While public transportation was the primary way Americans got around in the 1940s, the boom in car ownership eventually meant fewer people on subways and buses.

But thanks to high gas prices and an improving economy, that seems to be changing.

A report released this week by the American Public Transportation Association indicates our use of buses, trains, trolleys and ferries was way up in 2011. Overall, we took 10.4 billion trips on public transportation, the second-highest number in more than 50 years -- and superseded only by ridership in 2008, when gas was about $4 a gallon (sound familiar?).

Last year marked the sixth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken throughout the US, and officials cite high fuel prices and an increased number of people going back to work as two main factors for the elevated numbers.

Also important? Today's technology, which has taken a lot of the guesswork out of using public transportation. Subway maps, bus stops and train tables that were once confusing are now much simpler thanks to mobile phone apps and websites that help plan your route -- with no tour guide required.

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