Many cities claim to have better transit than others, and some get an undeservedly bad rap. As cities around the world continue to vie for the status of the next hip, sustainable, car-independent place to live, wouldn't it be nice to know the truth behind the hype? The nonprofit research institutes Center for Neighborhood Technology and TransitCenter Center for Neighborhood Technology have come together to create an impartial metric called the AllTransit Performance Score that precisely and transparently monitors various factors that go into the transit-friendliness of a given area.
AllTransit takes advantage of the open data now being released by many municipalities to compare the many factors that go into the quality of a city's transit: jobs, economy, health, equity, transit quality, and mobility. As it turns out, all these measurements affect one another.
The statistics that go into factors like health extend the survey's reach into transportation alternatives like bicycling and walking, which in turn influence air quality and the availability of an easy form of exercise. Fresh food availability is also accounted for in the health category; for example, there are several statistics on farmers markets and their proximity to transit.
Compiling big data in an accessible way, as the AllTransit score does, keeps policymakers accountable, and open data policies have already created positive changes in many big cities. For example, Los Angeles created an app that helps riders choose between different mobility options for their route, including light rail, buses and bike share.
Of course, different cities may have vastly divergent ideas of what constitutes good transit. Most New Yorkers, for example, are quite 'spoiled' by this app's measure, living in areas that have a score of 9 or higher. However, that doesn't mean there aren't still gaps in transit availability throughout the area, with the difficulty of getting between different neighborhoods in the outer boroughs (without going into Manhattan) receiving more attention lately. A version 2.0 of the app, which is reportedly in the works, could ask questions of the data that match AllTransit's fine-grained, zip code-based approach.
Train platform photo - Rachel Pincus