A List of Favorite US Transit Cities

There are probably hundreds of cities in the United States, some with their own public transit systems, and some whose transit is provided by a metropolitan area, regional authority, or county jurisdiction.  Most of these cities have transit systems with bus fleets of at least 300 buses (the definition of a large bus fleet), a wide range of services (local, limited, express, etc.), and a rather large service area to provide transit to people from far reaches who need to access the city.  Some places even have some sort of rail system, whether it be streetcar/light rail, subway/metro, or commuter rail.  Most systems have reasonably cheap fares for the region they serve, while others are based on predetermined zones or distances.  Some cities have more than one system from different authorities, while others have only one primary system. My idea of a “transit city” is one that:

  • incorporates many levels of service, branded (such as New York’s Select Bus Service or Los Angeles’ Metro Rapid) or non-branded (such as NYC Transit’s express buses to Manhattan or Boston’s Masspike express buses)
  • includes a comprehensive range of fare products such as Daily and Monthly Passes, Smart Cards, and multi-ride discounts
  • operates frequent service (e.g., less than 15 minute intervals between buses) and various hours of the day (ideally 5AM-1AM, with some overnight service on key routes)
  • provides adequate service to far reaches of the service area without the necessary use of a car
  • operates attractive vehicles, based on livery, overall appearance, particular bus model for the service provided, passenger comfort, etc.

So, allow me to name a few of my favorites around the country, based solely on my experiences riding transit.  Note that this list only includes cities I have actually visited.  Here goes:

  1. Portland, Oregon Served by TriMet (Tri-County Metropolitan Transit District of Oregon), which serves Portland and all of Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties
  2. Chicago, Illinois Served by Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), METRA, and PACE Suburban Bus, all under the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) umbrella, serving Chicago and six counties including Cook, Lane, and DuPage
  3. Washington, DC Served by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which serves Washington, DC, and neighboring Maryland and Virginia suburbs.  Other counties in the WMATA service area have their own systems as well.
  4. Denver, Colorado Served by Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD), also known as “The Ride”, serves the CIty and County of Denver, Boulder, Longmont, Golden, Centennial, Englewood, Westminster, Lakewood, and Littleton

Again, this is only the short list, I have a few other favorites out there… I shall go into further detail later on…

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