Management & Operations

2019's cities with the best and worst public transportation

Posted on September 10, 2019 by By Adam McCann

Seattle ranked as the "best" city for public transportation in the U.S. in a new report from WalletHub.
King County Metro
Seattle ranked as the "best" city for public transportation in the U.S. in a new report from WalletHub.King County Metro

Article reprinted with permission from WalletHub.com

Public transportation may be a simple convenience or an absolute daily necessity, depending on the city and the size of its population. The scope of public transportation in giant metropolises like New York City can be massive. According to the MTA, the New York City subway has over 665 mainland track miles and transports over 1.75 billion passengers per year. That’s not to mention the city’s 5,700 buses that carry over 760 million passengers per year.

There are many benefits to using public transportation over personal vehicles. The first is economic growth. According to the American Public Transportation Association, “every $1 invested in public transportation generates $4 in economic returns.” In addition, the APTA states that taking public transportation is cheaper in the long run than buying a vehicle and paying for its upkeep and gas costs. Public transportation also has drastically lower odds of an accident than driving a personal vehicle and helps to cut down pollution from emissions.

But not all cities have the same quality of public transportation. To find out where passengers will fare best during their daily commute, WalletHub compared 100 cities across 17 key metrics. Our data set ranges from share of commuters who use public transit and average age of the fleet to number of injuries and peak hours spent in congestion.

Main Findings

Source: WalletHub

Cities with the Best Public Transportation

Overall Rank (1=Best)

City

Total Score

‘Accessibility & Convenience’ Rank

‘Safety & Reliability’ Rank

‘Public Transit Resources’ Rank

1Seattle, WA77.97763
2Boston, MA77.8423410
3San Francisco, CA75.2112780
4Washington, DC71.2334852
5Madison, WI71.064614
6Jersey City, NJ69.0542297
7New York, NY68.8752297
8Reno, NV68.137681
9Honolulu, HI67.85301312
10Portland, OR66.82133129
11Minneapolis, MN66.7285131
12Denver, CO65.98142527
13Oakland, CA65.68102780
14Los Angeles, CA64.79151560
15San Jose, CA64.47212135
16Boise, ID64.4582337
17Lubbock, TX64.3392145
18Milwaukee, WI64.1842418
19San Diego, CA64.13321115
20Austin, TX63.6619682
21Baltimore, MD63.50123579
22Chicago, IL63.3367159
23Lincoln, NE63.10242046
24Chula Vista, CA62.46891115
25Laredo, TX61.5299543
26Santa Ana, CA61.48351560
27Long Beach, CA61.25381560
28Omaha, NE60.9369193
29Wichita, KS60.7666730
30Newark, NJ60.17162297
31Memphis, TN60.14581087
32St. Paul, MN59.00275131
33Pittsburgh, PA58.96395333
34El Paso, TX58.51614045
35Fremont, CA58.29432780
36Greensboro, NC58.21574336
37Cincinnati, OH58.17374240
38Irvine, CA57.88701560
39Toledo, OH57.7777587
40Albuquerque, NM57.67118819
41San Antonio, TX57.6349556
42Aurora, CO57.60812527
43Corpus Christi, TX57.4354678
44Anaheim, CA57.16741560
45San Bernardino, CA56.94603249
46Cleveland, OH56.65187353
47Atlanta, GA56.47224196
48Riverside, CA56.37653249
49Birmingham, AL56.15973044
50Durham, NC56.06364966
51Las Vegas, NV56.06443776
52Miami, FL55.86204594
53Tucson, AZ55.85335741
54Detroit, MI55.47524773
55Phoenix, AZ55.39266167
56Orlando, FL55.07257838
57Lexington-Fayette, KY54.96637711
58Anchorage, AK54.88505442
59Fort Wayne, IN54.85885055
60Colorado Springs, CO54.6679729
61Jacksonville, FL54.16623683
62Columbus, OH54.13455954
63Buffalo, NY53.91405675
64Stockton, CA53.8290984
65Dallas, TX53.78297920
66Nashville, TN53.73316085
67Scottsdale, AZ53.32686167
68Houston, TX53.32347065
69North Las Vegas, NV52.72943776
70Sacramento, CA52.09514490
71Virginia Beach, VA51.99477456
72Winston-Salem, NC51.63856914
73Raleigh, NC51.42418913
74Norfolk, VA51.18487456
75Irving, TX51.12567920
76Glendale, AZ50.84986167
77Garland, TX50.38847920
78Hialeah, FL50.28834594
79Fresno, CA50.22718726
80Henderson, NV50.09953776
81Louisville, KY49.83648547
82Chandler, AZ49.55806167
83Chesapeake, VA49.38937456
84Fort Worth, TX49.26757920
85Plano, TX49.13787920
86Mesa, AZ49.00866167
87Bakersfield, CA48.98598674
88Kansas City, MO48.76239334
89Philadelphia, PA48.7399786
90Gilbert, AZ48.521006167
91St. Louis, MO46.51179651
92Baton Rouge, LA46.26919117
93Arlington, TX45.70967920
94Oklahoma City, OK45.64559089
95Tulsa, OK43.02729448
96New Orleans, LA42.432892100
97Charlotte, NC40.67539588
98Tampa, FL24.69679891
99St. Petersburg, FL24.03739891
100Indianapolis, IN21.138710039

Methodology
In order to determine the cities with the best and worst public transportation systems, WalletHub compared a sample of 100 U.S. cities across three key dimensions: 1) Accessibility & Convenience, 2) Safety & Reliability and 3) Public Transit Resources.

We evaluated those dimensions using 17 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable living conditions.

Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order the cities in our sample. Our sample considers only the city proper in each case and excludes cities in the surrounding metro area.

Accessibility & Convenience – Total Points: 40

  • Share of Commuters Who Use Public Transit: Double Weight (~6.15 Points)
  • Average Commute Time for Transit Users: Full Weight (~3.08 Points)
  • Average Car Commute Time as Share of Average Public Transport Commute Time: Double Weight (~6.15 Points)
  • Transit Connectivity Index: Full Weight (~3.08 Points) Note: The TCI is a measure of how connected the average household member is to the availability of a transit ride.
  • Jobs Accessible Within a 30 Minute Transit Commute per 100 Civilian Employed Residents: Full Weight (~3.08 Points)
  • Peak Hours Spent in Congestion: Full Weight (~3.08 Points) Note: The total number of hours lost in congestion during peak commute periods compared to free-flow periods on a per capita basis. Peak corresponds to the absolute worst portion of the morning and afternoon commute, while free-flow is the best performance experienced over 24 hours.
  • Annual Public Transport Cost as Share of Median Annual Household Income: Double Weight (~6.15 Points)
  • Share of Commuters Who Prefer Public Transport: Full Weight (~3.08 Points) Note: This refers to commuters that choose public transportation even if they have one or more vehicles available.
  • Presence of Dedicated Rapid Bus & Rail Transport: Full Weight (~3.08 Points) Note: This binary metric measures the presence or absence of dedicated rapid bus and rail systems in a city.
  • Airport Accessibility by Public Transit: Full Weight (~3.08 Points) Note: This binary metric measures the presence or absence of a direct fixed-guideway access to an airport terminal or free bus shuttle access from rail station to an airport terminal.

Safety & Reliability – Total Points: 40

  • Public Transit Safety and Security Events per Passenger Miles Traveled: Full Weight (~10.00 Points) Note: Events include the following: collision, derailment, fire, security and not otherwise classified events.
  • Public Transit Injuries per Passenger Miles Traveled: Full Weight (~10.00 Points)
  • Public Transit Fatalities per Passenger Miles Traveled: Double Weight (~20.00 Points)

Public Transit Resources – Total Points: 20

  • Public Transport System Total Fixed Guideway Directional Route Miles per Urbanized Area Population: Full Weight (~4.00 Points) Note: The mileage in each direction over which public transportation vehicles travel while in revenue service.
  • Total Public Transit Vehicles Operated in Annual Maximum Service per Service Area Population: Double Weight (~8.00 Points) Note: The number of revenue vehicles operated to meet the annual maximum service requirement.
  • Average Age of Public Transit Fleet: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
  • Average Lifetime Miles per Active Vehicles: Full Weight (~4.00 Points) Note: The total miles accumulated on all active vehicles since date of manufacture divided by the number of active vehicles.

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