The key to your question lies in the word “inefficient”. Public transportation isn’t necessarily there to be fastest, or most convenient, or most economical. School busses are designed to get kids to school safely, and on time. Fast, convenient and economical are only secondary goals.
Every public transport is a balance of needs and economy. You can have a super-fast train, as with the Bullet trains in Japan, but only a small part of the Bullet line makes money — the rest is a major factor in Japan’s national debt!
A big part of the problem is sprawl. Public transportation works great in Europe because cities are so dense. In the United States, there tend to be a lot of pockets of areas you want to go to, but they aren’t close enough to make public transportation practical. In addition, Americans seem to associate freedom with having a car. Americans tend to like their cars and driving more so than in other countries. In addition, some areas of Europe are so dense that they charge fines for driving in cities (London, England for example). Public transportation works well in areas where driving is near impossible because areas are so dense. (Take commuting in New York versus riding the subway, for example. The subway is much faster). The final issue is infrastructure. It can take a lot of time and money to put in monorails or underground subways.
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