America's Best and Worst Cities for Public Transit

Washington D.C.'s Metro
Washington D.C.'s Metro
iStock.com/kickstand

Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of U.S. Transit, a new release from Island Press, is undoubtedly a book for transit nerds. But everyone else could learn a little something from it, too. In just a few quick visuals, it's able to distill why transit use is common in some big cities in the U.S., while in others, people are chained to their cars.

The density maps, which we first spotted over on CityLab, highlight where the most people live and are employed in major U.S. cities, overlaying information about how accessible frequent rail and/or bus service is in that area. The combined data show a realistic picture of how accessible certain parts of a city are, illuminating which U.S. cities, and which of their neighborhoods, are easiest to get around without a car.

A density map of D.C. showing where transit is within 0.5 miles
Washington D.C.
Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of U.S. Transit, Island Press

Sure, there are likely bus lines that run farther out beyond the bounds of downtown, but frequency is one of the most important predictors of whether people actually use transit or not. So is distance—you're not going to get many riders if people have to drive to your bus stop—and while some planners consider a quarter-mile to be the ideal maximum distance to be considered "walkable" distance to transit, others, including those running major transit agencies like the Washington D.C. Metro, use a half-mile as the standard. (The book's author, Rice University urban planner Christof Spieler, served on the board of directors for the Houston METRO from 2010 to 2018.)

A density map of New York City showing where transit is within 0.5 miles
New York City
Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of U.S. Transit, Island Press

The resulting infographics portray the reality of American transit options. Even in cities we imagine are great for public transportation (New York) there are wide swaths of densely populated geography that are virtually inaccessible. Other cities known for their over-dependency on the car (Los Angeles) actually might have far more transit options than you imagine.

A density map of Los Angeles showing where transit is within 0.5 miles
Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of U.S. Transit, Island Press

So what U.S. cities have the overall best transit coverage, according to Spieler? He names these cities as the five best: New York City, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

And the most useless? As far as individual rail lines go, Nashville's $41 million Music City Star line carries fewer people than most bus routes. St. Clair County, Illinois, has a MetroLink line running from St. Louis eastward to serve "literal corn fields," Spieler writes. A Cleveland light-rail extension built in the 1990s serves a pathetic 400 people a day. Dallas's system, DART, is the biggest light-rail line in the country, but it "reaches remarkably few places," carrying half as many people per mile as transit in San Diego, Phoenix, or Houston.

In general, recent American transit projects cost taxpayers a ton of money and serve relatively few people—New York, despite having one of the best transit systems in the U.S., has paid $18.9 billion over the last 10 years on a mere three subway stations and one commuter-rail station.

Curious as to how your city measures up? Get the book on Amazon for $36.

[h/t CityLab]

Save More, Lose Less: How New Year's Resolutions Have Changed Over the Past Year

iStock.com/SIphotography
iStock.com/SIphotography

The top New Year’s Resolutions are easy to predict each year, but they’re not as concrete and unchanging as you might expect. Sure, everyone and their brother wants to lose weight or save money, but Americans’ collective priorities have shifted slightly since last year.

Offers.com polled 1000 Americans about their goals for the upcoming year, and the main takeaways are that more people want to save money and fewer people want to lose weight. Although fitness is still the top resolution, it’s trending downward. Compared with the 41 percent of respondents who wanted to exercise more or shed a few pounds in 2018, just 38 percent have the same motive heading into 2019.

On the other hand, the desire to save money has risen by six percentage points over the last year. Offers.com predicts more people will be buying subscriptions to video streaming services (like Netflix and Hulu) as well as kitchen appliances in an effort to cut out cable costs and restaurant bills.

We all know that Millennials tend to value experiences more than things, but it seems more and more people across the board are vowing to travel more in 2019. It’s the top resolution in a few states, including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Everywhere else in the country, people are dreaming of bigger bank accounts and smaller waists, with the exception of Nevada. Residents in the Silver State just want to make sterling new friendships.

Check out the infographic below to see the results from this year and last year.

An infographic of New Year's Resolutions by percentage
Offers.com

Whatever you choose as your New Year’s Resolution, be sure to make 2019 the year you achieve all of your goals. To help, we’ve crafted a list of 10 scientifically proven ways to stick to your resolution.

Here's How Much it Would Cost to Build Hogwarts in Real Life

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

At some point, every Harry Potter fan has dreamed of going to Hogwarts. But a lack of magical ability isn't the only reason that the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will have to remain in the realm of fantasy. Even recreating the physical structure would be nearly impossible in real life ... unless you're a billionaire looking to burn a lot of cash.

​BigRentz, an online marketplace for renting construction equipment, recently calculated the costs of building various fictional locations, such as Batman's Bat Cave, The Wall from Game of Thrones, and you guessed it—Hogwarts. And it turns out, magical castles are even more expensive than you might think.

According to the company's calculations, the castle itself would cost $169,740,000. Built in the style of Windsor Castle, Hogwarts stretches over 414,000 square feet. The Great Hall, which measures 5800 square feet, would alone cost a whopping $870,000.

Moving beyond the castle walls, the eight greenhouses would cost $175,000, and Hagrid's hut would come in at $400,000. Building the Quidditch pitch would cost another $1,031,980. And for the One-Eyed Witch Passage running between Hogwarts and Honeydukes? A full $2,490,000.

In total, BigRentz calculates that Hogwarts's construction bill would come to a whopping $174.5 million. And that's just construction costs. The cost of furnishing, supplying, and running the school—where tuition is free—would add significantly to that figure.

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