Public transit in the United States is in a sorry state — aging, underfunded, and losing riders, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Many proposed solutions focus on new technologies, like self-driving cars and flying taxis. But as a researcher in urban policy and planning, I see more near-term promise in a mode that’s been around for a century: the city bus. Today, buses in many parts of the U.S. are old and don’t run often enough or serve all the places where people need to go. But this doesn’t reflect the bus’s true capability. Instead, as I see it, it’s the result of cities, states, and federal leaders failing to subsidize a quality public service. As I show in my new book, “The Great American Transit Disaster: A Century of Austerity, Auto-Centric Planning, and White Flight,” few U.S. politicians have focused on bus riders’ experiences over the past half-century. And many executives have lavished precious federal capital dollars on building new light, rapid, and commuter rail lines, in hope of attracting suburban riders back to city centers and mass transit.