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Where do Transit riders go for the holidays?

Because there's nothing quite like New York in late December... except Miami

December 21, 2022

As the holidays approach, Transit riders aren’t just commuting between their usual neighbourhoods. They’re visiting friends and family in far-flung cities — and test driving the public transit!

So, which cities are they visiting? What exotic bus passes are they collecting?

Using data from the past year, we checked how many Transit app riders were stamping their (metaphorical) Transit passport in different cities.

We did this without using location coordinates. We batched users into “home transit systems” based on which lines they interact with in the app. Then we checked if they used systems in other cities. If they did, we assumed they were travelling.

Select a city:

What we found

  1. Ho-ho-no surprise: holidays are a peak time for travel
  2. New Yorkers are at the heart of public transit’s annual yuletide migration
Winter holidays are the most popular time of the year for travel, as judged by multi-city Transit usage. We counted someone as “travelling” if that person opened our app outside their home city. We double- (and triple-) counted them when they opened our app in an additional city. Keep in mind: if a Transit rider travelled to a new city but didn’t use our app while they were there, we couldn’t count them as a “traveller”.

For our investigation, we looked at cities in the US and Canada. We used the same boundaries as the census, which lumps neighbouring cities into metropolitan areas — this means someone from Laval is a “Montrealer”, while someone from Newark or Jersey City is considered a full-blooded New Yorker… just like they’ve always dreamed.

Surprising no one: New York has the most public transit riders. Which means they also have the most riders who use Transit when they travel. But are New York’s travel patterns similar to those of other cities? Where are they going?

We expected a northeastern city to be at the top of the list — the transit systems of Philadelphia, Boston, and DC are all just an Amtrak or bus away from New York.

However, to our amusement Miami was the most likely destination for MTA riders. Goodbye, dollar slice. Hello, sunscreen at the bus stop!

Other sun destinations like LA and Orlando (and windbreaker destinations like San Francisco) were popular places for yonder-bussing wanderlusting — more Transit riders from New York visited these cities than comparatively closer ones like Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago, and Toronto.

However, by-and-large, New York is a city of holiday-homebodies: less than 2% of all New Yorkers are using Transit in another city over the holidays.

Other cities tend to have higher rates of travel.

Where are Transit riders going over the holidays?

Click a city on the map to see where people are headed

The verdict?

  1. New York is the most popular holiday transit-riding destination for Americans
  2. Where New York isn’t the #1 destination for a city, it’s because another big city is close by (e.g. Las Vegas, LA, SF, San Antonio, Austin)
  3. The TTC lures more Canadian travelers than any other system
  4. Victoria and Vancouver are BFFs
  5. Windsor is the only city in which an international destination (Detroit) is among its top three most visited cities.

That made us curious to look beyond our borders: how many Transit cosmopolitans are using the app when they travel internationally?

Montrealers rank at the tippité-top for international Transit use. Where are they going? 

Of Montrealers heading to France…


So is the Parisian RATP network just an expansion pack for Montreal’s STM? That would explain why Paris uses our rubber tires on their métro 😉

Jokes about our petit-cousins aside, we like to think of the world as one big inter-connected transit system — with some coverage gaps, of course. And while sure, every city’s public transit is a little bit different, with Transit, you can ride anywhere and still feel at home.

Wherever you dash, dance or prance to this holiday season, we’ll be there to get you around. After all, reindeer aren’t the only fans of mass transportation…

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