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Cities striving toward energy-efficient transportation

  • Cities striving toward energy-efficient transportation

    The United States is a nation of commuters. Per one estimate, there will be a projected 281.3 million registered vehicles on American roads in 2019, with 35% being passenger cars. This vehicle use is contributing to atmospheric pollution; the Union of Concerned Scientists estimated, in 2016, that the United States dumped 4.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from fuel combustion into the atmosphere. This translates to roughly 15 metric tons per American resident.

    Because of urban sprawl, most U.S. states require residents to drive a vehicle or use public transportation to access basic services. Population booms mean most communities follow the suburb-model, where many services, like malls and major retailers, are located outside of city limits. This makes the average city unwalkable. With 45% of Americans having no access to public transportation, this suburb-model has effectively created a barrier to the poor from seeking work, having ready access to much-needed public services, or even buying food.

    There are strategies available for cities that seek to remedy these issues. Expanding the public transportation network, building affordable housing on or near public transit routes and hubs, offering incentives for reduced or free public transit use, converting part or all of an existing fleet to efficient renewable energies, and enforcing safe street policies can all help to improve transportation access. However, as these upgrades are costly, the initiative to retrofit may be limited to cities with a populace that would actively seek it. Cities with a high population of college graduates, cities with existing housing or transportation problems, and cities with a large progressive base are all good candidates for enacting change.

    Stacker has composed a list of 30 cities striving towards more energy-efficient transportation. To complete this list, Stacker consulted the 2019 City Energy Scorecard from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). ACEEE ranked 85 cities on their local policies in five areas: local government, community-wide initiatives, buildings policies, energy and water utilities, and transportation policies. Here, we have ranked the 30 cities with the highest transportation scores, with ties broken by cities’ overall clean energy scores. We also included information on state transportation policies from ACEEE’s 2018 State Energy Scorecard.

    Keep reading to see if your hometown made the list.

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  • #30. Saint Paul, MN

    - Transportation policies score: 12 (out of 30 points; 3.5 points above national median)
    - Overall city score: 35 (out 100 points; overall city rank: #37)
    - State transportation policies score: 4 (out of 10 points; state rank: #21)

    The 2007 collapse of the Interstate-35W bridge led the city to update the existing infrastructure around St. Paul while reducing road congestion. The Twin Cities (St. Paul and Minneapolis) have tackled this with an increased investment in the light rail network, support for bike rental systems, improvements to pedestrian and bikeway infrastructure, and promotion of safer streets/motorist awareness initiatives. St. Paul’s approach is to ensure transportation access and choices to every part of the city, while encouraging healthy solutions.

  • #29. Lawrence, KS

    - Transportation policies score: 12 (out of 28 points; 3.5 points above national median)
    - Overall city score: 42 (out 100 points; overall city rank: #30)
    - State transportation policies score: 1.5 (out of 10 points; state rank: #38)

    As sister city to Kansas City, Mo., Lawrence is a college town home to the University of Kansas. The city’s public bus operator, the Lawrence-Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Organization, provides public transportation services to the city and to its surrounding jurisdictions. The city has a car-sharing program with Hertz OnDemand, but no bike sharing to date.

  • #28. San Diego, CA

    - Transportation policies score: 12.5 (out of 30 points; 4 points above national median)
    - Overall city score: 58.5 (out 100 points; overall city rank: #15)
    - State transportation policies score: 9 (out of 10 points; state rank: #1)

    The sister city of Tijuana, Mexico and the home of the United States Navy’s Pacific Fleet, San Diego is considered to be a highly progressive city occupied by professionals. San Diego’s municipal code allows for the zoning of walkable communities, while its Bicycle Master Plan encourages bike sharing. The city’s electricity authority, San Diego Gas & Electricity, runs the “Power Tour Drive” initiative to encourage the development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

  • #27. Boulder, CO

    - Transportation policies score: 12.5 (out of 28 points; 4 points above national median)
    - Overall city score: 64 (out 100 points; overall city rank: #10)
    - State transportation policies score: 4.5 (out of 10 points; state rank: #18)

    Boulder is an exurb of Denver. A military and government installation hotspot, the city is also home to the University of Colorado. The city has engaged in a Transportation Master Plan that encourages location-efficient real estate development and density bonuses for specific zoning districts. Boulder also takes part in the eGO car-sharing program and the Boulder B-cycle bike-sharing program. Eco Pass, a discounted bus pass for full-time employees and students; Way to GO, a regional ride-match program; and GO Boulder’s Transportation Demand Management—which offers commute trip reduction programs for the city’s businesses—are all initiatives Boulder has undertaken to reduce road congestion.

  • #26. Columbus, OH

    - Transportation policies score: 13 (out of 30 points; 4.5 points above national median)
    - Overall city score: 41.5 (out 100 points; overall city rank: #31)
    - State transportation policies score: 1 (out of 10 points; state rank: #46)

    Columbus is the capital of Ohio and the home to the Ohio State University. The city has an energy-efficiency preference for vehicle and equipment purchases. The city has also installed LED lightbulbs on smaller streetlight circuits, has met or exceeded LEED certification for all new city-owned buildings, and has engaged in a municipal planning code that encouraged pedestrian- and transit-friendly development in commercial zones and high-density development in the downtown area. For those who prefer to commute by bike, Columbus engages in CoGo bike-sharing program.

  • #25. Phoenix, AZ

    - Transportation policies score: 13 (out of 30 points; 4.5 points above national median)
    - Overall city score: 50.5 (out 100 points; overall city rank: #21)
    - State transportation policies score: 4.5 (out of 10 points; state rank: #18)

    Phoenix is the capital of Arizona. As the fifth-largest city in the United States, Phoenix is not only the most populous state capital in the nation, but the only state capital with a population of over 1 million residents. The city has started Transportation 2050, which seeks to triple the city’s light rail capacity, ensure transit in every neighborhood, and yield a 40% mode shift by 2050. The complimentary 2050 Sustainable Transportation Goal would reduce transportation emissions by 80% by 2050.

  • #24. Knoxville, TN

    - Transportation policies score: 13.5 (out of 28 points; 5 points above national median)
    - Overall city score: 27 (out 100 points; overall city rank: #50)
    - State transportation policies score: 3.5 (out of 10 points; state rank: #24)

    Knoxville is the home of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the University of Tennessee and is the major city servicing the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Knoxville has a $2 million fund to create low- and moderate-income affordable rental housing adjacent to public transportation. Pace Bikeshare offers a dockless bike sharing service for Knoxville residents. The city has implemented an Energy and Sustainability Work Plan, where the city provides a free bus pass plan for employees, and it has purchased fuel-efficient vehicles and imposed an anti-idling policy for city vehicles.

  • #23. Baltimore, MD

    - Transportation policies score: 13.5 (out of 30 points; 5 points above national median)
    - Overall city score: 39.5 (out 100 points; overall city rank: #35)
    - State transportation policies score: 7 (out of 10 points; state rank: #7)

    Baltimore is the largest seaport in the Washington-Baltimore combined statistical area, the largest city in Maryland, the second-largest port-of-entry for immigrants in the nation, and the home of major research facility Johns Hopkins University. The city’s 2019 Sustainability Plan includes a Pedestrian Master Plan to improve walkability in the city, dedicated funding sources for public transportation, and a plan to make more pedestrian-friendly areas and eliminate parking subsidies. It also includes proposed transit hubs that would connect public transit routes and bike-sharing/car-sharing/ride-hailing areas.

  • #22. Long Beach, CA

    - Transportation policies score: 13.5 (out of 30 points; 5 points above national median)
    - Overall city score: 49 (out 100 points; overall city rank: #22)
    - State transportation policies score: 9 (out of 10 points; state rank: #1)

    Long Beach is an exurb of Los Angeles and the home of the second-largest container port in the nation. It is also the home of California State University, Long Beach. The city’s Sustainable City Action Plan seeks to reduce municipal greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2020 and electrical and natural gas use for city operations by 25% and 15%, respectively. The city also adopted the Mobility Element of the Long Beach General Plan, the Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Pedestrian Plan, and the Bicycle Master Plan to improve the healthiness of the city’s daily vehicle use.

  • #21. Madison, WI

    - Transportation policies score: 13.5 (out of 28 points; 5 points above national median)
    - Overall city score: 53.5 (out 100 points; overall city rank: #17)
    - State transportation policies score: 0.5 (out of 10 points; state rank: #50)

    The capital of Wisconsin, Madison is the home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the headquarters of Epic Systems, American Girl, and Lands’ End. Madison’s Comprehensive Plan amends the city’s zoning plan to encourage location-efficient development. The city also permits reduced parking requirements on redevelopment projects, has a car-sharing program through Community Car, and a bike-sharing program, Madison B-cycle.

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