U.S. Cities with the Best Public Transportation

July 14, 2021

U.S. Cities with the Best Public Transportation

Moving around, especially if you don’t have a car, is one of the most significant pain points. However, if you reside in a U.S. city with subways and other forms of public transportation, not having a car is a major advantage. The benefits of moving and living in a big city include top-notch restaurants, cultural activities, and lively nightlife.

Cities with the best public transit choices include several modes of transportation, so you won’t have to worry about getting home after a night out or making it to work on time.

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When you consider the expense of car ownership, taking public transit not only saves you money but also minimizes the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere when you share trips with your neighbors. If that sounds appealing, try relocating to one of the following American cities with the best public transit.

Best Public Transportation in US

Cities are graded on a scale of 0 to 100, with 90 to 100 being regarded as a “Rider’s Paradise.” A city with a score of 70 to 80 has outstanding public transportation. To provide a more complete comparison for each of WalkScore’s top transit cities, we studied additional statistics about that city’s transportation system.

We used WalkScore’s list of transit-friendly cities to generate our top cities list. Walkscore evaluates the utility of local transit routes in terms of frequency, mode of transportation, and distance between stops to assign a score to each city’s transit system.

New York, New York

For millions of New Yorkers, the subway is a way of life, and for every tourist, it is a rite of passage (despite some of its issues). The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) runs the subway and public buses in the city 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Also, Read: Guide Moving to New York

In 2018, the MTA reported over 1.68 billion subway journeys and over 569 million bus rides. The MTA’s operating budget is around $16 billion. Rideshares, regional trains, rental bikes, trams, ferries, and, last but not least, the renowned yellow cabs and other taxis are all options for public transportation.

Over the next five years, the MTA aims to invest more than $50 billion in modernizing outdated infrastructure, including boosting ADA accessibility. The MTA has also made great progress in terms of safety, with reported crimes down significantly in the last 20 years.

While the subway is the city’s primary mode of transit, we’d be negligent if we didn’t highlight Grand Central Terminal’s majestic architecture or the Roosevelt Island Tramway’s stunning skyline views.

New York City transit at a glance:

Average Cost:

Subway Ticket: $2.75 per ride with MetroCard
Bus ticket: $2.75 per ride with MetroCard
Taxi: $15 plus tip (based on a five-mile ride lasting 10 minutes)
Uber: $16.80 plus tip (based on a five-mile ride lasting 10 minutes)

San Francisco, CA

Without its world-famous cable car system, what would the “City by the Bay” be? They’d be taking away a great tourist draw, but most locals don’t ride them. Instead, they take buses, light rail trains, and vintage streetcars, which are all part of the SFMTA’s Muni fleet.

Also, Read: Reasons Why We Should All Be Moving To California

Every workday, Muni supports over 650,000 average boardings and has an annual operating budget of over $1 billion. Bike shares, rideshares, taxis, scooters, and regional rail lines operated by BART and Caltrain are among the other public transportation choices.

Muni’s late-night Muni Owl Network allows you to grab a ride at any time. Fights and muggings do happen from time to time in terms of safety. Riders can get advice from the SFMTA on what to do if they see a crime in progress. Muni trains run on a mixed above-ground/underground system, but plans are in the works to transfer much of the system underground in order to enhance efficiency.

San Francisco Transit at a Glance:

Average Cost:

Muni train ticket: $2.50 per ride
Bus ticket: $2.50 per ride
Taxi: $12 to $20 per trip
Uber: $12.88 for a 6.4-mile trip

Boston, MA

Although New York has the most well-known subway system, Boston was the first. The first subway tunnel in North America was completed in 1897 by the Boston Elevated Railway Company, and it is still in service today. The public transportation system is now run by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). The “T” is how the locals refer to it.

The MBTA has an annual operating budget of almost $2 billion. On a typical weekday, more than a million people use the T to get around Boston, which is served by subways, buses, trolley cars, and boats.

Also, Read: Thinking of Moving to Boston? Here are some tips to Help You 

While the T is one of the most reliable public transit systems in the country, it is not without flaws. The number of late-night trains is restricted, with the final one usually departing shortly after midnight. It’s also noted for having frequent malfunctions and being obsolete in comparison to other subway systems.

The good news is that the system will spend $8 billion to modernize fare collection technology, increase accessibility, renovate stations, and improve services. Crime does occur on the MBTA, as it does on other large transportation systems, but the MBTA offers some tips on how to be safe.

Average Cost:

Subway ticket: $2.40 per ride with CharlieCard
Bus ticket: $1.70 per ride with CharlieCard
Taxi: $7.75 for a one-mile ride
Uber: $14.93 per ride

Washington, D.C.

The Metro system connects the nation’s capital to Virginia and Maryland with a massive network of buses, rail, and curb-to-curb paratransit vehicles for disabled travelers.

The system is operated by the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, which is funded by the region’s cities and counties. The system has an annual operating budget of more than $2 billion and plans to invest more than $9 billion in capital improvements over the next six years.

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Each day, more than 600,000 passengers use the Washington, D.C. metro system in a typical year. If you’re concerned about crime, the DC Metro is relatively safe to ride. The Metro system does not function beyond 11:30 p.m. on weekdays (1 a.m. on weekends), thus late-night travels will need you to hire a cab or use a carpool service.

Average Cost:

Subway ticket: $2.25 – $6.00 per trip during peak hours
Bus ticket: $2.00 per ride
Taxi: $5.14 per mile
Uber: $5 to $7 per mile

Philadelphia, PA

The “City of Brotherly Love” completes our list. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) operates a network of rail lines, buses, trolley lines, and paratransit that connects Philadelphia to Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. The Broad Street and Market-Frankfort subway lines are also run by it. After the subways close for the night, Night Owl buses run the same routes, allowing you to use public transportation at any time.

SEPTA’s annual ridership was 293 million trips in the fiscal year 2019. SEPTA’s annual operational budget is $1.49 million. Due to budget constraints, the transit system has had to reduce its construction expenditures. SEPTA, on the other hand, intends to spend more than $420 million in 2020 on new vehicles, station enhancements, and safety and security upgrades (including an ongoing restoration of the transit hub under City Hall in Center City).

Average Cost:

Subway ticket: $2.50 per ride
Bus ticket: $2.50 per ride
Taxi: $14.20 for the five-mile trip
Uber: $15.25 for the five-mile trip


It’s possible that taking public transit isn’t for everyone. Still, there’s no denying that having a top-notch public transportation infrastructure makes it easier to navigate some of America’s most populous cities. These cities have the most dependable transportation in the country, whether for visitors, commuters, or nightlife exploration.