"Transportation is an integral part of cities," says Paul McRandle, senior editor of the Smarter Cities program. "If transportation systems are working well, it makes the city more walkable, more pleasant, and more liveable in every way. If transport is functioning poorly, cities become a mess to live in, and health impacts on residents are pretty large," he adds, citing problems caused by heavy traffic, such as poor air quality that exacerbates allergies, asthma, and cardiovascular disease.
THE DETAILS: In partnership with another nonprofit called the Center for Neighborhood Technology, NRDC's researchers analyzed transportation in 337 metropolitan regions across the U.S. Dividing the regions into large (populations of more than 1 million), medium (between 250,000 and 1 million residents), and small (populations of fewer than 250,000), they looked at each area's transit systems in terms of access, use (how many people utilized the systems), and affordability. They ultimately identified 15 cities considered top-performing regions, all of which not only offered a variety of public transit options, but also implemented programs that combined both transportation alternatives and walking and biking, offered discount transit passes, and had other things, like tolls or expensive parking meters, that discourage automobile use.