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Top 10 U.S. States by Public Transit

Name the states with the highest percentage of residents who commute to work on public transit.
2021 Data. Source: U.S. Census Table S0801.
Change = % change since 2018
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: September 17, 2022
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First submittedAugust 19, 2017
Times taken36,777
Average score80.0%
Rating4.48
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%
Change
State
17.3
-38
New York
5.9
-50
New Jersey
4.5
-56
Massachusetts
3.8
-60
Illinois
3.3
-42
Hawaii
%
Change
State
3.0
-62
Maryland
2.8
-52
Pennsylvania
2.5
-43
Connecticut
2.1
-70
Washington
2.1
-57
California
+21
Level ∞
Aug 19, 2017
There are 15 states where fewer than 1% of people commute to work using public transit.
+21
Level 77
Aug 19, 2017
Safe to say public transportation is not high on America's agenda, although there have been multiple extensions of tram and rail systems in recent years.
+7
Level ∞
Aug 19, 2017
True, although the percentage taking public transit has slowly crawled up over time.
+26
Level 76
Nov 13, 2017
Trying to take Amtrak from my area to an airport or to visit my daughter in Texas is a nightmare. The tracks are owned by Union Pacific so any time a freight train is coming Amtrak has to take a siding until the freight train goes through. That makes schedules off. There are poor connections, too. The train stations in cities aren't located anywhere near airports, metro lines, or bus terminals and cab fare often costs more than the train ticket. It costs $125 to take a transit van from my town to the nearest airport. I think more people in rural areas would use public transportation if it was more reliable and convenient, but it doesn't make sense for the government to spend so much money making upgrades for so few people. It's one of the realities of living in rural America, and it is why we drive ourselves.
+9
Level 87
Aug 13, 2018
Taking Amtrak from Portland, Maine to Boston (i.e., connect to anywhere else) is a 100 mile trip. Amtrak requires you get to Portland by 6:30 AM to make the 12:00 connection between North and South Stations in Boston. Half. A. Mile. Away.
+12
Level 81
Nov 14, 2019
Sparsely populated rural areas will laways have that problem, especially when everyone already has cars. The bigger problem is the joke of the LA area with 2 subway lines. Prague has 3, Budapest 4 ...
+1
Level 48
Oct 24, 2022
And like 80% of one of the lines runs on the same path as the other. But its being extended and new stations will open in a few years
+4
Level 73
Aug 19, 2017
I would bet those 15 states include most of the Midwest states and/or Alaska where most of the population live in rural areas and public transportation is not a need. Also, I got all of the answers mainly because the states are smaller and the large cities are more compact. I was surprised California made the list since I've never been able to get the public transportation to work well for me. By the time I use the system I would have been at work for an hour already. California cities are too spread out for convenient or efficient public transportation use.
+9
Level 86
Aug 21, 2017
In California, it depends on where you are. In the San Francisco Bay Area (about 1/5 of California pop.), public transportation (although increasingly dilapidated) is second only to New York. Within metro Sacramento and a few parts of Southern Cal, it is also pretty good. Elsewhere, you might as well be in Arizona or Texas.
+4
Level ∞
Aug 22, 2017
I was skeptical @nonono, but you are correct! Among major metro areas, New York is #1 and San Francisco is #2. The next five are DC, Boston, Chicago, Philly, and Seattle.
+1
Level 84
Oct 8, 2022
I've used the DC metro, New York subway, and San Francisco BART systems many times each...
+9
Level 89
Aug 25, 2017
Public transportation is not only "not needed" in states like North Dakota and Wyoming - it would actually be so inefficient as to be self-defeating.
+6
Level 87
Aug 13, 2018
Maine requires (by deceitful political shenanigans of the Green Party) studies to exhaust all other modes of transportation before building any new state funded road whatsoever. Setting up bike paths along rural, twisting blind roads or putting train tracks down a narrow peninsula will never make sense. So years of time and pocket lining studies means roads rarely get built in a thinly populated but very heavily visited, geographically challenged state.
+5
Level 81
Sep 17, 2022
Nah it's all a matter of policy, habits and in longer term urban planning. Plenty of similar places around the world have public transport.
+10
Level 74
Nov 13, 2017
Try to build a commuter rail system today. Way too many EPA regulations, environmental impact studies, "not in my back yard" people, land acquisitions etc etc etc
+10
Level ∞
Sep 28, 2019
It's true. Oddly the same politicians who are in most in favor of public transit (in theory) are also the most in favor of putting up insane roadblocks to actually building it. California's failed high speed train is the latest shameful example of this phenomenon. If we want to build better public transit, there needs to be a cheaper and faster way to build it.
+6
Level 76
Aug 23, 2017
with the exception of PA, the rest are reliably "blue states" too.
+15
Level 67
Nov 13, 2017
Makes sense. Cities tend to vote blue. Rural areas tend to vote red. Bigger cities (and more people) means a bigger need for public transit. Except Texas...
+2
Level 82
Sep 18, 2021
Texas (Dallas area in particular) has a surprisingly solid public transit considering the sheer area of the DFW metropolis. Houston is ok and from what I hear Austin is useless.
+5
Level 71
May 9, 2022
Even more than having cities, I think the rule of thumb here is how old the cities are. Cities that were booming in the late 1800s and early 1900s (Chicago, Philly, New York, San Francisco) tend to have very good subway systems. Cities that boomed in post-WW2 America were built for cars. That's why Texan and Floridian cities (as well as Georgia with Atlanta and Arizona with Phoenix) don't make it here.
+3
Level 78
Jul 13, 2022
And there's the unfortunate but unsurprising reality that public transit is a political issue even though it shouldn't be. We're starting in a disadvantaged position since cities were purposely designed to make people dependent on cars and it's a political non-starter.
+1
Level 58
Oct 8, 2022
Pennsylvania is a blue state. With one aberration in 2016.
+1
Level 64
Oct 8, 2022
They're all densely urban. If NY or NJ suddenly started voted red tomorrow, the logic of public transit networks for NYC wouldn't stop existing. The NY subway was built in 1904 when the country was vastly more right wing than it is now.
+1
Level 50
Oct 19, 2017
Interesting quiz.
+7
Level 61
Oct 25, 2017
i literally just took this quiz thinking it was cities, rather than states. yikes.
+13
Level 73
Nov 13, 2017
Dammit, me too! I got New York and Washington right at the start too which really threw me off.
+2
Level 55
Nov 13, 2017
Me three..exact same thing 😛
+2
Level 9
Dec 28, 2017
Don't say that!
+1
Level 80
Sep 22, 2022
In this instance I don't think NYC should be accepted for New York. That is what threw me off from the jump.
+2
Level 49
Nov 13, 2017
I thought it said cities! I spent the whole time typing in cities!
+1
Level 75
Nov 13, 2017
I had nine, and I just thought I'd try Illinois. BUUUT the clock was running down and I misspelled Illinois. IMAGINE MY ANGER WHEN THE CLOCK STOPPED!!1
+2
Level 56
Nov 13, 2017
I can NEVER spell Massachusetts correctly and then I always miss it. In almost every quiz ¬¬
+1
Level 37
Mar 14, 2018
New York is number one in this quiz. I bet if you changed the criteria from those who use public transportation most to how reliable that transportation is, NY would come in dead LAST! - NYC especially

has the most unreliable subway system I have ever encountered.

The same goes for their interstate rail system (Amtrak), as well as

local and long distance bus service. I know more than thirty people

who have retired early because they were fed-up with being late to work because of the abominable public transportation system.

+1
Level ∞
Sep 30, 2019
New York does have the longest commute time in the country.
+1
Level 75
Oct 4, 2019
If DC was allowed in this list, would it be at the top? Do you know what the % there is?
+5
Level 72
Oct 5, 2019
Yeah- it's on the link at the top. DC is 34%
+5
Level 84
Dec 24, 2019
I'm sure that DC is the reason that Virginia and Maryland both make the list.
+1
Level 84
Oct 8, 2022
and now Virginia isn't on the list anymore... probably because the Virginia Beach/Norfolk metro is growing faster recently than the NoVA/DC metro.
+6
Level 66
Oct 10, 2019
Pretty embarrassing stats to be honest.
+1
Level 84
Dec 24, 2019
This was pretty hard until I realized they were asking for states not cities. I got Washington and New York right away but then was thinking.. no Boston? no Chicago? no San Francisco? wth?
+1
Level 49
Apr 22, 2020
I typed in Hawaii for no reason and it was an answer -_____-
+1
Level 76
May 20, 2020
As a Maryland resident, I am very surprised Maryland is on this list. At least in my county, the public transit system sucks
+2
Level 82
Jan 15, 2021
But once you get into DC it's slightly above sucking.
+4
Level 69
Sep 17, 2022
All of the public transport in the US suck. The only actual public transport systems that are not complete garbage are maybe Seattle, Portland, DC or New York City
+1
Level 75
Nov 3, 2021
I managed to guess my way to 10/10 by trying the smaller and older states first.
+1
Level 78
Jul 13, 2022
Some other anecdotes to add. I looked into taking Amtrak from Denver to Oklahoma City. In order to do this, you have to go from Denver to Los Angeles and then to OKC.

To go from Columbus, OH to DC you have to take a Greyhound bus for several hours to Pittsburgh before getting on Amtrak.

+1
Level 58
Sep 2, 2022
haha. for some reason I misread the directions/title and thought I was supposed to be looking for cities, not states. I typed New York and that was correct and then I spent like a minute typing in all sorts of cities and could NOT figure out how none of them could be correct. Boston, Chicago, etc. I finally gave up - only to see that I was supposed to be typing in states.... sigh,
+8
Level 69
Sep 17, 2022
Those numbers are so sad.
+2
Level 81
Sep 17, 2022
They are ridiculous, especially as none of them have a high cycling/walking percentage, just cars.
+2
Level ∞
Sep 17, 2022
Don't forget working from home.
+3
Level 90
Sep 17, 2022
In terms of the extremely low percentages for a lot of the western states shown in the full table, that makes perfect sense given the low population density. When I lived in the Northeast, I used public transit all the time. Now in Arizona, it would be a lot of fun waiting in the 110 degree summer heat for the bus to come for a transit that will take three times as long as a trip by car. Similarly, in most western states, it would be insane to spend billions of dollars to build public transit systems that few people would use, ala the California train to nowhere. People are simply not going to be forced into behavior that is irrational.

Comparing these state by state percentages with Europe is not particularly informative, except for the states that are as densely populated as European countries are. City to city comparisons would be more meaningful and certainly the transit systems that do make sense deserve proper funding.

+3
Level 90
Sep 17, 2022
Also, I surmise that the significant percentage drops since 2018 are due to COVID; would be interesting to see how they change again if the quiz was updated next year.
+2
Level 76
Sep 19, 2022
Subways + AC, maybe? Anyway... If there's a will, there's a way. The US does not seem to have the will. And, of course, the whole thing would require more than just building the system.
+1
Level 73
Sep 17, 2022
So I was looking at your source table, and per that, Connecticut, at 2.5%, should be on here ahead of Washington, California, and Nevada.
+1
Level ∞
Sep 17, 2022
Fixed
+1
Level 87
Sep 18, 2022
These numbers for New York, at least, are already rebounding. Still not at pre-COVID levels on the subways and buses, but it's definitely getting harder to find a seat if you happen to commute during the rush hours.
+2
Level 70
Sep 19, 2022
This is outrageous! Is public transport really that bad over there? I'm 46 and I don't even have a driver's license. I bike or take public transport. I live in Copenhagen though, where public transport is quite good..
+4
Level 84
Oct 8, 2022
In some places in the US public transport is good or fine. In many places it's non-existent. There's a few reasons for the difference with Copenhagen. One is population density, which should be pretty obvious... Denmark's is 137/sq km, while America's is 36/sq km. That's a stark disparity, and in many US states lower on this list (like Alaska: 1.2/sq mile; or Wyoming: 5.8/sq mile) it's even more extreme. Asking people living in these areas to ride their bikes everywhere would be stupid; trying to build a good train network for all of them would be impractical and inefficient.

Another factor is American car culture. Germans invented the automobile but Henry Ford made them something that everyone could afford, and Americans quickly fell in love with cars... which made sense practically on their less aged and densely populated continent. American cities are more modern and built more with cars in mind. Moreover, the suburbs, which started growing...

+3
Level 84
Oct 8, 2022
... after WW2 and became the place most Americans wanted to live, were even more car-centric, spaced out with large homes with big garages, spread out shopping centers with huge parking lots that were inaccessible to public transport and impractical to walk to... it made sense at the time. Gasoline was super cheap. Nobody was talking about global warming. The new Interstate highway system made getting from place to place faster and more convenient than ever (before high-speed rail existed). The American auto industry was booming and many cars became part of Americana: status symbols as well as expressions of personality and American industry and commerce. At this point in history the US was also by far the richest country in the world; Americans could afford things other people couldn't.

There are other factors, too, like different politics. But mostly it's just the growth and entrenchment of US car culture in the 20th century for very explicable reasons.

+1
Level 58
Oct 8, 2022
This list is shockingly horrendous. God, the US is awful.
+3
Level 67
Oct 8, 2022
It's really not... Unless your sole ranking for countries is "how good their public transit is".

It's just different from what you are used to.

+1
Level 66
Oct 8, 2022
Lol thought this was asking about cities, not states. Typed in NYC and Washington, and was then confused why no other cities were right 🙃
+1
Level 84
Oct 15, 2022
For me the most incredible thing about these stats is how huge the percentage change is DOWN from 2018... I think most people would assume that the numbers would be rising slightly from year to year, not dropping precipitously... what would account for that? COVID leading to many people working from home is my best guess. But damn... a 70% drop in the state of Washington in just 4 years?? wth.
+1
Level ∞
Oct 15, 2022
I live in Seattle so I can give a little context. Most of Washington's public transit use is in Seattle or in the nearby suburbs. There's a lot of tech companies here, and the majority of workers are STILL not back in the office. Not so much due to pandemic concerns, but because workers prefer to work at home for lifestyle reasons. I'd also say that the situation on the buses and trains has deteriorated significantly due to the extreme levels of homelessness and drug use.