Basic Facts

What Is A Jitney?

A jitney can be any type of private car that functions as a cross between a bus and a taxi. Specifically, a jitney is like a bus in that it can accommodate multiple people and has multiple destinations, and it is like a taxi in that it can deviate from a standard route. 

Jitneys were a mainstay of early American transit.


  • Within several months of their first appearance in 1915, 900 jitneys were operating in Los Angeles.1
  • Within another year 500 were operating in Seattle, carrying 50,000 passengers a day. 1
  • By 1917, 62,000 Jitneys were operating throughout the United States, serving millions of riders without any subsidies. 1


Jitneys were succesful in a modern American city.


  • Despite being an illegal form of transit, in the early 1990’s a legal loophole created a brief opening for jitneys in Miami before they were once again made illegal.
  • Within a year of being legalized jitneys had attracted roughly 50,000 riders per week (approximately the same number of riders that Miami’s billion dollar rail system carries)2 at an average, unsubsidized price of $1.00 per ride (Metrobus charged an average of $1.75).3


Jitneys are succesful around the world.


  • "In many Latin American, Asian, and Middle Eastern cities, jitneys are the chief mode of urban transportation."4
  • "It has been estimated, for instance, that they accommodate over half of the daily travelers in Caracas, Buenos Aires, and Istanbul."4


Why Are Jitneys Illegal?

Jitneys are illegal because powerful public transit monopolies bribed and bullied local and federal governments to make Jitneys illegal in the 1910’s and 20’s.

Is Public Transit Adequate?

Three-fourths of welfare recipients live in the inner city and two-thirds of low skill job growth occurs in the suburbs.1

40% of suburban counties don’t have public transit systems, and in those counties that do have public transit less than half of the jobs in the county are accessible by transit.1

Due to the inflexibility of public transit, many low-income individuals are precluded from seeking and even accepting employment.19 

Jitney's Economic Niche

In cities, route density determines the most efficient mode of transportation: high density routes achieve a lower cost per use with subways, low density routes achieve a lower cost per use with taxis, and mid density routes achieve a lower cost per use with buses. In many foreign economies, jitneys move workers along adjustable routes that lack the density to support busses, connecting impoverished neighborhoods with employment centers. Because city governments in America protect public transit from competition by jitneys, many poor people lack affordable transit along low density routes. Deregulating jitneys, with enough regulation to ensure consumer safety, could fill this transit gap. 

Key Points

Given that the efficiency and effectiveness of transportation has direct impacts on poverty and the economy, that inefficient transport precludes occupation opportunities and reduces productivity, that spatial mismatch is exacerbating this problem, and that jitneys have a demonstrated ability to provide unsubsidized, cheap, speedy, and cost effective transportation, I believe that the legalization of Jitneys in large cities merits serious consideration by policymakers and analysts.


Jitneys have a great deal of unexplored potential for our country. This website has been designed as a resource to help policy makers and analysts explore this potential.


(A Jitney in the Philippines)

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