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Cities With The Best Public Transport In The USA

Regardless of where you currently live or where you are planning on living in the future, one of the most significant aspects of choosing a particular city is the ease of transport. You either need a strong public transport network or you need a personal vehicle to make sure that you can get to places in time, that too without a lot of trouble.

However, buying a personal vehicle entails the cost of purchase, the cost of maintenance, the cost of insurance, and the effort required to keep everything in order. If you’re a person moving for a job, the moving and the job would be tasks enough. In which case, your best bet is a good public transport system.

If convenience is near the top of your priorities, you might want to look for cities that have the best public transport systems in tandem with the best jobs for you. To help with the cause, we have curated a list of the cities with the best public transportation system in the US.

New York City, New York

What better place to talk about a robust public transportation system than one with the that’s fast-paced, despite having some of the craziest traffic in the world? New York City has a transport network that covers the entire city by either rail or road.

Speaking of the rail, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, or MTA, operates subway trains throughout the five boroughs. These subway rides are an extensive, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly way to navigate the city. In fact, taking a ride on the subway is one of the best ways to see all the tourist spots across the city.

Along with the subway, the MTA is also responsible for the bus network in NYC. The network of buses in this city, when combined with the subway, covers pretty much the entirety of the city. One of the best parts about this bus network is that MTA has opted to use hybrid-electric buses in an effort to go green.

Both of these systems use the MetroCard. However, you can use the exact coin change in order to pay for the buses. Once paid, you can travel the entirety of any route on a single fare. For the train, once you’re in the subway station, you can transfer your fare to as many rides you like (as long as you don’t exit the station). For a full fare of $2.75, The MTA systems are a boon to this city of over 8.3 million people.

Other modes of public transport include the ferry system, commuter trains, and the world-famous taxicabs. All of these systems, working together, give you a good enough reason to not even own a vehicle of your own.


Seattle, Washington

This city is truly a great example of what a network of public transportation should look like. The city covers all of its bases: rail, road, and waterways. To go into a little more detail, you can get across Seattle via the bus, the streetcar, the light rail, or even the Amtrak. The best part is that Seattle is very bike-friendly and even has a bike-sharing program for all its residents.

Inside the city, there are two public transport agencies that serve: King County Metro and Sound Transit. While King County Metro handles the local and commuter bus service in King County, Sound Transit manages and operates the commuter and light rail alongside regional express buses. The base fare for both is $2.75. However, there are discounts for youth and senior citizens.

Other modes of transport include ferries and water taxis, along with streetcars, monorail, and taxis. However, the streetcars and monorail are a little limited in terms of the areas they can reach. The streetcars have only two lines going through the city while the monorail only goes between Westlake Center and Seattle Center.

We do suggest you take a look at the bike lanes in Seattle too! The city maintains a great culture for the residents to travel pretty much the entirety of the city on bikes. There’s also a ‘bike map’ that the city maintains, which you can use to figure out routes, riding amenities, and trails.

Boston, Massachusetts

The city of Boston has the fifth-largest mass transit system in the US. It serves over four million people across the city with the help of a subway system, an extensive bus system, and a trolley car service, water taxis, and ferries.

When commuting in the city, the best bet would be the subway and the water taxis. The subway, lovingly called ‘The T,’ is operated and managed by the Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority (MBTA). It runs on five lines through the city and at its maximum, the fare costs $2.90.

If you choose to get a water taxi, you can get one from two on-call water taxi services. All boats maintain a certain quality and they will get you to your destination in about 7-10 minutes. Regular water taxi stops include Logan Airport, Flynn CruisePort Terminal. TD Garden, New England Aquarium, and Charleston Naval Yard, and many more around the coast.

This city also boasts of a bus system. However, it’s mostly operational in the Downtown area. However, if you manage to get into the Downtown area by the commuter rail, Amtrak, or the buses, you can get across the city with relative ease and might be able to justify not owning a vehicle at all.

The city of Boston might not have a public transport system that has the best of everything. However, all of the different modes of public transport work very well in sync with each other and present a strong overall case to every resident living here.

San Francisco, California

The public transportation system in San Francisco is quite extensive and has quite a cute name too! Muni is San Francisco’s transport system that manages and operates trains, cable cars, buses, and the famous F-line heritage streetcar. While the streetcars, cable cars, and buses remain above the ground, the metro tends to dip below the street.

There’s a single streetcar that goes by F-Line Streetcar. It covers the area between Market Street and Fisherman’s Wharf. The cable cars, on the other hand, run through the downtown area, and run on three lines: Powell-Hyde, California Street, and the Powell-Mason.

For all of these modes of transport, you can either pay the conductor on board your ride or purchase a ticket online. However, whether the conductor on board has the change you would require is a gamble and you might have to pay your losses by forfeiting the difference in cash that you would hand out.

The city of San Francisco also offers an alternative option of payment called the Clipper Card. You can buy this prepaid card at any Muni or BART station in the city. Once purchased, you can access Muni buses, Muni Metro, cable cars, and even the BART vehicles. You have to simply hold the card over a scanner to get access to the mass transport vehicle.

The cable car tickets cost $7 while the Muni buses and trains charge $2.75. The BART system cost the most. A round-trip ticket costs $20.40, or $17.90, depending upon whether you start the journey from Oakland or San Francisco International Airport to come into downtown.

Also See: Moving to San Francisco

Chicago, Illinois

The public transportation system in Chicago works through 35 different suburbs and serves millions of passengers every day. The reason for the success of this extensive transit structure that is maintained and operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).

Chicago has a system of buses and trains that cover the entire city. In fact, in a combination, this system might be effective enough for a resident to not need a personal vehicle at all. All in all, the CTA operates eight train lines and 129 bus routes, making it the second-largest public transportation system in the country.

You can’t be in Chicago and not know of the Chicago L. This rapid transit system has a network that runs over 225 miles within the city. There are two lines that function 24/7: the Blue Line and the Red Line. For the other routes, you’ll have to refer to their respective timetables, but you can expect all of them to run between around 5 am to 11 pm at the very least.

If you plan on traveling to the suburbs near the city, you might have to use the Metra. This rail network has 11 lines that extend outward from the Loop, connecting the metro area to nearby communities like Evanston, Aurora, Joliet, and University Park. A one-way ride costs anywhere between $4 and $11. However, there is a varied charge on weekends with discounts for children and students.

You can also choose to travel by bus. The CTA network has stops at a distance of a few blocks from one another and operates between two time-frames: they hit the roads at either 4 am or 5 am and stop their service at either 11 pm or at 2 am.

Last but not the least, one of the most scenic ways to get around the city is by water taxis. You can get a water taxi from multiple spots on the Michigan Lake coast. However, you’ll only be able to get in one between May through September, maybe November if the weather allows. Moreover, the water taxi mostly covers the tourist spots in Chicago, rendering it very selectively usable to the residents traveling to work.


See Also: Moving to Chicago

Madison, Wisconsin

Even though the city of Madison is relatively small, it has a public transportation system that serves about 12.5 million people every day. In fact, this city’s mass transportation system pulls this feat off with the help of only a bus-based network.

The Madison Metro Transit, or MMT, serves the metro areas and most of the immediate suburbs. It’s a high-frequency, high-capacity transit service. You can book your tickets and plan your trips online via the apps, or using a 10-ride prepaid card.

For adults, the maximum charge for a single adult is $2. However, there are discount passes available for people with disabilities, youth, senior citizens, and low-income riders. If you want to transfer buses on a single fare, you can ask your driver for a transfer pass too.

See Also: Moving To Wisconsin – Cost of Living & Relocation Tips

Denver, Colorado

The Mile-High City has a public transportation system that consists of two modes of transport: buses and rail systems. In the rail systems, you’ll find that the trains are divided into local, or light rail, and commuter train service.

The Regional Transportation District, or RTD as it is popularly known, is responsible for operation and management of the public transportations system. With the combination of buses and trains, it provides a system that is robust enough to get you in and out of all the areas of this city without a lot of hassle.

Before we get into the specifics of each of the modes of transport, you need to understand that all of them are fared by the RTD itself. The RTD has divided the city into four fare zones that are called A, B, C, and Airport. If you travel in one or two zones, it’s considered a local fare. However, any combination with more than two zones is categorized as regional. A one-way trip with a local fare will cost you around $2.60 while a trip on the regional route will cost you $4.50.

The bus system in Denver is the primary mode of public transportation and is the best bet if you want to go to the nooks and crannies of the city. The bus network is very extensive and costs only $3 for a one-way pass. However, there are passes available for different times and ride validities, along with discounts for the elderly and students. You can get a bus on any route between 3:30 am and midnight.

The rail system in Denver is a little more confined than the bus network. However, it still is the best way to cover a lot of ground in the least amount of time. It consists of 13 different rail lines and nearly 113 miles of railway tracks.

The commuter rail system serves the areas around the Metroplex and its immediate neighboring regions. Consequently, the routes on this network are longer and have lesser stops compared to the light rail. Speaking of the light rail, it covers the Metroplex area with nine lines and 53 stops. The light rail makes quick stops through the city at a high frequency and short intervals. Both the train lines are operational between 4 am and 2 am.


Living in a city with good, strong public transportation is a huge deal. It not only provides you with the day-to-day convenience when it comes to traveling, but also helps you save a lot of money with the maintenance and operational costs of traveling in a personal vehicle. The cities mentioned in this article have managed to innovate systems of their own that work seamlessly with the needs of the residents.

We don’t mean to insinuate that you should move to a city based on its public transportation system, but it should definitely be a priority. After all, the time you spend traveling between your home and every other aspect of your life does consist of a huge portion of your life: and do you really want it to be frustratingly tiring?

Read Also: Moving for Shorter work Commute

FAQs On Cities With the Best Public Transportation In The US

Which City Has The Best Public Transportation System?

Cities like New York City, Seattle, and Boston have the best public transportation systems in the US. This rating is based on the rideability, affordability, and coverage of the systems in place.

Which City Has The Most Trains?

The city of Chicago has the most freight and passenger trains passing through the city. In fact, the heavy frequency of trains makes this city the nation’s railroad hub.

Which City Has The Best Bus System?

The city of Denver has the best bus network in place, closely followed by Madison and Chicago.

Also See: Top-rated National Moving Companies