Originally Posted by CyberEric
I'm marginally surprised that SF got second, I live here and I exclusively use public transportation and I think we are a lot more than 1 point behind NY. And Boston 6 points behind SF seems a little off, I have only visited Boston a few times, never lived there, but it seems like it's about even with SF in terms of transit.
I was surprised to see Chicago so low, and to see Seattle ahead of Portland too.
Portland's reputation for good transit doesn't really reflect the reality on the ground in most of the non-tourist neighborhoods. That said, when I was in high school, I could get from a suburb 20 miles west of Portland to a neighborhood 6 miles east of downtown relatively easily.
Chicago gets hurt for several reasons, some absolute, some relative.
A relative reason that hurts them is that it's city limits are far larger than San Francisco (at least five times bigger), and bigger than D.C. (by almost four times). Boston and Seattle are similarly comparing a much smaller slice of their metro areas relative to Chicago. The metro areas for SF and DC are still over half as big as Chicago, though, so those smaller limits on the central city make direct comparisons to the larger central city of Chicago fraught with error. Comparisons with Philly are appropriate, as are comparisons with New York.
If the transit-score was weighted, it would make the rankings a little more realistic as for how they impact actual users. As an extreme example, if 90% of the population of a city lived within a 2 minute walk of a train station, but only occupied 5% of the land area, that city might have a terrible transit score even though 90% of people would enjoy great service.
Another reason Chicago is "hurt" in the ranking is that we have either heavy rail or buses. Portland's streetcars get a 1.5 multiplier increase even though they are measurably slower than buses. Same with San Francisco's cable car's and Muni streetcars.
If you measured Chicago by a central half-million people along the lake-front in an area of size comparable to Washington, Boston or San Francisco, I think you'd end up in the mid-70s.
Two other things hurt Chicago's score somewhat - the large number of "L" stations in the middle of expressways, meaning you have to walk further to get to them (people keep telling me that doesn't matter, but here's empirical evidence it does), and the bus frequency service cuts that occurred a couple years ago, reducing the number of buses per week in their calculations.