Apr 10, 2024 - News

Des Moines metro is one of the worst in U.S. for car emissions

Illustration of a car spewing exhaust in the shape of an upward trendline.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Des Moines is one of the worst metros for vehicle emissions, according to a report from Streetlight Data examining the top 100 most populated metros in the country.

Why it matters: Transportation is the largest contributor of greenhouse emissions, according to the EPA.

State of play: The high number of miles driven per person is the biggest contributor to the metro's low ranking, according to the 2024 report.

  • Des Moines residents travel an average of 10 miles per trip, according to 2017 data from Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
  • Out of 100 U.S. metros, Des Moines ranks 92nd worst for vehicle miles traveled, per Streetlight Data. It ranks 86th overall.

What they're saying: Reducing urban sprawl by allowing denser neighborhoods could help, like in Woodland Heights and Sherman Hill, says Alec Davis, founder of Momentum DSM.

The big picture: Cities nationwide are trying to preserve the pandemic-era drop in vehicle emissions as traffic returns nearly or entirely to pre-COVID levels, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Carlos Cunha write.

  • The best-ranking cities are located along the East and West coasts, while the worst are in the Central and Southeast United States.
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