The 10 Best Cities for Mass Transportation
Photo By: ©iStockphoto.com/nikitsin
Photo By: City of Chicago/GRC
Photo By: ©iStockphoto.com/csreed
Photo By: ©iStockphoto.com/Merkuri2
Photo By: Tim Thompson/Seattle CVB
Photo By: Malcolm Brown, NYC and Co.
Photo By: ©iStockphoto.com/fotoVoyager
Photo By: ©iStockphoto.com/DenisTangneyJr
Photo By: ©iStockphoto.com/sdominick
To accommodate rush-hour commuters, bus services use the carpool lane in the mornings and evenings. "The bus is very fast and direct," Jan says. "The express bus service downtown is faster than driving a car."
Aside from its superb bus services, Minneapolis also offers a light-rail system that currently runs from downtown Minneapolis to the Northwest suburbs. Proposals have been made to expand the light-rail system to the Southwest, which would provide service to five more suburban communities.
The second-largest transportation system in the U.S., the Chicago Transit Authority includes buses, rapid transit (the "L") and commuter trains. Via bus or the "L," commuters and visitors can reach 40 of the city's suburbs and travel swiftly throughout Chicago proper. "The 'L' is better to take during commuting hours, since the bus often gets caught in traffic," says Loyola Medical School research assistant Kate Lansu.
Though Chicago roads currently provide some bus-only lanes, city leaders have been pushing for development of a higher-quality bus service, such as a Bus Rapid Transit system, which would reduce car lanes on the road, add more bus lanes and signal priority for buses at key intersections.
Government contractor Ticona Willis confirms these sentiments. "What I like most about D.C.'s mass transit system is the convenience of not having to deal with traffic during rush hour," she says. To accommodate travel into the D.C. area and the metro center, the city's public transportation system includes a regional subway system, a regional bus service and several local bus systems. Ticona says D.C.'s public transit isn't perfect – she'd like to see cheaper fares and newer subway cars with better temperature control – but the current system makes D.C. employment a viable option for suburbanites.
The Metro Rail currently offers services for five lines, and the city is working on a sixth line, the Expo line. Though the Metro's rail system serves several cities in Los Angeles County, ranging from Long Beach to Pasadena, Metro does not yet offer rail services to much of the Los Angeles Westside, an intensely developed residential and commercial community. The upcoming Expo line is expected to address this issue.
Though known as "The Trolley," this service is actually a light-rail system that runs on four different lines and has a ridership of more than 100,000 users each weekday. For those who work in the coastal and inland areas of San Diego, The Trolley can be the most convenient form of transportation. Currently the fifth most-ridden light-rail system, The Trolley is also the eighth-oldest light-rail system in the U.S.
San Diego's bus system is divided into three services: commuter and express, urban and local, and rural. Connecting its surrounding suburbs to the San Diego downtown area, buses offer express services during commuting hours and link up to the downtown's Trolley system. Additionally, San Diego is part of Southern California's Metrolink commuter rail service, connecting to most of the larger Southern California counties.
Unique to the Emerald City, the Seattle Center Monorail system links the downtown area to Seattle Center, the city's entertainment hub, and offers a fun riding experience. "I always take my family and friends to ride it when they're visiting," Stephanie says.
Also convenient for both residents and visitors, Seattle's light-rail system, Central Link, runs from the downtown area to the airport. The city is currently working on extending this line for another 3.15 miles, connecting the city's downtown area to the University of Washington campus.
To accommodate the popular use of mass transit, NYC is one of just a few U.S. cities to provide morning rush-hour service, in which the subways' frequency is less than 10 minutes. "I actually enjoy my morning commute somewhat. It allows me to relax a little, as opposed to being irritated while driving to work," Jenny says.
With San Francisco's growing population of more than 800,000, BART also caters to commuters within the city. "With BART, you can easily go from downtown to just about any part of the city," says recent San Francisco State University graduate Matt McEwan. In addition to BART, San Francisco's bus service and the citywide light rail and subway system also help relieve reliance on cars and parking shortage frustrations.
Unique to Boston's subway and bus system is the Charlie Card, a stored-value card used for paying subway or bus fare. The MBTA offers a discount for using the Charlie Card: Subway fare is $2 without the card and $1.70 with the card, per ride.
Though the MBTA's subway system already has three rapid transit lines – the Red, Orange and Blue lines, and two light-rail lines – the Green Line and the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line – the MBTA plans to add new stations to these lines as well as extend them. "Overall, the transit system connects the different parts of the city, as well as Cambridge, very cohesively," Anna concludes.
PAT operates about 800 buses, which run on both standard and rapid transit routes. Additionally, all the light rail and busway stations outside the downtown area connect to shuttles, transferring riders to the surrounding neighborhoods. PAT's buses currently run along three routes, connecting suburbs in Allegheny County to downtown Pittsburgh, from the Amtrak station to the eastern suburbs, and one line serving just the southern suburbs.
PAT's light-rail network, locally known as "The T," is a 25-mile system with four lines, running south from downtown Pittsburgh to the suburbs. PAT unveiled its new North Shore Connector Line, which added 1.2 miles of track north of downtown, in 2012. The line runs under the Allegheny River and connects Pittsburgh's northern suburbs to the downtown area as well as to the southern suburbs.