According to AAA, ownership costs for your car run to between $4,642 and a huge $13,141 per year. Of course, this depends on how many miles you drive in a year as well as the type of vehicle you own but it’s no secret that car maintenance and gas prices aren’t cheap. It’s also no secret that in America, the favored mode of transportation is the automobile.
However, there are many people out there interested in moving away from the car and ditching their long commutes for something better. There are many obvious reasons to do so; everything from saving money on vehicle costs to cutting your commute time down so you can enjoy a better work-life balance.
WalkScore.com, a website dedicated to calculating walkability scores for any address, has compiled a ranking of the top 10 U.S cities for transit. They calculate this information by assigning a “usefulness” value to the transit routes based on a number of factors including the type of route, and distance to the nearest stop. They then take that value and add it to all the values for the city, and normalize to a score between 0-100. Cities with a transit score of 90-100 are considered a “Rider’s Paradise” and they feature world-class public transportation. Cities with a score of 70-89 are considered “Excellent,” while ones with 50-69 are still listed as being “Good Transit” cities.
10. Portland – Transit Score: 50
Portland has defined itself as a leader in sustainable cities, and part of this means a city which is easy to get around without a car. The city takes the lead in transit-oriented development and ‘new urbanism’ – city planning that promotes mixed-use and high-density development based around transportation hubs. The city has invested federal tax dollars into their transportation systems, which allowed for Portland to create a comprehensive public transportation system that both saves citizens money and makes the city money in the long run.
To get around Portland is a breeze, and it’s one of the things that draws people to the area. Many find themselves able to sell their cars and rely on public transportation, bikes and their own two feet to commute to work and other areas in and around the city.
9. Los Angeles – Transit Score: 50
Los Angeles isn’t a city that’s exactly known for its transit systems. In fact, when most people think of LA, they think of the horrible freeway system, often clogged and requiring commutes to be twice as long as they need to be. But a better Los Angeles is emerging, believe it or not. They’ve recently invested in light rail, express bus lines and redeveloped neighborhoods which makes it easier to get around. Downtown is where most of the transit can be found, but several areas including Westwood, Hollywood and Koreatown are walkable.
There are the express lines serving downtown and LAX, along with the art deco Union Station which serves as the hub for all rail travel in the city. Of course, we’re still talking about L.A here, so living close to where you work is still ideal, if at all possible.
8. Baltimore – Transit Score: 57
This former steel town is now home to both leading tech and medical industries, including the world renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital. It’s also a fairly popular tourist destination, especially the inner harbor area of Baltimore. As a large city filled with a lot of people coming and going, it’s a potential nightmare to get around if there weren’t a comprehensive public transportation system in place. Baltimore has it covered and in fact, there’s even an easy way to get around town for free. The Charm City Circulator is a hybrid bus that runs every 10 minutes from early morning to late night, seven days a week and doesn’t cost a dime. In addition to the buses, there’s also the light rail and water taxis that help you see the city by both land and water.
Not only is it easy to get around the city, there are also transportation options that make it possible to commute from Baltimore to Washington D.C. For tourists, this means it’s fairly easy to see both cities in one trip, and for those with jobs that require them to travel to and from Baltimore, it’s nice to have the ability to ride the rails as opposed to driving between the two cities
7. Seattle – Transit Score: 57
Seattle, like most North American cities, was traditionally dominated by cars until recently. Given the city’s age, the basic infrastructure of railways and streetcars – which were once the predominant mode of transportation in the area – still exists. They’ve recently started rebuilding some of these old routes. The city is also serviced by a network of bus routes and two commuter rail routes that connect with the suburbs, which is helpful since most people work downtown in the city itself.
SoundTransit has also built a new light rail line that connects the city to the airport. All of this makes settling in the city that much easier for the many people who move to Seattle to work with corporate giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Starbucks.
Metro Transit also offers a trip planner on it website where commuters can enter their location and destination, and the trip planner displays itineraries showing stops, departure and arrival times – helping the public transportation process run that much more smoothly for busy commuters.
6. Chicago – Transit Score: 65
Chicago is the third largest city in the United States, and it’s a major transportation hub. With L.A in the West and New York City in the East, Chicago is the epicentre of transport through the country. The Regional Transportation Authority operates the second largest public transportation system in the United States, and it covers Chicago as well as the 40 surrounding suburbs. The CTA operates 24 hours a day: There are approximately 2,000 buses that operate over 153 routes, making it easy to ditch the car for a night on the town.
The city is also home to the famous “Chicago L,” which is an elevated train that runs throughout the city. It’s a notable feature of the city, often making its way into movies based in Chicago. While the “L” got its name from the large sections that are elevated, portions of the network are also in subway tunnels, at grade level, or open cut. The “L” consists of eight rapid transit lines mainly focusing transit toward the Loop.
5. Philadelphia – Transit Score: 67
Philadelphia is known for making a mean cheesesteak, but there’s a whole lot more to this city than just the famous sandwich. Thankfully, the city has a totally comprehensive transportation infrastructure that makes it easy to get around to see everything there is to see and do in the city of Brotherly Love. You can easily visit Fairmount Park, or the Liberty Bell and if you have your sights on traveling a little farther out, that’s no problem here either. The Acela Express trains provide easy access between Boston, New York, and Washington D.C. as well.
4. Washington D.C. – Transit Score: 70
Washington D.C’s Metro doesn’t just stick to the city. It services out to the Beltway and beyond, making it easy for families to settle in suburban areas such as Alexandria, Arlington, or Bethesda and work in D.C. The metro here is considered relatively safe and clean and has reasonable fares. The Metrorail and Metrobus are some of the easiest ways to get around the city, and there are rails that take you directly to the sites you want to see the most, such as the Washington Monument, The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the Capital Mall, and of course, the White House.
As of 2011, the Metrorail is in the process of being expanded to provide service to the Tysons Corner area of Virginia with further expansion to Dulles Airport in the works. This will add another color to the rail system and will be known as the silver line.
3. Boston – Transit Score: 75
Boston is a city that appears to have been built without a plan. Except for the Back Bay and part of South Boston, the city isn’t laid out in a traditional grid pattern, making it confusing for both tourists and locals alike. Because the city is actually composed of many smaller towns annexed together, duplicate street names are fairly common, and sometime streets change names for no apparent reason. With a city as confusing as this, it’s almost imperative to have a decent transportation system in place.
And thankfully, Boston has it with its rail systems, subways, streetcars and even boat. Yes, there are passenger boats that service the downtown area, linking to the Boston Navy Yard in Charlestown, Hingham, Hull, and Quincey. There are also commuter services connecting via Logan International Airport.
2. San Francisco – Transit Score: 80
San Francisco is known for its cable cars, mostly used by tourists. However, there are so many ways to get around Frisco, there really is no reason to own to a car unless you want to. Parking can be a bit of a problem, and not all apartments include parking spots in the monthly rent. So it’s pretty easy to see why many residents forgo the car and rely on BART, MUNI, and buses to get around.
Residents are able to work in Silicon Valley, where many of the tech giants are located along with many smaller startups as well, and still live in the city thanks to the transit around the Bay Area. San Francisco is one of the easiest cities to get around in without a car, being that it’s also one of the most walkable cities in the country as well. It sort of explains the ridiculously high rents to live there. Sort of. After all, a car-free lifestyle is rather appealing to a lot of people, and SF makes it incredibly easy to ditch the car and get around without sitting for hours in rush hour traffic.
1. New York – Transit Score: 81
In a city as big as the Big Apple, it’s important to make sure people can get where they’re going quickly and easily or things could get messy. In order to facilitate that, NYC boasts one of the largest subway systems in the world (track mileage of 656 miles) and has several modes of transportation available for people to commute to work and throughout the city as well.
New York has the highest rate of public transportation use of any American city, with over half of the city’s workforce commuting to their place of employment via public transport on a daily basis. New York is also the only city in the U.S where over half of the households don’t even own a car, and in Manhattan that number jumps to 75%. That’s probably because in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Williamsburg, you’re never more than a 10 to 15 minute walk from a subway station. The city itself is built with such density that things are close enough together to allow you to walk almost anywhere.
With access to superior transit, and the pedestrian-friendly layout of the city’s streets, it’s not surprising that many New Yorkers go their entire lives without owning a car.