This is actually much simpler than it looks. If the noun is singular, we use 'is' and if the noun is plural we use 'are' - it's as simple as that.
'Transport' is a singular noun (no 's' on the end) -
There is a lot of transport. This is the same for any uncountable noun:
There is a lot of money.
There is a lot of noise.
There is a lot of food.
There is a lot of time.
All of these words are grammatically singular, so the verb is singular.
'Books' is plural, so we say 'There are a lot of'.