February 23, 2011

Study names 15 top smart transportation cities


Washington, D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare program has made more than 1,100 bikes available for pick up at solar-powered docking stations throughout D.C. and Arlington County. Photo courtesy Kevin H. via Flickr.


Boston; Jersey City, N.J.; and Lincoln, Neb. are three of 15 metropolitan regions named as leaders in transportation innovation and smart transit, according to a new study released by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Released Wednesday by the NRDC's Smarter Cities project, the study, created in collaboration with the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), compares and profiles U.S. regions based on public transit availability, use and cost; household automobile ownership and use; and innovative, sustainable transportation programs.

"Innovative transit policies not only benefit the environment, but they also add richness to urban life by making city attractions and neighborhoods more accessible," said Paul McRandle, Senior Editor of NRDC's Smarter Cities Project. "By enhancing regional transportation programs we can improve our quality of life, boost our local economies, reduce air pollution, and even benefit public health by making biking and walking safer and more enjoyable for commuters."

The 15 metro regions identified as 'Smarter Cities' for transportation include:

  • Seven large regions (greater than1 million people): Boston; Chicago; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; New York; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C.
  • Four medium regions (250,000-1 million people): Boulder-Longmont, Colo.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Jersey City, N.J.; and New Haven, Conn.
  • Four small regions (less than 250,000 people): Champaign-Urbana, Ill.; Bremerton, Wash.; Lincoln, Neb.; and Yolo, Calif.

The transportation study is the second to be released by NRDC's Smarter Cities project, which aims to inspire cities, municipalities and regions nationwide by recognizing and profiling what leading metropolitan regions are doing to make themselves more efficient, sustainable and livable. The data underlying the 15 cities' transportation profiles was drawn from the U.S. Census and CNT's H+T Affordability Index, which quantifies household transportation costs by location.

"By and large, 'location efficient' places — with essential services that are nearby or accessible by many transportation modes — lower transportation costs for residents," said Scott Bernstein, president of CNT. "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."

Highlights from the study include:

  • About 98 percent of Jersey City, N.J., residents live within a half mile of public transit access; only 60 percent own or have access to a car.
  • In downtown Boston, around 65 percent of trips during peak hours are non-motorized due, in large part, to the city's Complete Streets initiative, launched in 2009, to create streets that integrate pedestrians, cyclists and public transit with motorists.
  • Philadelphia has selectively expanded the city's public transit system in certain neighborhoods to increase residents' access to fresh food.
  • Boulder, Colo., has built paved pathways along Boulder Creek that allow walkers and bikers to travel up to 52 miles without ever having to cross traffic.
  • Washington, D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare program has made more than 1,100 bikes available for pick up at solar-powered docking stations throughout D.C. and Arlington County.

The full study, with individual city profiles, can be found here.

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