New Ranking of Transit Systems

Today we’re announcing our first ranking of of U.S. city transit systems based on residents’ access to public transportation. (Read the official press release.)

To compute our rankings, we calculated the Transit Score of over 1 million locations in the largest 25 cities that provide open public transit data (hey Atlanta and Phoenix you’re among the largest cities that don’t provide open public transit data!).

Transit Score measures how well a location is served by public transit by assigning a “usefulness” value to nearby transit routes based on frequency, route type, and distance to the nearest stop on the route.  Type an address into Walk Score to get your personal Transit Score.

City scores are calculating by applying the Transit Score algorithm block-by-block throughout the city using a population-weighted methodology.  Transit geeks can read our detailed methodology.

Here’s a Transit Score map of San Francisco (our #2 rated city with a score of 80):

Transit Score Map of San Francisco

Transit Score Map of San Francisco

You can see the blue and pink area of very high scores near the concentration of BART and bus routes downtown.  You can also see circles of high scores around the various BART, MUNI, and bus stops.

The #1 city in the rankings is New York (New Yorkers are never surprised when they are #1) — and it’s just phenomenal how far you can travel in 30 minutes on transit in NYC.  Here is the 30 minute transit shed from Grand Central Station:

New York City 30 Minute Transit Shed

New York City 30 Minute Transit Shed

Heading to the gas pump is about as much fun as getting a root canal. As gas prices rise, is leaving your car at home (or not owning a car) an option?  If the answer is no, Walk Score can help you find an apartment or rental home with a great commute, with nearby public transit, and that’s close to the places and people you love.

Did you know:

• Riding public transportation saves individuals on average over $10,000 a year.
• Americans took over 10 billion trips on public transportation in 2011.
• The average annual number of vehicle miles traveled by young people (16 to 34-year-olds) in the U.S. decreased 23 percent between 2001 and 2009.

Happy transit riding!

Correction:  In our April 2012 Transit Score ranking, we incorrectly gave Minneapolis a Transit Score of 69.  We discovered an underlying data issue where we were receiving duplicate stop and route data from multiple Minnesota transit agencies.  Specifically, the Minnesota Valley transit authority was including Minneapolis / St. Paul Metro Transit data in their feed.  We have corrected this issue.



  1. Uncle Vinny

    Shocked to see that Portland is barely ahead of LA. Maybe Portland’s reputation for great mass transit is based mostly on the downtown core, and large sections of it are transit deserts? Or… maybe LA isn’t as bad as the rumors? Or both?!

  2. Kenny

    I think Portland and Los Angeles are probably the two most mis-estimated transit cities. Los Angeles has a 15 minute bus route on most of the major north-south and east-west streets, and a few (like Vermont, and Wilshire) have buses that are every 6 or 8 minutes, while Portland has only a couple routes that are more frequent than every 20 minutes.

    I think the real difference is that Los Angeles has a poor transit system for a huge city, and Portland has a great transit system for a medium-size city, but if you compare them to each other the Los Angeles one is probably better.

  3. Brent

    Why is Minneapolis, MN not on the list? WalkScore lists it as a transit score of 69, which would put it ahead of Philly and Chicago.

  4. Josh Herst

    Brent, thanks for your comment. As you point out, Minneapolis has a Transit Score of 69, but has smaller population than the 25 cities listed here. Thanks.

  5. Sonya R.

    Excited about this new tool–however, the methodology section (link above) fails to explain the multipliers for mode weight:

    “heavy/light rail is weighted 2X, ferry/cable car/other are 1.5X, and bus is 1X”

    I imagine this weighting will have a substantial impact on scores (even if scores are normalized) and WalkScore should be clear about the assumption that rail inherently contributes to improved transit service. There’s much to be said about the relative benefits of bus v. rail, and the discussion is clearly happening at WalkScore–please let us in on it! More methodology, please.

  6. Hunter

    Walkscore and Transitscore is heavily oriented towards finding housing. Have you considered making a different option oriented towards tourists? I often would like to travel to a city or even small town for a day or two by just hopping on Amtrak and then walking around when I get there. To a tourist, the availability of grocery stores is not all that important, but museums, parks, and hotels in walkable or transit-accessible areas is more important. (I don’t know if there is an easy way of doing it, but the quality of the tourists attractions could be weighted too).

    I wonder how Richmond, Virginia would do or New Haven, Conn.

  7. Nathanael

    Is is possible to redo these using metropolitan areas? The municipal borders suffer from arbitrariness.

  8. Erica

    I’m curious whether population density and the era in which a city grew significantly (before or after the wide use of automobiles) have strong correlation with the transit scores. Does anyone have ready access to that data?

  9. Josh Herst

    Thanks for your feedback. In the future we hope to do a metropolitan area (v. city) ranking.

  10. Grim

    If San Francisco is number two it would be helpful to do an international comparison. San Francisco’s public transportation is antiquated at best. Bart is an ear drum damaging, stinking, mess. I was hoping this might point out how badly the US does at providing public transportation.

  11. Abacaxi Mamao

    This is great! But as someone living in upper Manhattan, I can promise you that you cannot get from Grand Central Station to 181st St. in 30 minutes or fewer. Walking from where the crosstown shuttle (S) lets you off at 42nd St. to the A train itself takes at least 10 minutes.

    Also, I second the request for a tourist option! I love to travel and don’t drive, and this information would be very helpful. Thanks!

  12. Ginger

    This is useless. How can you have ‘Car Dependent’ cities listed in the top 25 nationwide. Your criteria is not responsive to the real question – Where to move to if mass transit is important to you?

  13. Josh Herst

    Ginger, to clarify, this is a ranking of the transit systems of the 25 largest U.S. cities that provide open public transit data. Only the top 10 cities have scores that we qualify as offering good or very good city-wide access to public transportation. Thanks.

  14. Laura

    Are there any plans to share this type of data for small cities and metro areas (ie: populations under 200,000)?

  15. Josh Herst

    Check out this map of cities for which Transit Score is currently available:

    Many of these are smaller cities. Thanks.

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