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New Database Compares San Francisco Transit to Every City in America

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Commuting by the numbers, coast to coast

It’s Tuesday, which means Muni was late, the BART escalator was broken down, and people are still grousing about those red bus lanes on Mission Street.

While you might not be in the mood to hear the merits of San Francisco public transit sung from the mountaintops right now, at least consider the hard numbers by way of AllTransit, an exhaustive new database of mass transit information about every major city coast to coast: 543,000 stops, 800 agencies, and 15,000 routes, sorted by city, by county, by ZIP code, or even by congressional district.

The folks at AllTransit (a joint venture of two non-profits, New York’s TransitCenter and Chicago’s Center for Neighborhood Technology) give San Francisco an overall score of 9.6. Which is objectively high, but interestingly, not quite as good as a few other California cities.

The average San Francisco household has almost 12,000 trips that start within half a mile of the front door, comprising 25 routes. Over 650,000 jobs are accessible via a 30-minute commute, and over 35 percent of commuters rely primarily on the transit system every day. More than 827,000 people — virtually the entire population, of course — live within half a mile of a San Francisco transit stop.

Compare this to LA, with its comparably mediocre score of 8.0: There are only a little over 3,800 trips easily accessible from the average LA home, and only 10 routes. Virtually the entire city of LA lives near a transit stop, but only 11.6 percent of commuters bother to use one.

(They do have 20 transit agencies to our 10, for all the good it does them.)

Down in San Jose (6.4), you can go a little over 6,000 places from your home, and 21 routes serve you, but only 12.6 percent of commuters hop a bus or train. Possibly this is because a staggeringly few 863 people in San Jose live anywhere near a commute stop in the first place.

San Franciscans pay 11.4 percent of their monthly income to transportation costs, and the same in San Jose. In LA, transit access costs 18.4 percent of your budget. Four percent of San Franciscans bike to work and 11 percent walk. In San Jose, only 4.5 percent of people’s boots are made for walking, but (perhaps surprisingly) they have double our portion of cyclists, with 8.3 percent of folks peddling to work.

It should come as little surprise that Los Angelenos rarely partake in either — 1.2 percent bike, while fewer than 4 percent walk.

Consider San Francisco's score next to cities of roughly comparable population: Indianapolis (4.2), Austin (9.3), Jacksonville (8.9), Columbus (9.2), and Forth Worth (3.1. Only one percent of Forth Worth residents take the bus).

Oakland ranks 8.3, however, with over 14,000 trips along 28 routes and a 45 percent commuter number.

Of course, the catch is that AllTransit presents a best case scenario about breadth of infrastructure, not actual performance, so things like chronic lateness and busted escalators aren't factored in. And with any big database brand new, it is still presumably working out the bugs, and some numbers may be squishy. We’re not so sure about that 863 figure in San Jose, for example.

Still, it's nice to know that we’ll have one of the best dang transit systems in the country, just as soon as it’s all fixed.