Apr 10, 2024 - Climate

Portland ranks high on green transit scorecard

Illustration of a bus with both thumbs up and thumbs down in the destination ticker.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Portland is one of the top metro areas in the country — behind Seattle, San Francisco and New York — in limiting the impact of local transportation when it comes to greenhouse gases, according to a recent report.

Why it matters: Transportation is the biggest driver of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation and accounts for 40% of such emissions in Portland, according to city estimates.

State of play: The Portland metro area, which includes Hillsboro and Vancouver, Washington, came in seventh overall.

  • The Transportation Climate Impact Index, created by transit intelligence firm StreetLight Data, ranks the 100 most populous U.S. cities across a variety of transportation-related emissions factors.
  • They include overall vehicle miles traveled (VMT), vehicle fuel efficiency, electric vehicle adoption, transit ridership, cycling, walking, truck miles traveled and VMT change over time.
  • VMT carried the most weight in the study, followed by vehicles' fuel economy and transit ridership.

Zoom in: Not all vehicle miles driven are equal in environmental impact and the Portland region has an EV adoption rate far outpacing the nation's.

  • Electric vehicles accounted for 18% of monthly new vehicle registrations across Portland metro's three counties in February 2023, up from just over 9% in 2022.
  • In the StreetLight study, Portland placed eighth for VMT, ninth for transit ridership, and sixth for biking activity, which can often reduce the number of short vehicle trips and was given more weight than walking in the study.

The intrigue: Portland ranked 44th for pedestrian activity — aka the annual number of walking trips residents take instead of driving.

  • Between 2019 and 2022, walking trips in the city fell 36%, a trend mirrored nationwide that researchers pin partly on the pandemic.

What we're watching: Portland is working toward becoming a net-zero-emissions city by 2050 and Oregon recently joined other West Coast states in banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles starting in 2035.

  • However, Oregon's popular EV rebate program — aimed at incentivizing buyers away from gas-powered cars and trucks — ran out of funding in 2023 due to overwhelming demand, and will only be open to new applicants for a few months later this year.
  • TriMet, Portland's public transit agency, aims to have an all-electric fleet by 2040. So far, the agency has just over 30 electric battery buses — far from replacing all of its 700-plus fleet.

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