Public Transit in California

California has more than 100 public transit and bus districts, which serve individual cities, entire counties, or regions with bus, rail, trolley, and ferry service.

About 5.3 percent of Californians commute to work by public transit, which works out to millions of people each year.

Short-Distance (Urban) Transit

Short-Distance (Urban) Transit Ridership in California, Large Urban Areas, 2013

Urban Area Passenger Trips (1000s) Motor Bus % Heavy Rail % Light Rail % Commuter Rail % Other %
Los Angeles-Long Beach - Santa Ana681,56577.
San Francisco-Oakland449,67438.828.110.13.617.5
San Diego154,01054.
San Jose44,22174.
Riverside-San Bernardino25,79094.
Total Statewide Urban Transit1,434,266 65.212.312.12.37.0

Source: State Transportation Statistics, 2015, Table 4-3. U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovation Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Urban Transit Fuel Consumption

An increasing percentage of urban transit buses in California are fuel by natural gas, while the rail and trolleys in urban transit use electricity.

Fuel Consumption by Urban Transit Systems in California

Year Electricity,
Thousands of Gallons
Thousands of Gallons
Natural Gas,
Thousands of Gallons
Other Fuels,
Thousands of Gallons

Source: Energy Commission Analysis of National Transit Database NTD Data Reports 2009-2014

Long-Distance (Intercity) Transit

About 5.3 million passengers use AMTRAK for long distance travel via rail annually in California. Ridership on AMTRAK grew thirteen percent from 2009 to 2014 – more than twice the growth rate of California’s population as a whole. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has been promoting intercity passenger rail service since 1976 by augmenting Amtrak’s basic system of interstate trains. The Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin, and Capitol Corridor are funded primarily by the State of California. These trains (collectively referred to as Amtrak California) operate in addition to Amtrak’s own interstate trains – the Coast Starlight, the California Zephyr, the Southwest Chief, the Sunset Limited, and the Texas Eagle (thru cars) – which connect California to the rest of the country with bands of passenger rail.

More Information