You've reached the end of the line.


2023 Riders Choice Awards

We asked riders what they think of public transit. Here's which systems came out on top.

December 13, 2023

Every few months, we ask riders to give public transit a report card. This year, 100,000 people gave grades to their transit agency — on everything from delays and disruptions, to whether they’d recommend public transit to their family and friends.

Screenshot displaying a push notification and in-app message asking Transit app users to take a survey about their public transit experience.

Now, we’re sharing the top results with everyone, handing out trophies across seven different categories to the US and Canadian transit systems that performed best in 2023. Welcome (drumroll begins) to the Riders Choice Awards.

We’ve rolled out the green carpet. The paparazzi are ready. Without further ado, the winners are…
Best Bus operators award for riders most likely to say their driver was good at their job

1st place: TriMet, Portland, Oregon
2nd place: C-Tran, Vancouver, Washington
3rd place: UTA, Salt Lake City, Utah
Most improved: Saskatoon Transit, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Bus drivers: the unsung heroes of cities? Not for our riders — they can’t sing their bus drivers’ praises enough. After all, public transit wouldn’t go anywhere without the dedicated people who operate our buses and trains.

This year, drivers at TriMet in Portland, Oregon, came out on top. Operators for C-TRAN, just across the way in Vancouver, Washington, came in second place. (Maybe there’s something else in the Columbia River besides salmon?) Rounding out the top three are the busy bees at UTA in Salt Lake City. And last but not least, a special mention to Saskatoon and its most-improved transit operators of the year, shuttling riders around that beautiful Paris of the Prairies.

Think your driver should’ve taken home the top prize? Let them know by sharing a hearty “thank you” the next time they open their door!

Detours and disruptions: nobody likes ‘em, everybody’s got ‘em. From track maintenance, to construction, to surprise sinkholes, the best transit systems don’t just manage their fleet around service disturbances. They have to manage rider expectations, too. While some agencies are blessed with fewer snags in service, others handle hiccups with such grace that riders barely notice —

We’re sorry to interrupt acceptance speeches already underway, but in this category, we made a mistake. Rather than calculating the agencies where riders said they experienced the fewest disruptions or detours, we initially calculated the agencies where riders faced disruptions and detours the most often. That meant the “most improved” award was actually the inverse: riders on that system said that detours had actually gotten worse over the course of the year, not better.

So excuse us while we cut the mic and usher our incorrectly-announced winners from the stage. We look forward to you making an appearance next year, hopefully snagging the most-improved award for this category. Your riders are counting on you!

And congratulations to our winners! The gold goes to Ride On in Montgomery County, Maryland, followed by PSTA in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Omnitrans in San Bernardino, California. Your riders were beset by the fewest disruptions and detours in 2023. Nice job! (Unfortunately, there were no transit agencies with a statistically significant improvement, so that prize is not being awarded this year.)

Our auditors assure us these results are correct. We’re sorry for the confusion. But you know what? Every awards ceremony needs its La La Land / Moonlight mix-up.

Best Communicator
Ranked highest by riders for communication about disruptions and service changes

1st: TriMet — Portland, OR
2nd: Metro Transit — Twin Cities, MN
3rd: STTR — Trois-Rivières, QC

Most improved: SMART — Detroit, MI

The best thing is transit service without any delays or disruptions. The second-best thing? Letting riders know clearly and quickly when something does go wrong.

Once again, Portland’s TriMet comes out on top here, followed closely by Metro Transit in the Twin Cities and STTR in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. SMART in the Detroit suburbs rounds out the winners with its most improved award.

Want to know the secret to their success? Most of these agencies take advantage of features to give riders the latest alerts, including cancellations and advisories for specific trips or stops.

Best Value Award
Riders most likely to say the quality of transit service is worth the cost of the fare

1st: ABQ RIDE — Albuquerque, NM
2nd: RTS — Rochester, NY
3rd: RideKC — Kansas City, MO

Most improved: Niagara Region Transit — Niagara Region, ON

Who doesn’t like a free ride? It’s hard to say you’re not getting your money’s worth. So there’s no surprise here —two fare-free agencies earned awards: ABQ RIDE in Albuquerque won gold and RideKC in Kansas City took home bronze.

But two agencies that do charge fares also made the list: RTS in Rochester, New York, took silver and Niagara Region Transit in Ontario earned the most improved award. Both agencies make it easy to buy fares with Transit.

Is it a coincidence that they won? Take it up with the Academy of Transit Riders.

Best Use of a Supporting Mode Award
Riders most likely to say they use bikes, scooters or carshare

1st: RTD — Denver, CO
2nd: TriMet — Portland, OR
3rd: AC Transit — Oakland, CA

Most improved: RTS — Rochester, NY

We may be called Transit, but we love it when riders use all the different ways to get around without owning a car. Bikeshare. Bikes. Ebikes. Scooters. Carshare. We’re all about ‘em.

So when you open Transit in cities like Denver, Portland, and Oakland, the map is covered with nearby scooters and bikes. It makes sense that transit riders in those cities — on RTD, TriMet, and AC Transit — earned the top three places for their multimodal prowess.

Least Likely to Buy a Car Awardd
Riders least likely to say they would buy a car in the next 12 months

1st: MTA Manhattan Buses — New York, NY
2nd: STM — Montreal, QC
3rd: Halifax Transit — Halifax, NS

Most improved: MTA Brooklyn Buses — Brooklyn, NY

In an ideal world, public transit would be so good, you’d have no reason to drive. Well… some cities are closer to that ideal world than others! Their riders told us they have no intention of buying a car anytime soon.

It’s no shocker that MTA-riding Manhattanites came out on top in their aversion to purchasing a car, even before congestion pricing takes effect. And lest you think that everything in New York happens in Manhattan, the transit riders who saw the biggest drop this year in their desire to purchase a car were none other than MTA-riding Brooklynites.

But not everything is about the Big Apple. Canadians can hold our (frozen) heads high: riders of the STM in our hometown of Montreal took the silver, and — in an upset over some of the continent’s larger metropolises — riders of Halifax Transit in Nova Scotia claimed third place.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The big prize of the evening. The envelope is ready to be opened. Drum roll please…

Most Popular Agency Award
Most likely to be recommended by riders to friends or family

1st: VIA Metropolitan Transit — San Antonio, TX
2nd: OCTA — Orange County, CA
3rd: PSTA — St. Petersburg, FL

Most improved: CATA — Lansing, MI

Four times a year, we ask riders to say whether they would recommend their transit agency to friends or family on a scale of 1 to 10. The agencies with the highest ratio of top-rating riders rise to the top.

The results speak for themselves. Our data scientists have warned us hundreds of times that correlation is not causation, but it’s hard not to notice that the top performers in this category all offer free Royale subscriptions to their customers.

See? The riders have spoken.

In 2024, we’ll keep raising riders’ voices.

After all, we like to think of Transit as a megaphone you can pull out every time you hop aboard. Just press a button in the app, and sound off on whatever is going wrong (or right!) with your ride.

Whether it’s crowdsourced real-time info, Rate-My-Ride questions, quarterly report cards, or a tally of subway-riding rodents — we’ll share what you have to say with other riders, and with our partners: the mechanics, drivers, planners, and call-takers working behind the scenes at transit agencies around the world.

Because it’s pretty simple: every rider should have a voice in making things better. On their commute, at their transit agency, and across their city.

Work for a transit agency and want to see how you did?

Read our hot-off-the-presses Fall 2023 edition, learn more about the program, and sign your agency up for custom quarterly reports from the Ridership Happiness Benchmarking survey.

Drop us a line!

Recent articles
Our mission:
make cars obsolete.
Get Transit