When it comes to public transportation, convenience results in higher ridership, and higher ridership can help spur population growth. What’s more, research suggests that living in close proximity to public transit systems has some unique perks and benefits.
For example, according to The National Association of Realtors, the average value of a home was 42 percent higher when located near public transit. A study in Boston also found that homes near public transportation outpriced other neighborhoods by 129 percent.
So, not only can you enjoy the fruits of a home with greater market value, but your general happiness may also stay intact by not having to confront the crush of traffic. Check out the top 10 cities reaping the benefits of an optimal public transit system based the average commute time, how easy it is to get to jobs and around the city, its benefits over driving a car, and overall aesthetic and historical value.
10. Seattle, WA
Like its many metropolitan counterparts, Seattle’s public transit system encompasses rail and bus transportation. But the city also provides a unique monorail system that serves a fast and fun trip between the city center and downtown, making more jobs accessible in the greater area.
Earlier this year, Seattle began operating a new streetcar line and recently completed an underground light rail months ahead of schedule. It’s no wonder that ridership among Seattleites is up about 35 percent since 2011 and about 4 percent among commuters —the biggest increase of any major city in the country.
9. Denver, CO
For the last few years, the Mile High City’s light and commuter rail lines have been expanding rapidly with city funding in the multi-billion dollar range. As part of their growing FasTracks program, Denver will have 4 main lines that convey commuters virtually anywhere in the city later this year.
In fact, the expansion program is currently the largest in the country and will likely transcend transportation in the Denver metro area for many years to come.
8. Los Angeles, CA
The City of Angels is notorious for horrific traffic jams and teeth-gritting commutes. They also get a bad rap for public transit.
So it may come as a shock that over one million Angelenos opt for the Metrolink rail systems and city bus during the workweek. In fact, in 2014, ridership reached roughly 115 million.
To accommodate the greater metro area, the system utilizes a rail network with over 79 miles of track to get commuters to 112,000 jobs in a 40-minute interval. Also, L.A. plans to funnel billions of dollars into the expansion of their light rail system. Oh, the things to come.
7. Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) operates a multitude of services that extend to trolleys, light rail system, 2 subway lines, and buses. Commuters and tourists alike have access to all of the City of Brotherly Love’s popular destinations — from the Philadelphia Sports & Entertainment Complex to the Independence Mall Area. You can also get to the airport from the city’s center in under 25 minutes.
For those who live in the surrounding suburbs (or tourists looking to get out of the city center), Philly’s charming, old school trolley system connects most of North and West Philadelphia, availing riders to beautiful countrysides, specialty shops, and public gardens.
6. San Jose, CA
With the growing tech boom in adjacent areas like Silicon Valley, and residents willing to take on hour-long commutes, San Jose’s public transit makes almost 200,000 jobs accessible.
Additionally, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has been given the go-ahead to extend the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) further south, adding 4 stations and downtown San Jose’s 5-mile tunnel. This will likely spur San Jose’s ever-increasing ridership (and maybe even some smiling faces from those who aren’t entrenched in gridlock traffic).
5. Washington, D.C.
With expensive parking and traffic congestion, the residents of the nation’s capital are lucky to have reliable public transportation. Residents and visitors can easily get to museums, shopping areas, entertainment venues, sporting events — and over one million jobs are accessible for commuters.
The Washington Metro is comprised of 6 lines (all color-coded), making it fast and easy to venture anywhere in the city, as well as suburbs in Maryland and Virginia.
Furthermore, a D.C. law that was enacted at the beginning of this year requires employers to provide workers with commuter benefits and will likely incentivize the use of public transit. What this could mean for D.C. is reduced congestion, less road wear, and a smaller carbon footprint.
4. Boston, MA
Boston is the birthplace of the United States, and not surprisingly, home to the oldest subway tunnel in the country. The Massachusetts Bay Transit (or the “T”), offers subway, trolley, bus, and boat service, taking riders to just about anywhere in the greater Boston area (and beyond!). All in all, the T handles about 390 million riders a year.
In addition to its above par public transit, Boston is known for being one of the most walkable cities in the U.S.
3. Chicago, IL
Job accessibility in Chi-town closely correlates with the configuration of its public transit network. In other words, the metro region’s rail system strategically links people to their homes and place of work. And Chicago’s “L” trains make up the third-largest system in the country, accommodating nearly 800,000 riders every weekday.
Moreover, the average commuter spends roughly $100 a month, which is lower than other notable cities on the list, like D.C. and New York.
2. San Francisco, CA
San Francisco is known for its most recognizable historical transit icons: the cable car. While only 3 of the 23 original cable car lines traverse the city’s characteristically steep hills (and are mainly used by tourists), they still symbolize the integral role public transit has in the evolution of San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area.
The BART system brings commuters to cities all over the Bay Area, including Oakland, Berkeley, and even the aforementioned Silicon Valley. In addition, Muni is a network of buses and light rails with a ridership averaging over 220 million a year.
1. New York City
NYC tops the list with the total number of passenger trips and federal funding on public transit. If you factor in buses, the total ridership exceeds 2.5 billion.
The public transit in New York conveys passengers to jobs more efficiently than any metro region in the U.S. — and it’s largely due to population density, as well as an advanced system of trains, subways, buses, and ferries.
And you can’t forget one of the most famous historical landmarks in the world: Grand Central Station. While long-distance travel has been the cornerstone of Grand Central since opening its doors in 1913, it’s transformed into a regional commuter hub, retaining its boldly elegant architecture and an aura of monumental achievement.
Here’s another fun fact about the city that never sleeps: NYC makes up about a quarter of all transit ridership in the country.
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