07/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Best US Transit Systems You Never Knew Existed

When it comes to public transit in the U.S., there are certain predictable all-stars: the Metro in Washington, D.C., is convenient, efficient, and clean. The anthropomorphically nicknamed El and BART in Chicago and San Francisco are legendary. And everyone knows it's easier to navigate New York City without a car than with one.

But what about the rest of the country? As cities big and small rethink how their residents get around, new systems are taking shape--and as gas prices and paychecks fluctuate, riders are responding in droves. While the current economic crunch is forcing many cities to hike fares and cut back on service, innovations continue, and the tracks are laid for a bright future.

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