The 10 Best Places to Live in the U.S. for Public Transportation in 2019

These metro areas have public transit systems that help a significant number of their residents get around.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |June 12, 2019, at 1:34 p.m.

The 10 Best Places to Live in the U.S. for Public Transportation in 2019

Slideshow

Where can you live without a car?

Train approaching  elevated subway station in Queens, New York. Finanancial buildings and New York skyline are seen in the background, on the left below can be seen a busy street full of cars at rush hour, cloudy, dramatic sky, horizontal orientation, USA

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For many people looking to relocate to a new part of the country, the options for getting to work, home and anywhere else can often be a deal-breaker. For the sake of avoiding white-knuckle traffic, public transportation may be your preferred means of travel, not to mention the fact that it can help offset a high cost of living. But if you’re planning to count on a bus or train to get you from point A to point B, you may find your choice of metro areas is limited. Of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. that make up the Best Places to Live list, only 10 have public transportation used by more than 5% of local residents for daily commuting, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. Read on for the 10 Best Places to Live for Public Transportation.

9. Baltimore (tie)

9. Baltimore (tie)

Baltimore skyline at sunset with a beautiful, pink sky and clouds. Travel.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 100
Metro Population: 2,792,050
Median Home Price: $248,833
Median Annual Salary: $56,400
Public Transit Use: 6%

Public transportation is used by 6% of the Baltimore metro area. Commonly utilized transit around Baltimore includes buses and the local subway that runs from the center of the city out to the suburb Owings Mills. Additionally, Baltimore’s location on the Eastern Seaboard makes it easy to take advantage of Amtrak and MARC train systems that can take you north to Philadelphia, New York and Boston, or south to Washington, D.C.

Learn more about Baltimore.

9. Portland, Oregon (tie)

9. Portland, Oregon (tie)

light rail transportation in portland, oregon

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 8
Metro Population: 2,382,037
Median Home Price: $375,425
Median Annual Salary: $55,330
Public Transit Use: 6%

Also home to a public transportation system used by 6% of the population, Portland is similar in population size to Baltimore and offers residents a mix of train and bus options. The Portland Streetcar also has routes for commuters on both sides of the Willamette River.

Learn more about Portland.

8. Honolulu

8. Honolulu

Apartments, hotels and office buildings fill the skyline of the Waikiki district of Honolulu, Hawaii.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 60
Metro Population: 990,060
Median Home Price: $581,658
Median Annual Salary: $54,030
Public Transit Use: 9%

The smallest metro area on the list, Honolulu offers transit options that 9% of the population takes advantage of. The two branches of public transportation in Honolulu include TheBus, which is a fixed-route bus system throughout most major parts of Oahu, and TheHandi-Van, which provides transportation for low-income households, senior citizens and residents with disabilities.

Learn more about Honolulu.

6. Philadelphia (tie)

6. Philadelphia (tie)

Skyline of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA as seen from Camden New Jersey, featuring the Delaware River and Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 102
Metro Population: 6,065,644
Median Home Price: $200,142
Median Annual Salary: $54,940
Public Transit Use: 10%

Philadelphia’s public transit is primarily made up of the systems run by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which includes buses, trolleys and local and regional trains. Because of Philadelphia’s proximity to parts of New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and New York, many commuters use the train systems for regular daytrips in and outside of the metro area.

Learn more about Philadelphia.

6. Seattle (tie)

6. Seattle (tie)

The Seattle Monorail passing through the downtown core.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 9
Metro Population: 3,735,216
Median Home Price: $442,333
Median Annual Salary: $63,120
Public Transit Use: 10%

Tied with Philadelphia, Seattle also has a public transportation system used by about 10% of the population. Monorails, light rails, circulator and regional bus options and even ferries and water taxis help residents and tourists get around the Seattle area.

Learn more about Seattle.

5. Chicago

5. Chicago

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 104
Metro Population: 9,549,229
Median Home Price: $221,983
Median Annual Salary: $54,160
Public Transit Use: 12%

With a population of nearly 10 million people, 12% of the Chicago metro area depends on the public transportation system. Included in the Chicago Transit Authority’s system are CTA buses and the L Train system, which goes in, out and around the city.

Learn more about Chicago.

4. Boston

4. Boston

Subway train in the City of Boston

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 27
Metro Population: 4,771,936
Median Home Price: $423,450
Median Annual Salary: $65,420
Public Transit Use: 13%

With 13% of its metro area population using the subway, bus and trolley systems, Boston has the fourth-highest public transit use out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. Boston’s dense metro area makes public transportation both a viable and necessary option to help cut down on traffic, avoid the need to find parking and cut the expense of owning a car in a major city.

Learn more about Boston.

3. Washington, D.C.

3. Washington, D.C.

Underground in Washington DC

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 19
Metro Population: 6,090,196
Median Home Price: $376,767
Median Annual Salary: $69,210
Public Transit Use: 14%

Located in the mid-Atlantic, the nation’s capital requires public transportation to help keep people off its notoriously traffic-filled streets. The average morning commute for a District of Columbia metro area resident is 34.6 minutes, the second-longest commute time out of the 125 spots on the Best Places to Live list. Only New York City has a longer average commute.

Learn more about Washington.

2. San Francisco

2. San Francisco

Ferry Building and Trolley at the Embarcadero in San Francisco, California.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 7
Metro Population: 4,641,820
Median Home Price: $768,517
Median Annual Salary: $69,700
Public Transit Use: 17%

When you think of public transit in San Francisco, you may immediately picture the streetcars or trolleys that are prevalent in old TV shows set in the City by the Bay. While streetcars and cable cars are a part of the Muni – the San Francisco transit system – you’re also likely to see locals catching buses and light rail trains to get around town.

Learn more about San Francisco.

1. New York City

1. New York City

Sunset view at Queensboro Bridge Midtown Manhattan.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 90
Metro Population: 21,139,370
Median Home Price: $386,862
Median Annual Salary: $63,079
Public Transit Use: 30%

As the largest metro area in the U.S. both by population and size, New York City shouldn’t surprise anyone as the place with the most heavily used public transportation. With more than 21 million metro residents, the Big Apple offers its subway system, railroad that takes people in and out of the city center, ferries to Long Island, Staten Island and other locales and buses that travel everywhere in between. This all adds up to 30% of the local population taking advantage of the extensive transit options.

Learn more about New York City.

The top places for public transportation in the U.S. include:

The top places for public transportation in the U.S. include:

Train on elevated tracks within buildings at the Loop, Chicago City Center - Soft Warm Artistic Effect - Chicago, Illinois, USA

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  • New York City
  • San Francisco
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Seattle
  • Philadelphia
  • Honolulu
  • Portland
  • Baltimore

Read More

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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