The 5 Best U.S. Cities for Public Transit — Did Yours Make the List?

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The 5 Best U.S. Cities for Public Transit — Did Yours Make the List?

City data website just released its annual list of the best U.S. cities for public transit. "We’ve calculated the Transit Score for 316 cities and almost 7,000 neighborhoods to help home shoppers and apartment hunters find places to live with better commutes and more transportation choices," the organization says. 

Most of the top five overall cities are on or near the Atlantic Ocean. But when broken down by region, Washington, D.C., Miami, and Atlanta were tops for public transit in the South. Among Midwestern cities, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee ranked (in that order). And in the West, San Francisco was top, followed by Seattle, and Oakland, Calif. 

"The older Northeast cities with established subway systems have the highest scores," noted Walk Score. "West Coast cities that have made more recent investments in light rail also score well." And though Southern cities average a Transit Score of just 38, there are many neighborhoods (such as Downtown Houston or the Brickell Neighborhood in Miami) that score high. 

Here's a look at the overall top five U.S. cities for public transit, along with their walkability rating, most walkable neighborhoods, and how to talk about their local subway systems like a local. Some of these may come as a surprise — a cursory survey of coworkers and friends resulted in comments like "What about Chicago?", "Philadelphia HAS a subway system?" and a "Stop everything. That is a prank list. San Francisco has the worst public transit EVAR," from a SF native. Probably we are just spoiled on the East Coast?

New York City

2014 Transit score: 81/100

Walk Score: 88

Most walkable neighborhoods: 
  1. Little Italy
  2. Chinatown
  3. NoHo

Subway system is called: The Subway

San Francisco

2014 Transit score: 80/100

Walk Score: 84

Most walkable neighborhoods: 
  1. Chinatown
  2. Financial District
  3. Downtown

Train system is called: BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). The Muni, short for San Francisco Municipal Railroad, refers to commuter trains.


2014 Transit score: 75/100

Walk Score: 80

Most walkable neighborhoods: 
  1. Haymarket
  2. Government Center
  3. North End

Subway system is called: The T

Washington, D.C.

2014 Transit score: 70/100

Walk Score: 74

Most walkable neighborhoods: 

  1. Dupont Circle
  2. Chinatown
  3. U Street Corridor

Subway system is called: The Metro


2014 Transit score: 67/100

Walk Score: 77

Most walkable neighborhoods: 

  1. Center City East
  2. Center City West
  3. Wharton/Hawthorne/Bella Vista

Subway system is called: SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority), or more specifically, a Philly friend says: ”There are only two lines. The Broad Street line (north-south, completely underground) is simply “The Subway.” The Market-Frankford Line (east-west), which is elevated at points but goes underground through Center City West Philly, is referred to as “The El.”