  Try the furthest island from the terminal.  Look for a small
sign with either a bus on it or the abbreviation of the transit authority.  A rain shelter or
a bench may mark the location.  If the pickup/drop off area is two levels, try the top
level first.   


HOW TO PAY THE FARE

Several fare collection systems exist throughout the U.S.  And it seems every system
has its own set of rules.  First is the
cash system, whereby you pay the fare on the
bus only with cash.  It is safe to assume that exact change is required and that only
coins can be used (no pennies).  While a good number of public transportation
companies now have the ability to make change and accept paper money, many still
do not.  Assume they do not, and you’ll be fine.

Another system is the
ride card, where money is put on a card and is deducted each
time you ride.  You can “reload” the cards with money as needed.  Cities with this
system usually have a light rail or subway component where the cards can be
purchased at the rail stations, the transportation authority’s office, possibly retail
outlets like news stands and drug stores, and often directly on buses.  When using
ride cards, you want to make sure you do not put too much money on them, only what
you think you’ll use.  Also, look for day pass options if you plan to do a lot of traveling.

A few transportation companies still use
tokens.  Tokens must be purchased ahead
of time and are dropped into the collection box in the front of the bus.  On buses, cash
is often accepted in lieu of a token.  

A few other tips:

    1. Never buy a ride card or token from anyone on the street.  It may be a fake,
    and in some cities, its illegal to sell or resell passes of any kind.
    2. Before going through a turnstile in a rail station, watch to see how others
    pay the fare (where to put the card, how to drop the money).  This varies from
    place to place and you don’t want to cause a backup not knowing how to do
    this.
    3. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask the driver or a transit authority
    employee a question.  That’s their job, and most are more than happy to help.  


SIGNALING FOR A STOP

On buses, signaling the driver that you want to get off at the next stop can be done by
a number of ways depending on the specific bus.  Older buses have a string you pull
located above the windows on either side.  You will hear the bell, signaling the driver
has been notified.  Newer buses have bars in various locations, but always near the
rear door, that you press to signal the driver.  Most buses will have a “Stop
Requested” light come on when someone signals for a stop.  If you are really new to
this, just tell the driver where you want to go and most of the time they will gladly help
you and tell you where to get off.

On subways and trains, all stops are made without signaling, unless you are on an
“express”.  Expresses only make key stops, and usually only operate during rush
hour.  Only the largest cities (New York, for example) have expresses.  


TRANSFERS

Since there are times you may need to take multiple buses or trains to get to your
destination, be sure you get a “transfer.”  A “transfer” is a free pass to get on another
bus or train, going in a different direction, within a given time period.  When on a bus
(or if you are connecting from a bus) you would typically need to ask the driver for a
“transfer”.  He will hand you a sheet of paper that you will show the next driver.  
Sometimes transfers cost something, usually a fraction of the original fare (25 cents
is typical).  Most transfers are free, however.  When going from a bus to a subway, an
additional fare is sometimes added.  If you go from a subway to a bus, it is almost
always free.  If you are coming from a subway, transfers must be obtained BEFORE
you go through the turnstile.  Look around, there may be a machine that stamps
transfers on your pass card, or a machine that gives you a transfer slip.  Some
systems have transfers at the turnstile itself.  But be sure to figure it out before you go
through or you’ll be paying full fare for your bus connection.  If an agent is around, ask
him or her how it is done.  

For subway systems, lines are connected via tunnels, so transfers can be made to
other subway lines without any kind of transfer slip.


KNOWING WHERE YOU’RE AT

One of the hardest things to do in a new city is to figure out where you are while riding
a bus.  As I mentioned before, telling the driver where you need to go and staying
close to him is advantageous.  It is always good to have a detailed map and follow
along as you ride.  If nothing else is available, the route maps, often located behind
the driver, can help you navigate.  For buses going downtown, it should be fairly
obvious when you get there, but you may want to confirm it with the driver.  If you are
staying at a hotel, ask ahead of time what bus stop or rail station is nearest the hotel.  


SAFETY

I have never felt unsafe during any of my time on public transportation.  Nevertheless,
one should always take general precautions while riding.  On a bus, if you feel
uncomfortable, move to a seat closer to the driver.  Alert the driver if you feel
threatened or see trouble.  Keep an eye on your wallet, purse and other belongings,
as pickpockets find buses and subways, with all their distractions, fertile ground.  


RETURNING TO THE AIRPORT

Be sure to allow ample time for your return to the airport.  When you look at the
schedule for your return route, be sure to look at the time of arrival to the airport, and
determine your departure accordingly.  Allow for delayed buses and heavy traffic.  I’ve
cut it close a number of times by taking a bus that got delayed.  Be sure you give
yourself an “out,” a time that you give up on the bus and hail a cab.
 
United States Edition