10 best cities for transportation; Chicago is not among them

Well, Chicago was ranked No. 13 among “best cities for public transportation.”

“The rankings take into account per capita spending on public transportation, number of safety incidents per million trips, and the number of trips taken per capita,” reports U.S. News.

It was the safety category that dragged Chicago down. Washington, D.C. (tied for 11), Seattle (11) and Chicago (13) “had relatively high ridership and public investment, but they all also experienced far more safety incidents–such as collisions, derailments, and fires–per million trips than the cities in the top 10.”

Here are the Top 10:

1. Portland, OR

2. Salt Lake City

3. New York

4. Boston

5. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

6. San Francisco

7. Los Angeles

8. Honolulu

9 (tie). Denver

9 (tie). Austin


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  • Any rating system that puts Salt Lake City and Austin ahead of DC and Chicago is highly suspect. My guess on the safety issue is that some of these cities with very little transit don't have enough buses and trains running to risk a major incident that would throw off these statistics. Salt Lake City and Austin are both certainly headed in the right direction and quickly, building new rail -- while Chicago and DC seem to be losing transit service and struggling to hold on to what they have. But even so Salt Lake City and Austin are still decades away from offering the level of convenience that DC and Chicago offer. Minneapolis' transit also wasn't very useful when I visited. Denver has been aggressively building out a new rail system and reorienting development around the stations, so they've probably earned their top 10 spot.

  • Well, if convenience were the measuring stick, perhaps Chicago would be in the top 10. But remember, they looked at incidents per million trips, so I think it was pretty fairly done.

  • I agree with carfree. Even Portland's transit offerings are way over-hyped. Yes, it's a good transit system for a small city, but there is no way it should be ranked ahead of NYC. And Salt Lake City number 2? Ahead of New York, Boston, SF, Chicago, DC???? Come on.

    Chicago does need to work on safety, so this may be a good conversation starter. However, I'd say our levels of transit coverage, frequency and convenience are pretty good for a US city, and that's what the CTA should be looking to continually improve (as opposed to additional service cuts).

  • Portland's TriMet is decent at best, like you said, for a smaller city. But I wouldn't put it at #1. I think cities with actual over night service should be higher. For one thing we actually have night owl 24 hour service with a respectable network of rail and buses. Good luck getting anywhere in Portland via transit after 2am. There is nothing. Also the MAX down town since its all at street level is sorta silly and very slow. They are also restricted to run 4 car trains maximum only due to the size of the blocks, or the trains would block intersections. I can see that causing serious issues in the future as the city grows.

  • Let's not forget the criteria here: safety, capital spending and trips per capita. The CTA only does well on the latter.

  • Are we surprised really? High fares so you can stand while people with strollers take up 6 to 8 seats without having to pay for the space they take up. Surly drives who do nothing to move passengers back into the bus, blocking the entrances while they have their conversations, using cell phones, those ridiculous plexi barriers, shortened routes, no weekend service, drivers who drive either 3 mph or 60 mph through traffic- the list goes on and on. There needs to be a top down restructuring of the CTA. Starting with taking them out of that isolated building connected to no major routes, a customer service section where unpleasant seems to be their motto. I'm surprised we aren't at the very bottom of the list.

  • In reply to MikeinChgo:

    CTA is actually a bargain at a flat fare of $2.25. It's not CTA's fault that their passengers don't have common courtesy to move to the back of the bus, stand in the passageways and such - and if the driver did have to enforce courtesy, it would result in delays.

    And I've found that most of the CTA drivers are reasonably courteous. I always say hello or good afternoon to them; most of them respond or at least smile. That's better than they do in a lot of other cities I've been.

    CTA does a good job for not having any money to work with. Sure, there are things that they can improve on. But show me somebody that doesn't. And they can't help it if common courtesy isn't so common anymore.

  • In reply to MikeinChgo:

    These "rankings" always crack me up. SLC, Denver, Portland? Cmon...of course these system will be safer, they are a 100 years NEWER. Too bad they are completely underdeveloped and don't serve the vast majority of the respective cities.

    It's like taking stats from only the Orange Line in Chicago...

  • I'm always surprised to see comments about surly drivers because I very rarely encounter them. OTOH, it's very difficult to get anywhere if you are traveling off peak hours. It's a Friday, I'm off, I needed to go downtown, it took more than an hour to do so after the AM rush. It took more than an hour to return home in another off peak hour on the way home before the PM rush. It's unacceptable to have to wait as long as I do on a Friday off peak hours to get around.

  • I'd love to meet the crack whore who put this survey together. I lived in Austin, Texas for 15 years and never took transit once - because I could never find a trip that made sense. And by making sense I mean a trip that didn't take 2 hours and involve 3 or more transfers. Even today, their 'rail' system sees less than 1000 riders a day because it doesn't go anywhere. Seats are plentiful on their buses too - people do ride them, but they're nowhere near as useful as CTA or WMATA.

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