Solving Cities

15 smartest U.S. metro regions for transportation innovation

15 smartest U.S. metro regions for transportation innovation

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A new study shows how cities big and small have developed innovative transportation systems. Find out what cities made the list.

Do cities have to be large to have smart transportation? A new study released today proves that they don't.

The study, from the Natural Resources Defense Council's Smarter Cities project, in collaboration with the Center for Neighborhood Technology, identifies the 15 U.S. metro regions -- large, medium, and small -- with the most innovative transportation systems.

Specifically, the study looked at public transit availability, use and cost, along with household automobile ownership, and sustainable transportation programs.

Big cities, like Boston or New York, often get all the attention when it comes to transportation (like, on this list). But this study does a good job highlighting what's happening in smaller cities, and ultimately encouraging them continue to improve. Because a city doesn't have to be as big as Chicago to build smart public transit systems.

Here are some highlights from the cities that don't usually get all the attention when it comes to transportation.

  • About 98% of Jersey City, N.J. residents live within a half mile of public transit access; only 60% own or have access to a car.
  • 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.
  • 90% of the residents in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. live within a quarter mile of a weekday bus route.
  • Lincoln, Neb. households drive the least—on average 16,800 miles per year—of any metropolitan region in the country with populations less than 250,000.

But why study the metro region? Why not just look at the city itself? Kaid Benfield, director of NRDC’s Sustainable Communities & Smart Growth and a Smarter Cities project advisor, explains:

Regional data often gives a truer indication of the environment of a place than jurisdictional boundaries as it encompasses commuters traveling both in the dense urban cities centers and the surrounding suburbs. Yet municipalities and cities mostly act separately as instruments of policy, innovate more and are inherently more sustainable and ‘smarter.’

Here's the complete list of the 15 metro regions in the U.S. for transportation innovation:

Large Metro Regions (populations greater than 1 million)

Medium Metro Regions (population between 250,000-1 million)

Small Metro Regions (population less than 250,000)

Photo: itdp/Flickr

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure