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Top U.S. Cities for Green Transportation

Top U.S. Cities for Green Transportation

Whether you live in Washington, D.C., or Wauchula, FL, you have to get to work every morning. How you do that might depend on the transportation available in your city.

Survey results collected from the U.S. Census over a five-year period have given us a glimpse into which cities’ residents are taking an eco-friendly approach to their daily commutes. Here at, we dug into this data and ranked which areas have the highest percentage of green-minded commuters in the U.S.

Below are the top 10 cities, by population group, where commuters are using green transportation – carpooling, biking, walking and using public transportation – the most. We dive into the data and rankings even further in the eco-friendly travel sections listed above. When commuters use these green methods of transportation they can help save money, reduce overall dependence on fuel and improve air quality.

You might see some surprising results on our lists. For example, Elko, NV, might not seem like a medium-sized city. Elko is in the medium-sized city category because we grouped cities according to the Census listing of metropolitan statistical areas and micropolitan statistical areas.

Large Cities

1. Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria, VA: Residents of the Washington, D.C., area are always looking for greener ways to get around our nation’s busy capital. Thankfully there are plenty of green options. The Metrorail is the local train system, and the Metrobus covers more locations the Metrorail doesn’t reach. The Metrobus system has 338 routes and more than 485 buses that use compressed natural gas or a hybrid. If you live in D.C., one thing you also may notice racks of bikes for people to share as part of the Capital Bikeshare program. Biking is just another way to get to work without having to drive a car!

2. New York City, NY-Newark-Jersey City, NJ: Driving through New York City, Newark and Jersey City can be stressful. However, these cities are known for their developed public transportation systems. The PATH train provides easy access for commuting to NYC. These cities may be large, but there is still room for bikers and walkers thanks to the hard work of the New Jersey Bicycle & Pedestrian Resource Center. If you’re not in a rush, you can take the NY Waterway ferry and get views of both Jersey City and New York City.

3. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: San Francisco may be known for its cable cars, but if you’re doing a daily commute you might need something with fewer tourists. The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) quickly gets commuters where they need to be. The BART is a high-speed train that connects the outskirts of the Bay Area to the center of San Francisco.

4. Ithaca, NY: This city in central New York is home to Cornell University and Ithaca College. Ithaca is located in the middle of the Tompkins County bus network, but residents were looking for ways to go green when it came to transportation. In 2008, the Ithaca Carshare was created. The carshare is a local nonprofit organization focused on reducing pollution caused by automobiles.

5. Honolulu, HI: Honolulu is the largest city in Hawaii and covers most of Oahu’s southwestern shore. Residents can get around on “TheBus” system or the trolley. In downtown Honolulu, the Waikiki neighborhood is the center of shopping, dining, high-rise hotels and many jobs. More than 14% of residents carpool to work, especially since residents don’t always live in the tourist areas.

6. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA: Approximately 28% of Boston-area residents reported using green transportation. Many Bostonians rely on “The T” (the subway system) to get to work every day. Boston was also ranked the third most walkable city by Walk Score, but if you’re short on time, hop on a bike. There are more than 1,500 bikes for rent in the area from Hubway.

7. Ames, IA: ranked Ames in Story County as one of the “Best Places to Live” in 2010. The green transportation methods are one of the many benefits of living here. The city of Ames has a transit system known as CyRide. This bus system has 12 fixed routes along with a Dial-A-Ride service and a Moonlight Express late night service. As a bonus, the CyRide fares are free for currently enrolled students with an ISUCard.

8. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA: Commuters in these Central Coast cities can choose between the Santa Maria Area Transit (SMAT), The Breeze Bus and the Clean Air Express to get to work. In 1991, the Clean Air Express bus service was created by the Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control district to improve regional air quality and reduce the number of commuters driving alone. This service eliminates the use of approximately 1 million gallons of fuel each year.

9. State College, PA: There are many ways to get around State College and the Centre Region. The Centre Area Transportation Authority has CATABUS routes throughout the community, and the CATACOMMUTE includes RideSharing, VanPool and Emergency Ride Home services. CATARIDE offers senior citizens (65 and older) curb-to-curb service if they can’t take the CATABUS. The Borough of State College was also recently awarded a Silver Bicycle Friendly Business award from the League of American Bicyclists.

10. Philadelphia, PA-Camden, NJ-Wilmington, DE: Philadelphia is a part of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). When it comes to transportation, residents can choose between buses, trains, trolleys and subways. Philadelphia is a hub for many rail companies, especially the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Reading Railroad. Walk Score, an independent company, ranked Philadelphia as the fourth most walkable city in the U.S.

Medium Cities

1. Pullman, WA: In 2011, Pullman was declared the “Best Place to Raise Kids” in Washington by Bloomberg Businessweek. Not only is it great for kids, but it’s also an easy place to get around. Many Washington State University students use the Pullman Transit buses. The Pullman Transit system was created in 1979 and now has 25 buses running regular routes.

2. Elko, NV: More than 32% of residents in the greater Elko region reported using green transportation. While carpooling is popular in the area for everyday travel, another eco-friendly option for vacationing is hopping on the California Zephyr. The Zephyr runs from San Francisco to Chicago every day, with stops at Elko Station. Residents who reserve a spot on the Zephyr can see the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevadas and more.

3. Arcadia, FL: Arcadia is in DeSoto County, Florida. One of the easiest ways to get around the county is using the DART (DeSoto-Arcadia Regional Transit). The bus routes go from Arcadia to Nocatee from Monday through Saturday. More than 17% of residents in the area carpool, which is another great way to save gas and save money.

4. Juneau, AK: The unique geography of Juneau has made it essential for residents to use green methods of transportation. There are no roads directly connecting Juneau to the rest of Alaska. Ferries are available to get people to the city. In Juneau, 16% of people reported carpooling and almost 7% reported walking.

5. Laramie, WY: This overall green city is also ranked third for biking and fifth for walking on our medium cities lists. Laramie is home to the University of Wyoming, where many students bike to class. Laramie BikeNet helps make the city friendly for riding, and the downtown area is compact enough to make walking easy and efficient for residents.

6. Glenwood Springs, CO: Walking Magazine recognized Glenwood Springs as one of the most walkable towns in America. Garfield County as a whole is a great place for visitors and residents to enjoy natural scenery. Glenwood Springs is also home to a busy Amtrak station for the California Zephyr. The Amtrak route goes along the Colorado River, away from major roads.

7. Moscow, ID: Moscow sits in northern Idaho on the Washington border. Approximately 28% of Moscow-area residents reported using green transportation. In downtown Moscow, residents can hop on the Amtrak. The local bus system, SMART Transit, offers free rides for everyone. The buses also have wheelchair lifts and bike racks. Dial-A-Ride services are available for those who cannot use fixed routes.

8. Corvallis, OR: The Corvallis Transit System (CTS) is the local bus system for residents. The buses are free to ride, providing an easy way for residents to go green. Biking is also popular in Corvallis. The League of American Bicyclists gave the city a gold rating as a Bike Friendly Community in 2011. Additionally, Oregon State University, located in Corvallis, is a recognized gold-level Bike Friendly University.

9. Athens, OH: Three of the public libraries in Athens offer a free bike borrowing program called Book-a-Bike. Residents with a valid library card can borrow a bike for up to three hours per day. Instead of having to drive to larger cities such as Cincinnati or Cleveland, hop on the GoBus. These buses are eco-friendly, have Wi-Fi and are wheelchair accessible.

10. Clewiston, FL: Clewiston is located in Hendry County, FL, on the shore of Lake Okeechobee. More than 16% of residents in Hendry County participate in carpooling. US Sugar Corporation is a large employer in the city, which led to the nickname America’s Sweetest Town for Clewiston. Since the downtown area is compact, it’s easy for people to carpool into the city to get to work.

Small Cities

1. Winnemucca, NV: Located in north-central Nevada off the banks of Humboldt River, Winnemucca has a thriving outdoor recreation scene. The city now holds some worthy, green titles such as the No. 3 small city in carpooling and the No. 1 small city in public transportation. With all of those impressive stats, it’s no wonder Winnemucca is our No. 1 small city overall!

2. Ketchikan, AK: The northernmost state in the nation, Alaska is home to the town of Ketchikan, a gateway city into the Inside Passage. Ketchikan is rated No. 2 most walkable small city, with approximately 11 percent of people walking to get around town. There is also a free shuttle bus service that travels the downtown loop from May through September. Residents also do a great deal of carpooling, with almost 18 percent sharing rides.

3. Breckenridge, CO: A resort town in the mountains of Colorado, Breckenridge has made great strides in becoming a green-focused town. The city has a public transportation service that is free to the public for rides within town limits. The service has several routes that are easy for residents and visitors to navigate. In addition, Breckenridge is a gold level Bicycle Friendly Community, designated by the League of American Bicyclists. No matter whether you want to relax on a bus or explore the scenery on a bike, this city has green options for any eco-conscious person.

4. Jackson, WY: The town of Jackson is on our top cities list for overall green transportation, biking, public transportation and walking. Talk about a green city! Since 1987, Jackson has helped fund the Teton County Public Bus Service, known as START. The service provides kids, visitors and locals reliable, year-round public transportation throughout Teton Valley, ID, and into Jackson.

5. Wauchula, FL: This scenic Florida city is only one hour from Tampa and one hour from Orlando. More than 17% of residents use carpooling as a means of transportation in Wauchula. Carpooling is a great way to get to work every day, but if you need to travel to a nearby larger city in Florida, try taking a shuttle. The Latin Express is a shuttle service that’s a great way to travel in a group and save gas!

6. Liberal, KS: The city of Liberal holds the title of the No. 1 small city in carpooling. If you don’t have anyone to carpool with in Liberal, you can also hop on the city bus. The bus has three main routes and runs Monday through Friday.

7. Craig, CO: Craig sits in the eastern portion of Moffat County, equally between Denver and Salt Lake City. It’s a carpooling capital too, with more than 18 percent sharing rides to and from work. Being a smaller city, Craig doesn’t have the same public transportation options as Denver, making it even more important to carpool when possible. Biking on these trails is another popular option, especially since Colorado is known for its scenic natural landscapes.

8. Dumas, TX: Dumas is in between Denver and Dallas, making it a convenient halfway point for travelers. With traveling being a main focus, it’s no surprise that those who travel in Dumas travel in pairs. More than 21% of residents reported using carpooling as a method of transportation.

9. Vermillion, SD: Besides the wildlife and scenery from the Vermillion and Missouri rivers, the city can be considered green thanks to a great percentage of people either walking or bicycling to get around town. In fact, the city holds both No. 1 spots for biking and walking in a small city.

10. Worthington, MN: Worthington is a regional hub for industries in Southern Minnesota, with bio-science research companies call the city home. The city features a great 880-acre lake at its center, and many parks and recreation areas around town. Worthington has 30 park and community facilities in total, making it a green city. However, it’s also green in transportation with more than 17% of residents participating in carpooling.


Every 10 years, United States citizens fill out the Census report. The Census serves as a snapshot for data about population, income, housing and more. In the past, most households received a short-form questionnaire, while one in six received a long form that asked additional questions about socioeconomic information.

These detailed questions once collected through the Census every 10 years are now collected through the American Community Survey (ACS) annually. Now, instead of snapshots of information, the ACS provides more of a moving picture of socioeconomic information. Each year, the survey randomly samples approximately 3.5 million addresses and produces statistics that cover 1-year and 5-year periods for geographic areas in the United States. We used the 5-year estimates from the most recent available census data.

It can be difficult to compare public transportation in New York City to Guymon, OK, so we grouped cities into three size categories.

• Large cities: > 100,000 people
• Medium cities: 30,000-100,000 people
• Small cities: < 30,000 people

Our “cities” are based on the Census Bureau’s metropolitan (or micropolitan) statistical areas. Metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas are defined by the Office of Management and Budget.

A metropolitan statistical area is one or more adjacent counties that have at least one urban core area population of at least 50,000, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.

A micropolitan statistical area is one or more adjacent counties that have at least one urban core area population between 10,000 and 50,000, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.

Read more to find out which cities are paving the way for a greener future with carpooling, biking, and walking.

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