Apr 9, 2024 - News

Seattle is among the best cities for clean transit

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

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Seattle is not far behind San Jose, San Francisco and New York in limiting greenhouse gas emissions from local transportation, according to a recent report.

Why it matters: Transportation is the biggest driver of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation and accounts for 60% of greenhouse gas emissions in Seattle, according to the city's 2023 Climate Change Response Framework.

State of play: The Seattle metro area, which includes Tacoma and Bellevue, came in fifth overall.

  • The Transportation Climate Impact Index, created by transportation analysis 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, followed by vehicles' fuel economy and transit ridership.

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

  • Electric vehicles accounted for 17.2% of monthly new vehicle registrations in the Seattle area in January 2023 — up from 8.4% in January 2022.
  • Seattle was in second place for vehicle miles traveled, fifth for transit ridership and sixth for vehicle fuel economy.
  • But the region placed 43rd in the annual number of daily walking trips in 2022, a 38% decline from 2019, per a StreetLight Data pedestrian report.

What to watch: Seattle and Washington state are taking measures to lower greenhouse emissions.

Yes, but: A voter initiative to roll back the cap-and-trade program is on the November ballot.

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