Whether commuting to work or heading to the vet, you may consider if public transit is an option for your pet. In many cities, cats and dogs are welcome on trains and buses, but you should know a few things before heading out with your curious copilot.
Pets riding public transit? Old news!
While many pet-friendly laws and policies are relatively new, cat and dog commuters have made the rounds in the news for years.
A cat known as Casper the Commuting Cat would regularly ride an 11-mile round trip through England, which his owner wrote about in a children’s book. Boji, a street dog in Istanbul, visits at least 29 metro stations each day, riding metros, trams, ferries, and other forms of public transit along the way. These are far from the only cool cats and dogs throughout history.
Good dogs or bag dogs?
Just a few years ago, New York City subway riders went viral in photos capturing their large dogs in everything from giant totes to blue IKEA bags. This was in an effort to get around a rule that all animals must be in a crate or other container.
As you can imagine, a packed NYC subway has enough human riders that a large dog crate is a solution somewhere between impractical and impossible.
Image: @bagdogs on Instagram
With the increasing trend toward pet-friendly workplaces, bars, and cafes, one would hope that public transit follows suit. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, causing frustration for car-free pet parents.
While we can’t help but laugh at these images, we can’t endorse such… creativity. What we can do is help answer the question:
Can I ride public transit with my cat or dog?
Service animals are always allowed on public transit, but pets may not be. (We’ll get into that distinction later.)
On some modes of transportation like AMTRAK, you can expect size limitations, carrier requirements, and other restrictions. Depending on your route, you’ll need to pay about $29-39 for your pet’s AMTRAK ticket.
Before you embark on your journey, take some time to research your local policies for pets on public transit, as they vary from city to city.
Which cities have pet-friendly public transportation?
While many transit authorities only allow for service animals, others are open to everyday cats and dogs riding along with their pet parents, especially in larger, more pet-friendly cities.
Policies can change, so check the official website of your local transit authority for up-to-date information. We’ve scoured transit sites for the places where we expect many Figo transit riders live, and linked official sites for each.
Public transit pet policies by city
Pets are not allowed, except for small dogs and cats “carried aboard in a secure rigid pet carrier with a lock or latch from which it cannot escape.”
Though the city is known to be quite pet-friendly, non-service animals, including emotional support and comfort animals, are not allowed to ride with CapMetro.
via Capital Metro
On-leash, in a carrier, and not taking up vehicle seats? Good to go. However, non-service animals “should not be brought onto the T during the peak hours of 7-10 AM and 4-7 PM.”
Small animals, including cats, should be kept in a carrier, away from vehicle doors, and on your lap.
Despite their "CATS" acronym, North Carolina’s Charlotte Area Transit System does not allow pets on buses or rail.
Windy City pets may travel in closed, protective carriers on CTA buses and trains. Their carriers cannot take up seats or block pathways.
Planning a trip to the Windy City? Dive into our guide to pet-friendly Chicago travel.
Pets are allowed in a cage or case that “fits on your lap.”
Pets are not allowed unless they ride in a “container sufficient to contain the animal.”
You’re clear to ride with pets in Denver, so long as they’re in an “appropriate animal carrier,” which includes “locked, standard commercial containers in the underfloor luggage bays of regional bus coaches.”
You must also have proof of current vaccinations on hand, as required by local jurisdictions.
Pets are not allowed on buses in Detroit unless they’re a service animal.
Riding with Sun Metro? Small, non-service animals are allowed only if secured in a portable kennel.
via Sun Metro
Houston, we don’t have a problem… as long as your pet rides METRO in a carrier.
You and your cat or dog are good to go on IndyGo, as long as they’re in a “carrying case.”
Pets on JTA? “No way,” they say. (Unless they’re a service animal, of course.)
Among the few that explicitly highlight pets and “emotional support, therapy, comfort, and companion animals” as welcome passengers, L.A. metro policies are very on-brand for the city.
Do note that they must be secured in an enclosed carrier, cannot block the aisle or doors, and do not disturb other riders by taking up seats or getting in the way of their comfort and convenience.
If you’re traveling in the “Magic City,” you’ll need to pull off a disappearing act by riding the bus or train with your pets in a cage, kennel, or other carriers like bags or backpacks. Keep their tricks to a minimum, as they cannot interfere with other passengers or block aisles, stairwells, and steps from the station to the bus or train.
Visiting Music City? You can ride with your pets in an “approved animal transfer cage.”
New York City
Pets are allowed on MTA subways, buses, and trains. Just bring them along in a carrier. The City also notes that pets too large for carriers can ride with exception in the case of an evacuation order. Let’s hope you don’t need to use that excuse.
Traveling to The Big Apple soon? Get into our guide to pet-friendly NYC travel.
Get ready to EMBARK (but not “bark,” per se) if you’re on the go in Oklahoma. Here, it’s up to the operator whether your dog is clean, under control, not aggressive, and secured by a leash or carrier.
Pets are not allowed on the Philadelphia Subway System or buses, “except in carriers.” Standard rules apply regarding their behavior and respect for other riders.
The PATCO Speedline operates similarly, with an additional note about the carrier being in your lap.
Riding public transit with pets in this AZ city is pretty EZ — just keep them in a cage or carrying case that can fit on your lap.
via Valley Metro
Portland pets are allowed on the streetcar in enclosed carriers. If you’re riding TriMet, they must be leashed or in a container and well-behaved, sitting at your feet or in your lap.
They do not provide any guidance for how your pet can help “Keep Portland Weird.”
Well-behaved pets are allowed on VIA Metropolitan Transit buses in a “suitable container.”
Pets are allowed on buses and trolleys if they are in carriers. Operators can refuse noisy or stinky animals, so keep that in mind.
SF might have the funniest and most detailed policy, so buckle up your harnesses and take a closer look for all the details.
The SFMTA blog notes that pets are allowed to board buses, but they do not encourage them to do so “on their own.”
Pets can ride Muni buses, light rail Metro trains, streetcars, and cable cars as long as they avoid “peak hours.” That’s Monday through Friday, 5:00 AM to 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM.
Pets must pay a fare equal to yours and either be leashed or in a carrier, placed under the seat or in your lap.
Only one pet can ride at a time, so don’t cut it too close with the bus schedule when making plans.
Small pets are allowed on VTA buses and light rail in small, enclosed cages and carrying cases. The official policy notes that pets cannot roam the coach “barking or growling,” so jot that down.
Pets are allowed on the Link light rail, Sounder train, and ST Express bus when carried in a small container.
At the operator's discretion, dogs may ride the Metro bus system and Seattle streetcar as long as they are well-behaved. They may also refuse more than one dog at a time, and large dogs who cannot ride on the owner’s lap may pay a base fare (or reduced fare) that matches yours. They may request a transfer, as well.
Cats and other animals must be in a container or carrier when riding in the coach, but they do not need to pay a fare.
Pets may ride in the nation’s capitol via Metrorail and Metrobus as long as they are secured in a carrier from which they “cannot escape.” They may also ride the DC Circulator bus in a crate or container.
Non-service animals are prohibited from the bus service in neighboring Arlington County, Virginia.
How to prepare for public transportation with your pet
You may have a ticket to ride, but are you and your pet ready to go? Check out these tips and tricks for riding public transit with your pet, from light rails and trains to waiting at the bus stop.
Pick a good time to ride: At least to start, riding the light rail during the morning rush might be a bad choice. In the interest of other passengers and your pet’s anxiety levels, avoid peak traffic conditions where possible — especially when they’re new to this mode of transportation.
Get their training on track: Before bringing your pet along, make sure they’re well socialized and know basic commands like sit and stay. From there, build on their public transit skills by training them to sit out of the way of other passengers and to avoid getting too nosy with the row of seats in front of or behind you.
Ease into it: Help familiarize your pet with the idea of hanging out at a busy bus stop or train station before actually riding, slowly introducing them to the sounds and bustle of transportation.
Have their records handy: Some transportation companies may require proof of up-to-date vaccinations before your pet can ride. Store a copy in your bag or save it on your phone to avoid trouble later on.
Invest in a good carrier and leash: For your pet’s safety (and to be considerate of other passengers), putting small animals in a carrier may be best — you never know what could suddenly grab their attention.
Pack your bags: Keep training treats handy at the bus stop, aboard a train, or for any other moments that require extra encouragement. If you’re worried about their anxiety levels, consider calming treats. Don’t forget to carry other essentials like water and a collapsible bowl.
Understanding service animals vs. pets on public transit
Per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are permitted to accompany their owners at all times (including on public transit). Service animals often wear identifiable vests and carry documentation, though it's not a requirement. It may seem like a perk, but these good boys and girls are hard at work, so it’s best to respect this differentiation.
The ADA does not protect emotional support animals when it comes to public transit. If your cat or dog is not a service animal, they’re still considered a pet.
As such, you can expect increased scrutiny toward your pet’s behavior, especially with respect to other passengers. In some cases, you may only be allowed to ride with them in a crate.
Make sure to consider the law and the transit authority’s guidelines when planning your next trip.
Tails of a commuter
Riding public transit with your pet is a great option, so long as you’re prepared and know the rules in your area. Here’s to a smooth ride and safe travels — wherever you and your pet may roam.
Dylan M. Austin is Independence Pet Group’s highly caffeinated Sr. Content Writer, supporting Figo Pet Insurance, Pets Plus Us, and PetPartners. Based in Seattle, he's usually hanging out with his Chihuahua Terrier mix, Will, and tending to an increasingly excessive houseplant collection.