Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Walk Score ranks D.C. as one of America's top cities for transit

April 27, 2012 - 09:46 AM
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(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Walk Score is usually better known for its pedestrian analyses about walkability, but this week, the company released a list of the best cities for public transportation, with a specific focus on about 25 based on size. D.C. placed at number four with a Transit Score of 69 of 100 (which translates as "good transit"). Who beat us? New York, San Francisco, and Boston, respectively, with Transit Scores of 81, 80, and 74. Baltimore also did well — it's number nine with a score of 57.

And how does Walk Score calculate a transit paradise versus not? The company "sum[s] the value of all of the nearby routes," it explains. "The value of a route is defined as the service level (frequency per week) multiplied by the mode weight (heavy/light rail is weighted 2X, ferry/cable car/other are 1.5X, and bus is 1X) multiplied by a distance penalty." Raw scores were then normalized by looking at the averages of five cities with full transit data to create a range of 0 to 100.  

In Walk Score's press release, none other than D.C.'s own planning director Harriet Tregoning praises the transit rankings and our placement: "Walk Score's transit ratings are a great way for people to quickly and easily understand how well their home, neighborhood and city is served by public transit ... In Washington DC we're proud of our transit system; Metrorail alone carries more than 200 million riders a year. And as gas, parking and other car related costs continue to rise, easy access to public transit is increasingly a key decision making factor for people deciding where to live.” No surprise that D.C. performed well with our mix of the Metro, Metrobuses, Circulator, and so on. If anything, I'm surprised we didn't rank higher. Our overall Walk Score, for what it's worth, is 73 ("very walkable").

It's worth remembering that the transit ranking relies on purported access to these different routes, and not the percentage of the population that actually relies on public transportation. The number of car-free commuters within the District is already extraordinary at nearly six out of 10, with around four of 10 using transit. The list of 25 top cities also leaves out a ton of places that probably should be on it, I'm guessing, especially given how low some of the transit scores are near the end of the list. Raleigh, North Carolina with a score of 23? That's considered "minimal transit" by Walk Score, with the hilarious description: "It is possible to get on a bus." The list may include some of the top transit cities but it's certainly not a list of the best.

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