The Urban Transportation Report Card


Transportation Alternatives has teamed up with cycling advocates from Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle to issue the Urban Transportation Report Card (PDF), which rates these cities’ progress on greening their transportation systems. The report notes that transportation accounts for 20-60% of carbon emissions in major U.S. cities, so it is very encouraging that in each city the most significant growth occurred in bicycling, with Chicago registering an 80% increase in cyclists from 1990-2000.

The report also sites areas where these cities need improvement; the following recommendations were made for New York:

The Mayor’s plan calls for new pedestrian plazas in each neighborhood in the city but lacks a comprehensive set of initiatives to improve pedestrian safety.  The City continues to promote driving among municipal employees by distributing thousands of parking permits to employees annually and turning a blind eye to parking permit abuse.  City workers drive at two times the rate of other professional employees in New York City.  Finally, many of the details of PlaNYC are yet to be hashed out or institutionalized within government, and the completion deadline is not until 2030, many mayors from now.  The plan sets no firm targets for mode switching, i.e. what percentage of trips the City would like to see by car, bus, subway, commuter rail, bicycling and walking.  It still remains to be seen when and exactly how these ambitious and much needed plans will be implemented.

  • anon

    See? Driving a hybrid car don’t exactly make you Jeezis on stilts.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The passenger-mile calculation is appropriate for cars and SUVs as well.

    Carpooling, which has been declining, can save as much fuel as fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, low ridership means in some parts of the country buses generate more greenhouse gases than cars.

    The one group of people who could really benefit from mass dynamic carpooling is, in fact, public employees, since their homes and worksites (schools, police precients, fire houses, sanitation garages, bus depots, train yards) are generally to dispersed for time-efficient transit trips.

    At one time I proposed that parking permits be limited to public employees who were willing to take two or three people with them to the area, in order to get a system off the ground.

  • Steve

    These figures are not footnoted but they appear to be averages and so specific experience with particular cities/routes/technologies may vary widely. I can’t believe that the emissions per passenger mile on a huge and heavily used articulated hybird crosstown bus like the M79 is as much as 0.4 lbs. And I believe it has been shown that a bicyclist’s footprint on NYC streets is more like 36 sq. ft., not 97 sq. ft.

  • I agree: there should be a separate entry for hybrid buses, since there is one for hybrid cars.

    This report card also fails to consider the sort of development that different forms of transportation promote. Buses tend to generate transit oriented development, which allows for more walking and is generally more energy efficient. Cars (including hybrids) tend to generate sprawl, which makes walking impossible and requires longer distance travelling.

  • Vance Wagner

    As the creator of the above table, I’d like to offer a few quick responses / clarifications:
    – It’s true that per passenger-mile figures are also applicable for private vehicles. We chose to include only per mile here since it is more intuitive (as opposed to assuming an average occupancy for vehicles and including another footnote to explain that).
    – The numbers presented here are averages, yes, and there certainly would be variability across cities, routes, and technologies. The reason we didn’t separate out hybrid buses is that a bus rider likely doesn’t have a choice about what bus s/he will ride. Citywide, though, there are absolutely key opportunities to drive the average bus emissions number down through adding hybrid buses and optimizing routes for maximum occupancy.

  • Steve

    Vance, thanks for the clarification. Can you please give the source/method for the 97 sq. ft. footprint for bicyclists?

  • Hilary

    Wouldn’t the difference between SUV’s and hybrids be much wider in an urban environment? Is this accounted for?


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