There is a group you can find on the internet, at http://www.sustainlane.com. They rank cities every year for levels of sustainability and environmental friendliness. I was taking a look the other day at the top ten most sustainable cities on their list (sustainlane is now cited by all the media as the experts in this matter – I guess all you have to do is make a list…), and the winners look like this:
1. Portland, OR
2. San Francisco, CA
3. Seattle, WA
4. Chicago, IL
5. Oakland, CA
6. New York City, NY
7. Boston, MA
8. Philadelphia, PA
9. Denver, CO
10. Minneapolis, MN
These then, are our brightest urban lights, the cities most likely to succeed. These cities point the way to the Next City. But as I looked at this list for a moment, I was struck with the fact that it looked very similar to another list I bumped into a while back.
After a few minutes of thought, I remembered that other list – the top ten U.S. cities with the worst traffic congestion. Compiled by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) at Texas A&M, this list shows cities with the biggest challenges to sustainability – cities with big carbon footprints, generating lots of greenhouse gases, fraying nerves, wasting energy. The TTI 2002 list looks like this:
1. Los Angeles, CA
2. San Francisco/Oakland, CA
3. Washington, DC, and don’t we know it!
4. Seattle, WA
5. Houston, TX
6. A tie: San Jose, CA and Dallas, TX
7. New York, NY
8. Atlanta, GA
9. Miami, FL
10. Another tie: Chicago, IL, Boston, MA and Denver, CO
Very interesting. Of sustainlane’s honorees, only three are not also on the worst traffic list: Portland, Philly and Minneapolis. Unfortunately, in the TTI 2007 study, Minneapolis ranked 21st, Portland 27th, and Philly 34th for Most Wasted Fuel per Traveler.
Portland, Oregon Traffic, image by Bruce Ely, the Oregonian
Perhaps we Americans need to rethink our criteria for what makes a place sustainable and environmentally conscientious. Walkable, compact, dense, with lots of transportation options besides cars – this might be a place to start for some criteria that might help to shape the next city. Can your city survive without cars? Can any city survive without cars? (Maybe only Venice).
In the end, we have found horrible traffic jams all over the world. Take a look – the challenges are all around us.
Istanbul Varna, Bulgaria Giza
“We stand here confronted by insurmountable opportunities.” Pogo