9 Best Public Transport in the United States for a Unique Commute

It’s enjoyable to explore a new city by walking, but there’s something special about using public transport. A city’s identity and charm are often shaped by its transport system, which also provides a convenient and easy way to travel and explore the city’s attractions. Transit network maps can also be popular tourist attractions.

Public transport has many advantages. It helps connect communities, boosts local economies, improves safety, and plays a crucial role in making a city more fair, accessible, and environmentally friendly. Research has shown that public transit saves 63 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. It also helps consumers save money. Regrettably, only 55% of people in the United States have the ability to use public transportation.

What factors contribute to a city being transit-friendly? According to Walk Score, which is an expert on how easy it is to use public transportation, the most important factors are the number of routes available, how far away the nearest stop on a route is, how often the service runs, and what type of transportation it is. The transportation modes are ranked based on their importance, with light rail and subway service being the most important, followed by ferries, cable cars, and trollies, and finally bus service.

In this article, we will discuss the U.S. cities that have the best public transport systems. We will look at how easy it is to use these systems, the quality of their infrastructure, and any current trends in the market. If you currently live in the United States or are searching for a new place to live, join us as we explore the cities with the most efficient public transportation systems.

New York, NY

  • Transit Score: 88
  • Transit Card: OMNY
  • Median Sale Price: $779,500
  • Median Rent Price: $4,085

New York City has the best public transport in the United States by a large amount. The tube network in this city has 472 stations spread across four boroughs. This is only a few dozen stations less than the total number of stations in all other tube systems in the country combined. The bus routes are also extensive, with a total of 327 routes.

This transportation system, called the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), is designed to serve most riders no matter where they live. The Upper East Side, Upper West Side, and Washington Heights are the New York neighbourhoods with the most convenient public transportation options.

More than half of New York’s population, 56%, use the city’s strong transport system every year. This adds up to over 2.3 billion trips taken on the underground and bus. It’s fortunate that over 1.6 million people have to travel to Manhattan every day. The number of people who use New York’s underground system each year is more than 10 times greater than any other city.

New York is also getting better. Across the entire state, there are efforts being made to make transportation more accessible and fair. This includes adding more regional routes and offering flat-fare options for people who are not served by the MTA. There are several projects happening in NYC, including the new Interborough Express, Queens Bus Network Redesign, and many other projects focused on accessibility and equity.

Boston, MA

  • Transit Score: 72
  • Transit Card: CharlieCard
  • Median Sale Price: $830,000
  • Median Rent Price: $3,435

Boston’s public transportation is ranked as the third-best in the country. The city’s transit network, known as the “T”, is operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

Boston’s public transportation system consists of buses, trollies, ferries, and 153 train and subway stations. These options are well connected to the city’s many neighbourhoods and suburbs. The Boston neighbourhoods that have the most convenient public transportation options are Beacon Hill, Downtown, and Chinatown-Leather District.

The “T” is a transport system that primarily serves suburban Massachusetts and connects it to downtown Boston. And some people exploit this. The T is the fifth-largest transit system in the nation, with over 759,000 trips every week and 19 million trips every year.

Boston’s public transport system is currently being improved to make it even better. The city’s five-year Capital Investment Plan provides funding to renovate, extend, or improve all five primary subway lines. Go Boston 2030 is a plan that helps the city make fair and accessible investments.

Jersey City, NJ

  • Transit Score: 71
  • Transit Card: TAPP, NJTransit app
  • Median Sale Price: $747,000
  • Median Rent Price: $3,000

Jersey City has the fourth-best public transit system in the U.S., with almost half of its residents using public transportation to commute daily. Jersey City’s transit network is connected to both New York City and Newark because they are close to each other. This means that the transit network extends beyond just Jersey City and includes its neighbouring cities. The PATH train system connects Jersey City to NYC through two tunnels under the Hudson River.

There are other transportation options available in Jersey City, such as the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and many bus lines. The best neighbourhoods in Jersey City for public transportation are The Waterfront, Historic Downtown, and Journal Square. Furthermore, the new Via rideshare is an important component of the city’s infrastructure, primarily catering to residents with lower incomes.

New Jersey public transportation is different because most cities do not have their own transportation systems. Instead, they are served by a statewide organisation called New Jersey Transit (NJT). This setup creates a well-connected transport system that is easily accessible within the region. The

Jersey City wants to increase transportation options within its borders. This includes adding more bus stops, rapid transit lines and expanding its microtransit services. NJT is also expanding the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail.

Washington, D.C.

  • Transit Score: 69
  • Transit Card: SmarTrip
  • Median Sale Price: $602,500
  • Median Rent Price: $2,600

Washington, D.C. has the fifth-highest quality public transportation in the United States. The Metrorail system, operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro), consists of six lines and 98 subway stations. Metrobus, on the other hand, has 1,500 buses and hundreds of stops. The Washington Metro is responsible for all public transportation in the D.C. metropolitan area, which includes parts of Maryland and Virginia.

Metro is the third most popular transport system in the country, with almost 100 million people using it in 2022. The best neighbourhoods for public transit in Washington, D.C. are Downtown, Mount Vernon Square, and Logan Circle.

Like many cities in the country, the number of people using public transport dropped significantly during the pandemic but has now begun to recover. The Metro is currently working on several projects and initiatives to make improvements. One of these is the Better Bus initiative, which aims to redesign the bus network and improve bus shelters. Additionally, there are various improvements being made to the Metrorail system, such as updating the Red Line.

Philadelphia, PA

  • Transit Score: 67
  • Transit Card: SEPTA Key
  • Median Sale Price: $234,700
  • Median Rent Price: $1,695

Philadelphia is a city with a lot of different people and a long history. It is ranked sixth on the list of U.S. cities with the best public transportation. By coincidence, Philadelphia also has the sixth-largest public transportation system in the country. It includes two subway lines called the “Subway” and the “El,” as well as eight tram lines and 150 bus routes. SEPTA operates almost all transit routes in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The Philadelphia neighbourhoods that have the best public transportation options are Washington Square West, Rittenhouse, and Avenue of the Arts South. Regional train lines link Philadelphia with nearby counties, as well as Delaware and New Jersey. The PATCO line is a train service that operates in New Jersey and is separate from SEPTA. To ride this route, you must have either a ticket or a FREEDOM Card.

SEPTA, like many transportation agencies, is experiencing a significant lack of funding as the federal pandemic funding is no longer available. SEPTA may have to reduce service and increase fares to balance the budget, even though more people are using the transport system and it is becoming more accessible. Despite the difficulties, SEPTA is continuing to improve its infrastructure. This includes updating trollies and making 45 local and regional rail stations fully accessible for people with disabilities.

Newark, NJ

  • Transit Score: 65
  • Transit Card: TAPP, NJTransit app
  • Median Sale Price: $419,950
  • Median Rent Price: $2,130

Newark, the largest city in New Jersey, has the seventh-best public transportation in the United States. Newark, like Jersey City, does not have its own transit authority. Instead, it is served by New Jersey Transit (NJT), which operates most public transportation in the state. NJT operates the biggest commuter rail transit system in the country, linking most of the state to Pennsylvania and New York.

If you are in Newark, you can easily get around by using the Newark Light Rail or one of the 38 local bus routes. These are particularly convenient in the most transit-friendly neighbourhoods of Newark, which include the Central Business District, University Heights, and Seventh Avenue. The majority of the light rail system is an underground subway, but there is also a newer section called Broad Street that runs above ground along the Passaic River. PATH offers transport services to New York City.

Chicago, IL

  • Transit Score: 65 
  • Transit Card: Ventra
  • Median Sale Price: $322,000
  • Median Rent Price: $2,290

Chicago’s public transport system is ranked as the eighth-best in the United States. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates the “L”, which consists of eight subway lines and 129 bus routes, making it convenient to travel around the city. The best neighbourhoods in Chicago for public transit are The Loop, Fulton River District, and South Loop. Metra (train) and Pace (bus) are the transport services that connect Chicago with 35 suburbs.

Regrettably, public transport is not as readily available in all areas of Chicago compared to cities like New York and Boston. However, the efforts to modernise stations, upgrade tracks, and create community hubs around subway stations have been successful. This is a positive development in the otherwise negative situation of a $176 billion backlog in public transport infrastructure, which is a problem in many cities across the country.

Seattle, WA

  • Transit Score: 60
  • Transit Card: ORCA Card
  • Median Sale Price: $775,000
  • Median Rent Price: $1,950

Seattle’s public transport is ranked ninth-best in the U.S. The International District, Pioneer Square, and First Hill are the Seattle neighbourhoods with the most convenient public transportation options. Seattle’s public transportation system is run by King County Metro and Sound Transit. It includes buses, light rail, streetcars, and commuter trains. Washington State Ferries provide transportation between the city and the nearby islands.

Seattle’s public transit system has been undergoing significant expansions in recent years after being relatively underdeveloped for many decades. There are major projects planned for the system until 2044. The light rail was first approved by voters in 1996. The main focus of the planned work is to expand the regional Link Light Rail. This expansion will increase the number of lines from one to four, connecting various suburbs and neighbourhoods in Seattle. There are other projects that are making bus and Sounder train service bigger.

Seattle is currently working on expanding its public transport system, which is the largest expansion of its kind in the country. However, these projects have faced problems and have been delayed, resulting in changes to the opening dates and routes. Once finished, the network is expected to cover a distance of 252 miles and help reduce traffic congestion in the entire metro area.

Arlington, VA

  • Transit Score: 59
  • Transit Card: SmarTrip
  • Median Sale Price: $770,000
  • Median Rent Price: $2,450

Arlington has the tenth-best public transport system in the United States. Arlington is closely linked to Washington, D.C. both culturally and financially. The public transportation in Arlington is easily accessible through the Metro system. Getting around the city is easy with the Metrorail underground lines. They connect Arlington with the capital and other areas. The best neighbourhoods in Arlington for public transportation are North Rosslyn, Ballston-Virginia Square, and Aurora Highlands.

Metro provides underground service, while Arlington operates its own bus network called ART. ART has routes all over the city that connect neighbourhoods to Metrorail and regional Virginia Railway Express trains. All ART buses accept payment with SmarTrip. The local transit improvement projects aim to make transport better by doing three things: expanding bus routes, upgrading to buses that produce zero emissions, and improving metrorail service.

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