Public transit systems drive development, connect labor pools with employers and generally make metropolitan areas better places in which to live. That’s why they’re vital for young startups looking to attract talent, and Washington, D.C.-area companies in the District, Maryland and Virginia alike can thank Metro trains for keeping their offices filled.
A new report that ranked D.C. public transit as No. 1 in the United States might be giving Metro a little too much credit, though.
D.C. beat out San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and New York City in the set of rankings. By using a scoring system that considered average commute times, the percentage of population being served by public transit options and the relative incomes of public transit users as compared with those of the general population, the analytics company SmartAsset determined that D.C. really does have the best trains and buses in the country.
“It isn’t just size that makes D.C.’s transit system the best in the U.S. The typical transit commuter in D.C. spends 36 minutes traveling to work each day,” wrote Nick Wallace, data editor at SmartAsset. “That is 10 minutes below the average for the 136 cities in SmartAsset’s study.”
Some of D.C.’s numbers in SmartAsset’s study are impressive. Public transit serves 36 percent of the city’s workers, more than in every other city on the list with the exceptions of New York City and Jersey City, N.J. Of course, the relatively small 4 percent difference between transit users’ and the general population’s incomes highlights how expensive the Metro system really is. After all, D.C.’s median income is the second-highest in the U.S. among metro areas, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey.
Couple that with the verified falling ridership numbers and alarming safety issues in recent years, and it’s clear that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority faces some terrible problems that need to be fixed. Until they are fixed, WMATA probably shouldn’t be getting any awards for providing the best service in the country.
San Francisco, Boston and Chicag0, meanwhile, earned their rankings on this list, thanks to the shear volume of passengers they serve. Volume alone wasn’t enough score the top slots, however, as evidenced by New York’s place at No. 5. You can see how those and other cities ranked in the table below.