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The 11 Best Cities for Public Transportation
Real Estate

The 11 Best Cities for Public Transportation

And if you’re looking for the best cities for public transportation (to move to or just for visiting), we’ve got you covered there too.

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6 min read

July 05, 2021

 Public transportation is one of the best and most affordable ways to get around in California. Not only is using it safe and efficient, but it’s also low-cost and eco-friendly, particularly in areas where roads are trafficked and parking is a hassle. Plus, you’ll have plenty of time to people watch, given you’re operating within the rules of the BART etiquette. And if you’re looking for the best cities for public transportation (to move to or just for visiting), we’ve got you covered there too. Want to know which cities in the Golden State are the commuter friendliest? Keep on reading to find out. 

Southern California Cities with Good Transportation

The most popular option for public transport is the San Diego Trolley, a light rail system that goes to many different parts of the city.

1. San Diego

Featuring a trolley line that takes commuters both within and outside city limits, San Diego is another place with great public transportation. The main transportation centers include the Santa Fe Depot and the Old Town Transportation Center. Both of these hubs provide trolley and COASTER services. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (SDMTS), a county-wide bus service, is also pretty big here. Basically, you’ll basically never have to drive a car in America’s Finest City. 

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2. Los Angeles

While L.A. is famous for its crazy traffic, few realize that this is actually good news for the public transit system. In order to avoid delays on freeways and city streets, almost 1.5 million people opt for buses and trains instead. There are over 79 miles of rail tracks in the Los Angeles public transit system, as well as 2,600 buses serving residents of the city and the surrounding suburbs.

Almost every part of the Greater Los Angeles area is served by buses, subways, light-rail trains, and shuttles. Downtown Los Angeles and the Hollywood area specifically top the charts as far as the best cities for public transportation go. Oh, and don’t forget—Los Angeles Union Station links all the major buses and subways that branch out of the area.

Santa Barbara has a great public transportation infrastructure. Local buses are owned and operated by Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District.

3. Santa Barbara

Thanks to an inviting climate and convenient location along the Pacific, Santa Barbara is everyone’s ideal getaway. And while it’s relatively large—home to almost 90,000 people—getting around this charming town is remarkably stress-free. 

Santa Barbara has its own airport and Amtrak station—Highway 101 connects the coastal town to both Los Angeles and San Francisco. Nearly five percent of residents use public transport to get to work, which not only is a sustainable swap, but also reduces traffic congestion. Anyone want to move to the American Riviera? 

4. Isla Vista 

Wondering which coastal charmer will help you bid adieu to road rage? Look no further than Isla Vista. The oceanfront community deserves a shout-out for taking advantage of mass transportation. So many people carpool here that the city officially has one of the smallest solo-commuter percentages in the country. The University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College, and Venture College are all within driving distance, making Isla Vista one of the best cities for jobs in education.

SLO Transit will take you everywhere you need to go within San Luis Obispo from your hotel, to the downtown, to Cal Poly, and to the transit center.

5. San Luis Obispo

Lovely weather, lush vineyards, and abundant recreation—no wonder tourists flock to the cozy San Luis Obispo. With about 45,000 residents calling it home-sweet-home, the city boasts an average commute time of just 16 minutes. Named one of the happiest cities in America, SLO has only three percent of residents commuting more than an hour. The city’s transit system is recognized among the best public transport in the world, so traveling to nearby cities is never a difficult task. You may be enjoying life in the ‘SLO’ lane, but the public transport will always get you to your destination in no time. 

The Best Cities for Public Transportation in Northern California 

Ridgecrest Transit provides all citizens’ equal access to its transportation services under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

6. Ridgecrest

Large enough to offer all the amenities yet small enough to know your neighbor by name, Ridgecrest is a chart-topper among affordable cities with good public transportation. Ridgecrest is located in Indian Wells Valley and is surrounded by four mountain ranges. While this place makes commuting to other cities for work a bit of a challenge, most people who live in Ridgecrest actually work here. The city’s isolated location is the reason why the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station was established here, employing around 4,000 people today. The average commute time within the city is 16 minutes.

7. San Francisco

No list of cities with good public transportation is ever complete without mentioning San Francisco. Not only is S.F among the Golden State’s best, but it also ranks right up there with the top cities in the world. The City by the Bay is home to the infamous cable cars that drive up and down the hill, and of course, the BART system. Bay Area’s Rapid Transit (BART) runs buses and trains that transport commuters within S.F. as well as to surrounding cities, averaging at about 432,000 rides per week.

BART is a rapid transit system serving Oakland, which operates on elevated tracks and as a subway. It has eight stations in Oakland.

8. Oakland

If you think San Francisco is a bit pricey, Oakland is a great alternative. Besides having affordable housing, the city’s relatively close if you have to commute to work. Oakland takes advantage of the BART system—convenient locations are scattered all over the city. AC Transit offers frequent Transbay bus connections to S.F., as well as service within Oakland and to neighboring communities such as Berkeley. You don’t have to give up the Bay Area lifestyle anymore.

 9. Ukiah

Ukiah’s Walk and Bike Mendocino organization encourages people to ditch their cars and walk or bike to their destination instead. And it looks like their efforts are paying off too—the average commute time in the town is estimated to be only 17 minutes. You know what that means? With shorter commutes, Ukiah residents have more time to enjoy the fabulous town they call home. Whether it’s strolling through the historic downtown, immersing themselves in art, or simply exploring the great outdoors, Ukiah’s leading the scene by keeping it green.

Susanville lies at the junction of Highway 36 and 139. Highway 139 heads north to the Oregon border as a direct route to Klamath Falls.

10. Susanville 

Fun fact about Susanville—it’s one of the top American cities for public transportation. The average commutes here are estimated to be 29 minutes or less. In fact, the average worker spends a mere 20 minutes behind the wheel before they get to work. And no, you won’t have to say “depending on the traffic”.

11. Eureka 

What’s better than a long drive? A long drive with ocean views. If you’re taking the infamous Highway 101 road trip, be sure to stop by Eureka—it’s one of the most underrated attractions yet. If you end up staying longer than intended, it’s probably best to start living like a local and using public transport. In addition to its stunning vistas, Eureka has an excellent transportation system that operates like clockwork, helping commuters get to and from work with ease. 

Nearly nine out of 10 workers here commute for less than 29 minutes. Residents who want to forgo the hassle of driving use the Eureka Transit Service, a route bus system that serves the town and its surrounding communities. Whatever your mode of transport is, Eureka urges you to spend less time at the wheel and more relishing in the beauty of the coastal city.

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