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Photograph: Shutterstock/EQRoyChicago water taxi

The best public transport in the U.S. for a unique commute

Forget planes, trains and automobiles—streetcars, trams and water taxis are the way to go

Emilee Lindner
Written by
Emilee Lindner

If you’re an extraordinary traveler—which you probably are if you regularly visit this website—then you’re not going to settle for normie ANYTHING, not even public transportation in the U.S. Planes, trains and automobiles serve their purpose, but for those seeking more one-off experiences, streetcars, trams and water taxis are the way to move.

Public transit is designed to move the masses without costing much money. For just a few bucks, these systems can take you from one side of the city to the other, avoiding traffic along the way. So, as a tourist, what if you could ride in style AND have a view? That’s where the following list will work wonders.

Below, we’ve rounded up 10 unique modes of public transport that will not only get you from point A to B, but deserve to be tourist attractions in themselves.

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Unique public transportation in the U.S.

1. New Orleans Streetcars | New Orleans, LA

The gentle clatter of tracks. The aroma of lush greenery passing by. The iconic sights of historic neighborhoods. You can already imagine yourself taking a vintage ride on the New Orleans streetcars. This isn’t your ordinary mode of public transportation. Adorned with intricate details, the streetcars offer a whimsical journey past grand mansions, ancient oaks and quirky shops. Favorites in the streetcar fleet include the dark green St. Charles streetcar—the world's oldest continuously operating streetcar line—and the candy apple red Canal Street car, which will take you to historic cemeteries. Are you the main character of a Southern novel?! You might just be.

2. Las Vegas Monorail | Las Vegas, NV

When gallivanting in Sin City, you shouldn’t have to work for your fun. At all. The Las Vegas monorail can help you experience the glitz and glamor of the city without having to deal with parking at RuPaul’s Drag Race Live or navigating your way to Cirque du Soleil. Take it easy! With trains every 4 to 8 minutes, the monorail connects major resorts, casinos and convention centers while providing panoramic views along its nearly four-mile route. It’s sleek, clean, fast and… a great designated driver. The LV monorail knows a good time.


3. Funicular railways | Pittsburgh, PA

Dating back to the late 19th century, the Duquesne Incline transports passengers up and down the steep slopes of Pittsburgh's Mount Washington in wooden red cable cars. The Duquesne (pronounced Doo-Kane) and the Monongahela Incline (yellow cars) are two of what once were four inclines along the river coast. Offering spectacular views of Pittsburgh’s bridges, this historic funicular remains a beloved symbol of Pittsburgh's industrial heritage. In fact, the Duquesne’s top station includes a museum of Pittsburgh history and photos of inclines around the world. For a one-of-a-kind outing, walk the Incline Loop: Park at the top of Duquesne, walk across Grandview, ride down the Mon Incline, walk across and then ride up Duquesne!

4. TECO Line Streetcar System | Tampa, FL

Embracing the charm of yesteryear, Tampa's heritage streetcar system operates historic replica streetcars along a 2.7-mile route that links downtown to the historic Ybor City district. Unlike yesteryear, however, the TECO Line Streetcar System is air-conditioned, giving riders a break from that Florida heat! Passengers can admire the city's architecture and cultural sights while traveling in vintage style. Service to 11 covered wheelchair-accessible stations is free every day of the week. Cars run every 15 minutes, but if you’re looking for an experience that goes beyond your typical commute, rent a streetcar for an office holiday party, a birthday celebration, a graduation party or a wedding.


5. Chicago water taxi | Chicago, IL

Some tourists shell out hundreds of dollars for boat tours, but if you prefer the self-guided route, the iconic, yellow Chicago Water Taxi fleet can serve the same purpose… for a fraction of the price (about $6). Pack a picnic lunch and bring the fam as you pass under historic bridges and towering skyscrapers. Get off at popular stops like Navy Pier, the Magnificent Mile, or Chinatown, or just hang in for the ride. For daily commuters, the water taxi is a godsend for relieving traffic congestion: moving over 400,000 passengers (equivalent to 8,000 bus trips and over 200,000 car trips). With outdoor seating and panoramic views, the water taxi offers a refreshing and unique way to explore the Windy City's bustling waterfront and iconic landmarks.

6. Roosevelt Island Tramway | New York, NY

Connecting Manhattan with Roosevelt Island, this aerial tramway offers a unique perspective of our quaint concrete jungle as the tram glides over the East River. The Roosevelt Island Tramway trip is short (and accessible with a Metrocard), but even for seasoned New Yawkas, the ride is nothing short of thrilling. Take a seat, or stand, as the tiny cable car lowers onto Roosevelt Island—now a residential neighborhood that was once home to a prison and a “hospital for incurables.” After taking the tram, stroll around the island’s promenade before reboarding for a trip back to Manhattan, enjoying your views of the Empire State Building and the United Nations Headquarters along the way.


7. Capital Bikeshare | Washington, D.C.

Not all commutes get the blood flowing. But the Capital Bikeshare program in Washington, D.C., certainly does. Started in 2008, the rideshare helps cyclists see iconic landmarks like the National Mall, Lincoln Memorial, and Capitol Hill at their own pace, using the city's extensive network of bike lanes and trails. With thousands of bikes available at convenient stations throughout the city, it's easy to hop on and off to experience the vibrant neighborhoods, historic sites, and scenic waterfronts that make D.C. unique. Choose a manual bike or an e-bike. Capital Bikeshare—the oldest bike share program in the United States—is also piloting handcycles and tandem bicycles. Plus, the bikes get pretty, seasonal makeovers for those who like their public transit glamorous.

8. Metromover | Miami, FL

Welcome to the future, where robots rule! From 5am to midnight, Miami stays bustling with the Metromover, an absolutely free, totally automated train that moves the shakers of Miami from place to place. Riders can discover the city's eclectic mix of art, culture, and architecture as they do the electric glide to popular destinations like the Adrienne Arsht Center, Brickell City Centre and Bayfront Park. The 4.4-mile track offers three routes: the Omni loop, the Inner loop and the Brickell loop. If you’re even a little bit familiar with Miami traffic during rush hour, the Metromover, which connects to the Metrorail, is a superior alternative to driving, as the train arrives every 90 seconds during rush hours and every 3 minutes during off-peak hours.


9. Portland Aerial Tram | Portland, OR

Suspended high above the city of Portland, the Aerial Tram provides a breathtaking—no, seriously, you might forget to use your lungs when you see Mount Hood from these heights—and efficient mode of transportation between the South Waterfront district and Oregon Health & Science University's campus on Marquam Hill. The tram also provides stunning views of the cityscape and Willamette River during the smooth ascent and descent. Take our advice and ride at sunset for a guaranteed romantic evening.

10. Seattle Center Monorail | Seattle, WA

Originally built for the 1962 World's Fair, the Seattle Center Monorail continues to whisk passengers between downtown Seattle and the iconic Space Needle in three short minutes. Offering a quick and iconic transit experience, this elevated monorail provides stunning views of the city skyline and Puget Sound below. Whether you’re a daily commuter, a tourist, or checking out a show at Climate Pledge Arena, you can catch this reliable train every 10 minutes. The train connects to others in the city, and is a short walk from the iconic Pike Place Market. And fun fact: the publicly owned system actually returns revenue back to the city every year—a big win for Seattle and train passengers alike!

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