Redfin Ranks the Best Mid-Sized Cities for Public Transit

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"Buffalo, USA - August 13, 2012: Street view from Buffallo downtown central axis with major office buildings, people and NAFTA-METRO trolley bus."
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Cambridge, Massachusetts is the best mid-sized U.S. city for public transit. With a Transit Score of 72.3 out of 100, Cambridge is considered to have “excellent transportation” according to  its Walk Score™️ ranking, meaning that public transit is convenient for most trips. Walk Score, a Redfin company, created the Transit Score to rate locations and cities by the usefulness of their public transportation options. Jersey City, New Jersey, which took second place with a score of 70, also falls into the “excellent” category. The remaining eight cities all have scores within the 50 to 69 point range, which Walk Score designates as areas that have “good transit.” with many nearby public transportation options.

Back in December, Redfin released scores for the best cities for public transit, but in order to expand the list and highlight some other areas with great access to transit, we decided to take a look at the cities with populations between 100,000 and 300,000 that are highest rated for public transportation. Many of the smaller cities highlighted in this report are in close proximity to major cities.

Below is the ranking of the top 10 U.S. mid-sized cities (with populations between 100,000 and 300,000) for public transit:

Rank City State Transit Score
1 Cambridge MA 72.3
2 Jersey City NJ 70
3 Newark NJ 64.9
4 Arlington VA 58
5 Berkeley CA 56.3
6 East Los Angeles CA 55.6
7 Alexandria VA 55.4
8 Yonkers NY 53.4
9 Buffalo NY 50.4
10 Inglewood CA 50.2

Typically it’s America’s largest cities that are known for having the best access to public transit, but Redfin chief economist Nela Richardson points out that often times commuter cities offer fast-and-easy access to the big-city amenities while being more affordable. Living in these areas can provide residents with most of the amenities they’d get living in a major city.

“It’s not uncommon for folks to commute to nearby major cities via public transit, which tend to be areas with the most economic opportunity. Having ample public transportation that can get you to where you need to go in your own city, as well as other larger cities nearby, is important for sustainable urban growth across America,” said Richardson.

1. Cambridge, Massachusetts

“It’s no surprise that Cambridge is one of the best mid-sized cities for public transit. Nearly everywhere you go within the six square mile radius that makes up the city of Cambridge, you’ll find a T station or bus stop that will get you to your final destination,” said James Gulden, Redfin real estate agent in Cambridge.  “There’s the Red Line T, which has several stops throughout the city  and provides quick-and-easy access to Boston. There’s also the Green Line T, which may eventually extend to Somerville and Medford, thanks to the Green Line Extension Project. ”

2. Jersey City, New Jersey

“With multiple PATH stopsthe ferry, light rail and bus linesJersey City offers a multitude of transit options. The Jersey City real estate market is very competitive right now and homebuyer interest is directly tied to transit and proximity to the PATH train stations,” said Noah Goldberg, Redfin real estate agent in Jersey City. “Jersey City is just as accessible to Manhattan as Brooklyn and the other boroughs, and prices have historically been lower here, but the secret is out. Journal Square is one of the hottest neighborhoods right now because it has a PATH stop and it’s still reasonably affordable by New York standards.”

3. Newark, New Jersey

“Newark is a major transit hub for the entire region. Whether you need to get to downtown or midtown, there’s an option for you in Newark. The city is a transit destination in its own right, as many corporations have offices downtown, while The Rock complex draws crowds for concerts and sporting events,” said Nick Boniakowski, Redfin real estate agent  in Newark. “Despite its transit access and multiple efforts to revitalize the city, the housing market has languished. Newark has some quaint pockets that are close to everything, but feel worlds away. Forest Hill was originally developed as the suburban retreat of the big city industrialists. With tree-lined streets and stately mansions, you’d never guess that you’re just a short train ride from Manhattan.”

4. Arlington, Virginia

“Despite recent problems with delays and track maintenance, Arlington remains a well-connected and transit-oriented county. With the Metro and bus options, it’s possible to live car free in many of Arlington’s central neighborhoods,” said Brian Walters, Redfin real estate agent in Arlington. “Arlington was the first county in Virginia to adopt a bike share program, which has been a big success. And with D.C.’s reputation as a gridlocked region, homebuyers certainly factor transit and commute into their decisions.”

5. Berkeley, California

“For such a small city, Berkeley has a lot of public transportation options. There are three BART stations all conveniently located through the center of town. And there’s also relatively easy access to all the freeways via the Trans Bay bus route. I’ve recently found that the number one request for buyers in the Berkeley area is to live near a BART,” said Jennifer Cord, Redfin real estate agent in Berkeley. “Many people shopping for homes in Berkeley have been priced out of San Francisco and are looking in the East Bay instead, but still would like a car-free commute. Berkeley is a great option for those buyers!”

6. East Los Angeles, California

The best thing about public transportation on the Eastside is the L.A. Metro Gold Line,” said Jennifer Wenzlaff, Redfin real estate agent in East Los Angeles . “It’s a short jaunt from the the East L.A./Civic Center station directly into Downtown and Union Station. Union Station is the transportation hub of L.A. From there you can jump on a number of metro lines, take a direct shuttle to LAX, or connect to Amtrak and the Metrolink, which can take you all across Southern California and beyond.”

7. Alexandria, Virginia

“As part of the Washington, D.C. metro area, residents have access to the region’s vast public transit network. But Alexandria is not simply a bedroom community for D.C. commuters; it’s an established city in its own right with a rich history and plethora of cultural and entertainment options,” said Brian Walters, Redfin real estate agent in Alexandria. “Historic Old Town is full of quaint shops and restaurants. A free trolley connects Old Town to the Metro. Between the metro, bus lines and bike routes, you can get anywhere you need to go.”

8. Yonkers, New York

“Yonkers is the first suburban city right outside of the Bronx. For commuters into New York, there are lots of options. The Hudson or Harlem rail lines and express buses run into the city or there are options to take a bus to a subway station and continue your journey there,” said Nuno Ribeiro, Redfin real estate agent in Yonkers. “Yonkers homebuyers want both accessibility into the city and space to spread out. Homes here are more likely to have a backyard and a little more space, but still offer convenient shopping and amenities.”

9. Buffalo, New York

“Although most Buffalonians don’t see themselves as living in a community that’s known for its public transportation, this ranking recognizes some important progress that’s been made toward making it easier and more convenient to live in and get around Buffalo,” said Lesley Lannan, Redfin real estate agent in Buffalo.  “With the year-round popularity of Canalside along the waterfront, always-popular sporting and music events at the Arena and the growing number of restaurants and entertainment venues downtown, more folks from the northern suburbs and other parts of the city are relying on the convenience of the Metro Rail and avoiding traffic congestion and parking hassles.”

10. Inglewood, California

“It’s exciting to see Inglewood in the top 10, especially since it is poised for even more growth in the years to come,” said Alec Traub, Redfin real estate agent in Inglewood. “Right now the main hub of transportation in Inglewood is the Crenshaw station of the L.A. Metro Green Line. From there you can skip the L.A. traffic and make a quick transfer into Downtown L.A. The city has plans to extend this line both north and south, which will provide a much-needed option for Angelenos on the Westside to avoid the notorious 405 freeway!

The Transit Score algorithm calculates a score by summing the relative usefulness of public transit (bus, subway, light rail, ferry, etc.) routes near a given location. Usefulness is defined as the distance to the nearest stop on the route, the frequency of the route, and type of route (with twice as much weight given to heavy/light rail than to bus service). Transit Score is based on data published in General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) format by transit agencies across the country. For a more details on the Transit Score methodology, click here.

Published on September 16th, 2016
Updated on July 18th, 2019

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Amy oversees communication for Redfin’s West Coast markets. Prior to joining Redfin, she handled PR for a culinary magazine and events organization in Paris. Her dream home can be found in France, with tall windows, high ceilings and sweeping views of the Canal St. Martin, but for now she’s quite content with her little cottage in Madrona. Redfin is a full-service real estate brokerage that uses modern technology to make clients smarter and faster. For more information about working with a Redfin real estate agent to buy or sell a home, visit our "Why Redfin?," page.

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