Which US Cities Have the Greenest Commuters?

Cycling is an effective means of green commuting that helps reduce one's carbon footprint.
Cycling is an effective means of green commuting that helps reduce one's carbon footprint.

What Is Green Commuting?

Green commuting is an alternative approach to moving about the city in which one lives with the intent of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. One private vehicle is responsible for emitting approximately 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. By reducing the frequency and distance private vehicles are driven, these emissions are also greatly reduced. Some common methods to green commuting include: walking, biking, skating, running, and taking public transportation. Participating in green commuting helps a person reduce their own carbon footprint. Individuals in cities all over the world take part in green commuting. This article discusses US cities with the greenest commuters.

US Cities with the Greenest Commuters

New York City, New York

New York City (NYC) in the state of New York tops the list of US cities in terms of the greenest commuters. 68.1% of NYC's population reports taking green transportation to and from work, school, and home. Nearly one-third of all individuals living in the city use public transportation on a daily basis, as NYC has one of the most accessible subway systems in the country. This percentage of public transportation users is roughly equivalent to 2,686,406 individuals. To put this number in perspective, the total number of public transportation users in the rest of the country add up a combined 3.5 million individuals.

Washington, DC

Residents of Washington, DC have the second highest instance of green commuting habits in the US. Approximately 53.1% of the city's population chooses to walk, bike, skate, or take public transportation every day. Washington, DC is known as a walkable city, which means it has a high number of walking trails, sidewalks, higher-than-average sidewalk width, pedestrian zones, clearly marked crosswalks, and traffic regulations that lean toward giving pedestrians the right of way.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts ranks third in terms of US cities with the highest percentage of green commuters. 50.7% of the city's population reports using some mode of transportation other than personal vehicles to get around on a daily basis. The city encourages green commuting by offering a number of options to its residents. One of the unique green commuting options is Hubway, which is a bike-sharing program. This program allows people to purchase a daily, monthly, or yearly pass that allows them to rent bicycles from stations located throughout the city. Users can pick up and return the bikes to the most convenient station.

San Francisco, California

The fourth highest percentage of green commuters in the US is found in San Francisco, California. Nearly half (49.6%) of the city's population chooses green transportation over automobile-based commuting options on a regular basis. San Francisco is recognized throughout the country for its easy-to-use public transportation system, which includes buses, cable cars, trolley buses, and streetcars. This extensive transportation system, combined with its compact design layout, makes San Francisco an excellent spot for green commuting. Additionally, many employers in the city offer their employees a number of commuter benefits to encourage carpooling, biking, and walking whenever possible.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has the fifth highest percentage of green commuters in the nation. According to survey results, 37% of the city's population looks to green commuting options. With a population size of nearly 1.57 million, this percentage represents just over 580,000 individuals who choose something other than a private vehicle for their daily transportation needs. The most common green commuting method in the city is public transportation, which is chosen by 26% of the population. This is followed by walking (8.2%) and biking (2.3%).

Chicago, Illinois

Residents of Chicago, Illinois are the sixth most likely to choose green commuting options. Approximately 36.6% of the city's population reports taking alternative transportation daily. The government of Chicago and private employers have developed a number of green transportation options. Some of the most common green commuting methods in the city include: a bike share program, carpooling and vanpooling programs, bus routes, and the Metra train. To encourage more green commuting, some employers offer programs that allow employees to purchase public transportation passes with a before-tax fund, thus reducing their annual tax obligations.

Seattle, Washington

The seventh highest percentage of green commuters are found in Seattle, Washington. This city has a population size of 704,352 (not including the surrounding metropolitan area). Of these individuals, 34.7% report selecting green commuting options rather than using a personal vehicle for most of their daily needs. In an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the municipal government has held a number of “Walk, Bike, Ride” events to get people out of their cars on their way to work. Green commuting options are not always uniform throughout the city, however, and generally depend on the neighborhood. The highest instance of green commuting (over 75%) is found in the First Hill, Chinatown, and Downtown neighborhoods.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has the eighth highest percentage of green commuters in the US, making Pennsylvania the first state with two cities in the top 10 list. (California is the second state.) The city has a population size of 303,625, and 30.4% report using green commuting options on a regular basis. This city offers a light rail option that is popular with residents and visitors alike, although bus routes are more heavily utilized. A number of commuters choose a multi-commuting method to get to their destinations. Some individuals bike to the nearest bus station and board with their bicycle, while others drive their personal vehicle a short distance to park in a carpooling parking lot.

Oakland, California

Oakland is the second California city on this list. Here, 28.5% of the population reports choosing a green commuting method on a regular basis. With a population of just over 420,000, this percentage represents nearly 120,000 individuals. This city is home to an extensive network of cycling trails and offers a number of bike share programs to encourage cycling. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) light rail system connects Oakland to San Francisco, which helps to reduce the number of private vehicles on the road.

Which US Cities Have the Greenest Commuters?

RankUS CityShare of Bike/Walk/Public Transit Travel in 2014
1New York68.1%
2Washington DC53.1%
4San Francisco49.6%

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