The Rent Is Too Damn Transit Oriented!

By Zac Campbell
Image: Reddit

Image: Reddit

The folks at Redfin (they basically patented the ‘Walkscore’ that you see on all of your apartment listings) released an update to their Transit Score today. They rank over 350 U.S. cities based on their access to transit. What’s really cool is that they don’t just take into consideration proximity to transit–they also consider the quality of the transit services. Unsurprisingly, New York City and San Francisco top the list, followed by Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Chicago.

Redfin even goes into great detail to describe their methodology, explaining how and why they use a logarithmic process to come up with their scores. Basically, they used fancy math to find a way to compare the experience of taking public transit in NYC versus taking transit in Peoria, by accounting for urban scale. I really appreciate how careful they are in explaining how they come up with their scores and why they are important. They even offer up some of their data if you email them.

While none of the Transit Scores are surprising, there are two really interesting things that their Transit Score shows:

1) None of the cities in America, by their chart, have “world class public transportation;” only four have “excellent transit”

2) The overwhelming overlap between the most expensive rents and the most transit-friendly cities:

Author's analysis of Redfin "Transit Score" and a U.S. Business Insider article on rents for one-bedroom apartments across the country

Author’s analysis of Redfin “Transit Score” and a U.S. Business Insider article on rents for one-bedroom apartments across the country

Why does the correlation matter? Well, the Transit Score data is generated by a real estate company. Call me a cynic, but it seems a little too self-serving to take without a grain of salt. Real estate firms are marketing apartments as transit-friendly and raising the rents. They are apparently also producing the reports on which cities are the most transit-rich.

The rent is already too damn high, and Redfin seems to be adding fuel to the fire by using data. I’m okay with the notion that access to transit should be a marketing tool for real estate, but Redfin is not just selling urban living by marketing access to transit access. They are providing data for those who would try to justify our already exorbitantly high rents.



Zac Campbell, a TBQ Contributor, is a New York native and an urban planner. He’s always looking for a map to draw and a passing shot on the tennis court. He blogs at

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