Whether you reside in a major metropolitan region or in a less densely populated area, you undoubtedly spend time commuting to work and traveling around town in general.
People who reside in cities with accessible public transportation, however, have it far easier. They experience less congestion and air pollution and can travel more efficiently. Obviously, we’re referring to the network of buses, trains, and even trolleys that makes some cities run more efficiently.
In September 2019, WalletHub produced a report assessing the best and worst American cities for public transportation (more on the rankings in a second). Moreover, the study examined how public transportation affects our lifestyles and how it supports our communities.
Why Public Transit Is Beneficial
WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez writes in an email, “The objective of our research is to determine where public transit customers fare best in terms of accessibility, convenience, safety, and dependability.” “And considering that Americans take nearly 10 billion journeys every year on public transit, it is an issue worthy of discussion. These rankings inform commuters on the present status and quality of each city’s public transportation system.”
Gonzalez asserts that public transit networks contribute to the economic prosperity of a community and give other advantages as well. Using public transportation, for example, can be less expensive than owning a car, minimize pollution, and reduce the probability of being harmed in a car accident. According to data from the American Public Transportation Association, each dollar invested in public transportation generates four dollars in economic benefits.
What, exactly, does it imply that public transportation makes a place livable? Let’s revisit an earlier figure, the four-to-one return on investment for public transit.
Chad Chitwood, a spokesman for the American Public Transportation Association, states via email, “Every billion dollars spent on public transportation generates $3.7 billion in economic effect over the long run.” “This is a combination of spending from wages paid to transit employees, spending in the economy, and productivity impacts of expanded public transportation service, including travel, lodging, transportation, business productivity from being closer to public transit, access to larger labor markets, regional business growth, and clustering of businesses because communities can get there more easily.”
In other words, according to the American Public Transportation Association’s economic impact assessment, investing in public transit is an effective means of promoting the growth and prosperity of a city.
How the Cities Rank
Now for those positions. The WalletHub study evaluated 100 cities over 17 parameters in three major categories: accessibility and convenience, safety and dependability, and resources. These criteria were weighted because WalletHub does not view them as having similar relevance.
It’s a lengthy list that includes average commute time for transit users, how that commute time compares to the time of those who commute by vehicle, percentage of jobs in proximity to the transit network, transit cost as a percentage of users’ household income, airport accessibility, incidences of security issues, how much of the city is accessible by the transit network, and whether or not transit users prefer that type of commute. The evaluation of the city is based on the public transportation network inside its formal boundaries; surrounding metropolitan areas are disregarded.
Cities with the Most Reliable Public Transport
- San Francisco
- Washington, D.C.
- Madison, Wisconsin
Worst Cities for Public Transportation
- New Orleans
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Tampa, Florida
- St. Petersburg, Florida
- Indianapolis, Indiana
Naturally, it didn’t take long for the online comments area of WalletHub to fill up with people who took certain city rankings a little too personally. Here is when WalletHub’s research technique comes into play.
The methodology was created in collaboration with academic experts by WalletHub analysts. “The measures were selected based on their applicability and data availability,” explains Gonzalez. This is a study, not a poll, so only objective data points, not views, have been incorporated. Our analysis is predominately based on data from government-supported sources, such as the United States Census Bureau, the American Public Transportation Association, and the Federal Transit Administration.
Everyone lives in a bubble, according to Gonzalez. “If you’ve only commuted in one place, you undoubtedly believe their public transit is the worst. Realizing that you may have it better than citizens of other cities can be enlightening, and vice versa.
Chitwood says that a one-size-fits-all approach to analyzing the public transportation networks of various cities may not always be the most effective. “Transit is different in several areas, and how individuals execute their opinions on transit will be unique to their community and city,” he says.
Regardless of a city’s present rating in the survey, according to Gonzalez, the knowledge is helpful for everyone.
“Cities can now have a better grasp of their public transportation issue and what can be done to enhance it,” adds Gonzalez. “These rankings should assist communities in identifying their strengths and limitations, allowing them to offer inhabitants with accessible and dependable transportation for their everyday journeys.”