The 10 Best American Cities for Riding Transit To Work

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We've seen plenty of stories that measure how big, fast, and effective our transit systems are in the U.S. But for many people, none of that matters unless transit can do one thing: Get them to work. That's why this study by the University of Minnesota is so valuable—it shows which transit systems provide the best access to jobs.

The Access Across America maps show "job accessibility" for 46 of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. The colors you see are the number of jobs which can be reached after a 30-minute public transit commute (which is total travel time, including walking, waiting, and riding). Darker colors mean more jobs can be accessed via transit, and lighter colors mean that fewer jobs are accessible. The darkest red color shows that over a million jobs can be accessed within 30 minutes.

Especially for people who don't have a car, don't want a car, or potentially won't be able to afford one, this is pretty crucial information for apartment hunting, or even choosing a city to move to (if they have a choice). It also shows just how much public transit investments can drive the economic development of certain neighborhoods. Here are the top 10 cities; check the whole list out here.


1. New York City

Not surprisingly, New York tops the list with a job density that's heads and shoulders above every other city on the list. The correlation between travel times and jobs is so clearly defined you can almost see where many of the subway lines and stops are.


2. San Francisco/Oakland

The Bay Area twin cities combo land at #2. Even though the job density is somewhat solid throughout San Francisco and parts of Oakland, you can see how drastically transit service drops off on the western and southern edges of San Francisco.


3. Los Angeles

LA makes a great case for showing how a city can provide widespread employment opportunities all over, instead of a singular downtown. An extremely large part of the city has fairly good access to jobs via transit.


4. Washington DC

Rail lines that reach out from the city center are to thank for the polka-dot look of DC, although the patchiness shows that only certain pockets are well-served by transit.


5. Chicago

The transit-to-job access is very evenly distributed over a large region in Chicago, which is extremely well-served by public transportation. In fact, I'm surprised that Chicago didn't rank higher.


6. Boston

Suburban rail that feathers out from the city helps create pockets of good job accessibility. Like LA, though, Boston has several job centers.


7. Philadelphia

Philadelphia's rail system seems to serve its downtown very well, providing very consistent job access through much of the city. On the Camden, New Jersey, side, the transit is more sparse.


8. Seattle

Seattle has pretty consistent job accessibility throughout its downtown area, but again, multiple job centers, like Bellevue and Redmond, skew the data toward outside regions.


9. Denver

An expanding light rail system is to thank for Denver's improving job accessibility.


10. San Jose

A surprising #10 for a place not known for its transit, it's possible that San Jose made the list simply because of the high number of jobs that Silicon Valley industry has created.


Check out the rest of the list here, and for comparison, look at last year's study of job accessibility for cars. [UMN]