Sacramento transit use ranks 81st

The blog FiveThirtyEight posted last Thursday an analysis of transit trips per capita for major and medium cities, How Your City’s Public Transit Stacks Up. They combined National Transit Database trip counts with American Community Survey population. For the Sacramento region:

  • Davis, ranked 16 out of 290, 52.2 trips per capita
  • Sacramento, ranked 82, 17.8 trips
  • Yuba City, ranked 141, 10.7 trips

The blog mentioned that some small cities did not report, so there might be other places in the Sacramento region that are not on the list. I am surprised at the ranking of Davis. I think of it as a bicycling city, and not a transit city, but perhaps the UC Davis operated Unitrans bus system is what makes the difference. The blog mentions that Athens GA at number 4 is influenced by the University of Georgia, so Davis may be as well. Sacramento at 82 is not bad, and not good, which matches my subjective judgement. The post points out the strong relationship between ranking and total population and population density. Sacramento at 1,767,000 population is similar to many medium sized cities that end up in the top half of the rankings. San Francisco, at 3,369,000 population, is only twice Sacramento, yet ranks 2 and has 131.5 trips per capita. What is the difference? Density! Sacramento is probably too spread out to ever rank very high in transit use, but as it does inevitably densify, it will probably do better. The density affect certainly determines the number one ranking of New York, and New York is about eleven times the size of Sacramento. As I look down the list with my personal bias, I see a very general relationship between livability and transit use, but there are a number of places that don’t rank where I’d expect them to.

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