Americans overwhelmingly support mass transit, according to polls, surveys, and support at the ballot box. There were 62 transportation measures on ballots across the United States in 2012, according to the Center for Transportation Excellence, and nearly 80% of them passed. Yet while a strong majority of voters support mass transit, very few people actually use it. Only 5% of Americans actually commute using mass transit, according to U.S. Census data. Suburban sprawl has worked against achieving the population density needed to make mass transit viable.
Americans may say they support public transportation, but their commuting habits suggest it is difficult to get them out of their cars. More than 76% of workers drive to work alone, according to Census data. Just 8.9% of commuters carpool, 2.7% walk to work, and 0.5% ride a bicycle to their place of employment.
American transportation infrastructure does not encourage use of mass transit even when it is available. Commuters balk at taking buses because of route restrictions and because they do not want to make transfers. Trains are more accessible in the Northeast and in some parts of the Midwest, but in other parts of the nation, catching a train requires driving to a station.
24/7 Wall St. found that in five U.S. cities with a population of 100,000 people or more, there is virtually no public transportation. Two of those five cities are in Florida, and the others are in the Plains states and Texas.
At the other end of the mass-transit use spectrum, there are only 14 cities where 20% or more of the commuting population uses public transportation, and eight are in the Northeast. New York is first, with 55.8% of commuters taking public transportation. That percentage would probably be even higher if the city’s massive subway system connected to Staten Island. Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from New York, is second with 51.4%.
More than 20% of commuters in four California cities — San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Daly City — use public transportation. In Los Angeles, 8.9% of commuters use public transportation.
To determine the cities that have no public transportation, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the percentage of the civilian employed population 16 years and older commuting to work by public transportation (excluding taxicab) from the U.S Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2017 one-year estimates. Cities with percentages at 0% or close to 0% were investigated further to determine whether there were no reasonable options for public transportation. Only incorporated cities with a population greater than 100,000 were considered. Median household income, poverty rate, and educational attainment rate also came from the 2017 ACS.