The Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Smarter Cities project has named 15 U.S. metropolitan regions as leaders in transportation innovation and smart transit.
NRDC divided its “2011 Smarter Cities for Transportation” into three size categories. Among regions with populations of more than one million, the organization honored Boston; Chicago; New York; Portland, OR; Philadelphia; San Francisco; and the Washington, DC, region including Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Four metropolitan areas with populations between 250,000 and one million received recognition: Boulder-Longmont, CO; Honolulu; Jersey City, NJ; and New Haven, CT. Recognized metro areas with populations of less than 250,000 are Bremerton, WA; Champaign-Urbana, IL; Lincoln, NE; and Yolo, CA.
The study, created by NRDC in collaboration with the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), compares and profiles U.S. cities based on public transit availability and use; household automobile ownership and use; and innovative, sustainable, and affordable transportation programs. For example, a $7.50 monthly fee in Lincoln covers unlimited bus use for low-income riders, while residents of New York—with an average of 9,920 miles a year per household—travel fewer miles in the car than residents in any other region except for Jersey City.
“By and large, ‘location efficient’ places—with essential services that are nearby or accessible by many transportation modes—lower transportation costs for residents,”” said CNT President Scott Bernstein. “Cities and regions that foster compact, walkable, transit-rich communities can reduce reliance on automobiles and help lower at least one expense for households struggling to get by in the current economy.”
“Transportation policies that deliver a variety of mobility options including integrated bike paths, bus, rail, and even vanpools not only benefit the environment, but they also enrich urban life by making city attractions and neighborhoods more accessible,” added Deron Lovaas, director of federal transportation policy at NRDC. “By improving regional transportation programs we boost local economies, reduce air pollution, enhance quality of life, and even benefit public health by making walking and biking safer and more enjoyable for commuters.”
This study is the second in the Smarter Cities series, which aims to inspire regions nationwide by recognizing what leading metro regions, cities, and municipalities across the country are doing to make themselves more efficient and livable. To identify these leaders, the Smarter Cities team focus on one sustainability factor at a time—energy, air quality, or smart growth, for example—and using quantitative and qualitative analysis, compare regions on their efforts to make themselves more sustainable. The team deliberately omitted smart growth because it will be included in a future report.
More information about the study is available here.