Which large cities have the best and worst public transit systems

The only one I am familiar with is San Diego. In San Diego I’d rate their bus system a C+ and their train system an A-.

The busses generally aren’t that great as they ran late a good deal of the time, however their train system was amazing. If you had to go anywhere in midtown, or if you needed to go from east to west or down south then the train was great. However going from La Jolla down to the train was crappy as the express bus only ran during business hours and the other busses took forever. I remember once trying to go from La Jolla to a place downtown. Driving took me about 15 minutes. I spend 2.5 hours using the bus system.

I have heard Boston and NYC have the best public transit systems. I would assume another city like SF has a good one too.

I don’t live in these places, but while travelling, I have found the Washington and Montreal subway systems to be clean, efficient and convenient.

I used to live in San Francisco (without owning a car) and I’d say they have an excellent public transportation system. The subway is cheap, clean and fast. BART gets you to places outside The City and Cal Trans will get you pretty much anywhere else. That and you can’t piss in the wind in San Francisco without getting a bus stop wet. Even the streetcars are fun.

Now I live in Portland, ME, an appreciatively small metropolitan area, but come on … there are approximately 5 or 6 bus lines in the whole area. Each line spreads out like a spiderweb from a hub downtown and there is no connecting service. You could walk halfway across the city and back without seeing a bus stop.

San Fran - don’t even need a car because public transpo is the balls.
Portland - public transpo is used solely for when your car breaks down, and then only if you need to go to one of five different places.

Indianapolis’ public transit is piss-poor.

Washington DC public transportation is very good, maybe the best.

NYC. Hands down. The subways & buses go almost everywhere and run 24/7 (unless you’re on some outer line that may suspend service late at night or switch to other routes, and late night you may have a long wait, but generally they are always running. It’s not like the whole system shuts down at midnight.)
A monthly unlimited pass is only $86, and with that you can go anywhere, as many times as you like.

D.C. has a great subway system-- IF you live near a subway stop. Trouble is, there aren’t enough of them, and what’s there isn’t always in the most convenient place (no Georgetown stop-- long story-- finally getting a Tyson’s Corner/Dulles line, no stop in Old Town Alexandria, etc.).

The bus system is efficient, more or less.

Chicago has a great bus system. It’s terrible at keeping a schedule, but there are so many buses that it doesn’t matter. The El is good, but like the D.C. Metro, it doesn’t go everywhere it needs to go.

NYC buses are a nightmare because of traffic, but the subway system is the most efficient in the U.S.-- it goes absolutely everywhere, and it’s organic with the city. Boston’s “T” is a close second, for the same reason.

Personal opinion aside: I’m not a fan of mass transit in modern American cities. It’s like, who are we kidding? Cities that grew up from 1950 on were built with the automobile in mind; trying to force a mass transit system on top of those cities (like L.A., the model example) is nearly always a doomed exercise in inefficient back-patting. You need dense urban areas for mass transit to make economic and practical sense, and outside of the Atlantic corridor, those are far and few between.

Chicago has a great system, it has a few weak links depeneding where you live.

For instance, the Red Line, El train/subway runs, at worst, every 15 minutes overnight. The Blue Line El/Suway runs every 30 minutes overnight (1am - 4am) while the other el/subways don’t run 24 hours, but other buses do.

You defintely do NOT need a car in Chicago, as long as you stay withing the city limits. I have lived since 1994 w/o car with no issues.

Any city with a decent subway system is top notch. New York, Washington, Boston, London, Montreal, and Paris are great for getting around. Of those I’ve tried, Washington was the cleanest (it helps being the newest), but New York, London, and Paris will always get you where you want to go. London also has some very good bus transit (with good maps at every stop so you know what bus to take), and Paris’s bus system is pretty good, also. Overall, London gets the nod. In the US, it’s NYC.

San Francisco, Toronto, Atlanta, and Baltimore (light rail) are also pretty good, though they don’t cover things as thoroughly.

Bad? San Diego didn’t strike me as being all that great.

I define “best” as “reasonable substitute for owning a car”. Given that, I vote the greater NYC mass transit system (MTA, NJ Transit, Metro North, LIRR, etc) as the best. It runs 24 hours a day and allows millions of people in New Jersey, Connecticut and New York to live in or commute into Manhattan every day without the need of an automobile.

I was also very impressed by the London Underground or “Tube” when I was there.

The Boston T system is not so good. It stops running early, the “Green Lines” are slow as shit and station coverage is spotty once you get past Alston-Brighton or so and it’s only really designed to get you in and out of downtown Boston. IOW, you still need a car (and a chair or traffic cone to mark your spot in the winter) if you want to live or work in and around Boston.

Technically, no, but if you required the sort of density of an Old Town stop next to Braddock road and King Street stops, it would be hugely expensive. The only problem is that I can’t really tell if it’s a good neighborhood to be walking through to get to the stops (it very well might be, I can’t tell,) but the distance per se is not prohibitive for me.

I didn’t know SF had a subway, I thought it was just Muni bus.

My problem with SF is it seems you need multiple busses. If you live in Oakland you need AC transit, Bart and Muni. In San diego the system isn’t too great but I think there was just one system that worked for the whole city. So in SF if I could see people spending $200+ a month on public transit (if they need to use BART to get across the bridge for work). Back in my college town a monthly pass on the bus was $30, and in San Diego it was around $70 and I thought $70 was expensive.

I wish BART had a monthly pass system.

Yeah, living in Oakland for a year did force me to pay extra for BART, and switch trains to and fro, to actually get into the city, so I see your point. However, if you don’t need to leave the city limits, you’re good as gold in SF.

I have been in many-a-moments with a bone chilling cold wind in San Francisco waiting for a bus, almost to the point of walking home up and down a few very steep hills after a 45 minute wait, just to finally have the bus that is supposed to run every 15 minutes show up with 3,4,5, even six buses in tow. This is a big problem with the bus system in San Francisco. When they show up they show up in bunches. I do like that most of the buses are electric and very quiet.

My best transit experiences have been in Portland, Oregon, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

Los Angeles has a good not great system especially if you consider the overwhelming population and how much space the transit system has to cover. Going east downtown and going west towards the beach and airport is great, but going north and south needs work.

BART is the subway.

I like the pubtrans in Paris, London, and Chicago. Mexico City’s subway system is comprehensive, extremely cheap, and the trains run a lot, but it still manages to be horribly crowded. I was pleasantly surprised by the pretty good metro system in Medellin when I was there earlier this year.

I am not fond of the New York system because I find it utterly baffling. If I actually lived there, I suppose I would figure it out, but as a tourist it’s pretty fucking confusing. Why are some of the trains numbered and some of them lettered?

Detroit’s pubtrans is, as you’d probably expect, a disaster.

The DC system is great during the day, not so great late at night, which is a deal-breaker for me.

SF’s system - by which I mean SF’s system, not the greater Bay Area’s - is great in theory. It’s cheap, it goes everywhere, it runs all night (not all lines, but enough of them to cover anywhere I ever needed to go). It’s chronically under-funded, though, and when I lived there I spent more than enough time waiting for buses that never arrived, or sitting in broken-down streetcars stuck beneath Market Street.

New York is brilliant once you figure it out (every newbie I know has taken the express train by accident and ended up in Harlem or some scary part of Brooklyn. Including me.) And it’s not that difficult to figure it out.

The London Underground is great when the line you need isn’t out of service (as it often is). The buses have got remarkably better in recent years, with an information system that ought to be the model for every place else in the world. Find yourself in a part of town you’re not familiar with and need to know how to get back home? Just walk to the nearest bus stop and look at the sign, it’ll tell you the locations and destinations of every bus that stops anywhere within walking distance.

I’m always amazed at how good the transport is in Eastern Europe. Fast, efficient, cheap, gets you anywhere you need to go.

Dublin is pretty much a joke.

I’d say this is the main reason most people don’t use mass transit. It’s just inconvenient as hell.
If I could get to work on a bus in roughly the same amount of time it takes me to get there by car, I would start doing it in a heartbeat. But I once looked into it and I estimate it would take about hour to get to work by bus, as I would have to make a transfer. And that’s not even factoring in the 20 minutes or so it would take me to walk to the nearest street where a bus runs. Notice I said street where a bus runs not a marked bus stop with an actual shelter, of which there are none nearby, so I would have to stand by the (non-sidewalked) curb and flag one down when I saw it.
By car it takes me about 15 minutes to make the whole trip, even in morning rush hour.
This why there is so little support for mass transit. They set up shitty routes, people who try to take it find it’s not very efficient, and no one offers support when expansion plans are put forward. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

Yes, I recall how impressed you were with the trams of Sofia. :slight_smile:

Philadelphia is actually quite good. Bus and trolley service is consistent and easy to use as it takes advantage of the grid-style street layout. Subway and “Subway Surface” (trains and trolleys that run part above and below street level on one route) connect underground to various subway routes.

It’s being out of town and trying to get into Philly that is tough. Are there good spots? Sure, but it is woefully inadequate overall.

Living in Philly and living with public trans is actually quite good (you just have to adjust and control for all the Philadelphians who are conditioned by previous generations to bitch and moan when you seek opinions other than mine).

Toronto’s city transit system, the TTC, manages to be middle-of-the-road decent in spite of its own managerial inefficiency. The whole city is like that, though, so it’s not a surprise. It did suffer from underfunding relative to population growth in the nineties, so it has a lot of catching up to do. If a couple of subway lines magically appeared right now, they would be instantly crowded. But there are a LOT of buses out there and even at 2AM there’s a bus every five minutes on Yonge Street. :: checks schedule :: Every three minutes. :slight_smile:

The regional bus and train system, GO, is undergoing a steady expansion that promises dramatically-better service in the next couple of years; right now it’s all track construction and bridge widening and adding of station platforms. In about a year we’ll start to see the rewards of this. They have dramatically-expanded the peripheral bus service though, to build the market for eventual trainservice. You can now get a ticket from Peterborough to Niagara Falls to Waterloo.

Other transit systems around Toronto are also improving their core services with premium express buses and light rail.