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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

U.S. Cities Aren’t Adequately Enabling Alternatives to Driving. These Policies Could Help

By Ben Jennings, Research Assistant, Transportation Program

This blog post is the second in a series taking a closer look at the findings of the 2021 City Clean Energy Scorecard. An earlier post looked at cities’ progress on energy equity.

Few cities have adequately enabled the use of efficient, low-carbon modes of transportation, according to recent data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). That’s a problem when transportation now accounts for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, more than any other sector. While electric vehicles will be a key tool for reducing those emissions, shifting to more-efficient modes of transportation such as public transit, biking, and walking, will be equally critical—and the new data show how far we have to go in providing access to affordable, clean, and efficient alternatives to driving.

The NREL data was published for the first time in ACEEE’s recent City Clean Energy Scorecard. It’s derived from the lab’s new Mobility Energy Productivity (MEP) metric, which assesses the overall ability of a city’s transportation system to connect people to services and activities in an energy-efficient, convenient, and cost-effective way. A city’s overall MEP score is based on population-weighted averages of scores computed for locations across a city, each based on a range of variables related to these goals.

The MEP score also displays the relative contributions of various individual transportation modes to overall mobility. Looking at what portion of each city’s overall MEP score came specifically from its MEP score for efficient modes (i.e., walking, biking, and public transit) allowed us to compare the state of efficient mobility consistently across cities. (We did so instead of comparing cities’ overall MEP scores, which scale to the population and geographic extent of a city, leading more populous and larger cities to generally have higher overall scores).

All cities have room to improve

Of the 100 cities assessed in the City Scorecard, NREL has MEP data for 99. Efficient-mode scores made up at most 36% of a city’s total MEP score (Reno, Nevada), and as little as 6% (Springfield, Massachusetts). The mean was 17%. The more efficient-mode scores contribute to a city’s overall MEP, the more efficient the transportation system…

Continue reading this blog post online.

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