In a report card assessing the nation’s infrastructure issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers, transit in the United States received a grade of D-. Despite increasing demand, much of the nation’s public transportation infrastructure is plagued by under investment and insufficient maintenance.
The average vehicle used in public transportation is 8.3 years old. In a number of transit systems, the average vehicle is more than 30 years old. Over the past 15 years, there have been nearly 10,000 fatalities and more than 1 million injuries on public transit nationwide — more than 6 for every 1 million miles traveled. There have been nearly as many reported collisions, derailments, fires, security issues, and other accidents. Public transit vehicles lost a total of 663,000 hours in 2015 to breakdowns and other unscheduled delays.
> Commuters using public transit: 6.9%
> Breakdowns: 11.0 per 100,000 miles
> Average vehicle speed: 14.7 mph
> Average age of fleet: 7.6 years
Public transit in Pittsburgh ranks as second best in Pennsylvania and among the best of any city nationwide. The Port Authority of Allegheny County, the most widely used transit system in the city, primarily operates buses and a light rail transit system. Generally a newer transit system than that of the larger Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh’s fleet is only about 8 years old on average compared to 14 years in Philadelphia. Partially as a result, the vehicles used in Pittsburgh’s public transit system are likely less susceptible to breakdown. Systemwide, there are only about 12 breakdowns per 100,000 miles traveled in Pittsburgh compared to 17 breakdowns on buses, streetcars, trolleys, and rail lines operated by SEPTA per same amount travelled.
Despite the overall dismal state of the nation’s transit systems, some cities offer quality public transportation that provide residents with a practical alternative to driving as well as a number of other economic, environmental, and social benefits. To determine the cities with the best public transportation systems, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of various measures related to transit infrastructure and ridership.