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Which Mountain West cities have the most climate-friendly transportation systems?

A bicyclist is riding on a bike lane on the right side of the image. In the middle is an old railway bridge, backdropped by skyscraper buildings.
Lars Plougmann
Flickr Creative Commons
In the Mountain West, Denver is doing the best job at cutting down transportation emissions, thanks, in part, to its biking infrastructure, according to Streetlight Data.

In the U.S., transportation is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A new report ranks which cities are doing the best job at driving down those emissions.

Streetlight Data, a transportation analytics company, ranked the nation’s 100 largest cities based on eight factors affecting emissions: vehicle miles traveled, fuel economy, transit use, electric vehicle (EV) use, biking activity, pedestrian activity, truck miles traveled, and change in vehicle miles.

Coastal areas like Silicon Valley, New York City, and Seattle are leading the pack.

In the Mountain West, two metros cracked the top 15 – Denver, Colo. (No. 12) and Salt Lake City, Utah (No. 15). Both cities have high marks in walking, biking, and EV use. Those were also the highest-scoring categories for Provo-Orem, Utah (No. 31). Just ahead of it was Las Vegas, Nev. (No. 30), led by walking, fuel economy, and transit use.

Falling just outside the top 50 were Boise, Idaho (No. 51) and Albuquerque, N.M. (No. 52). No cities in Wyoming were included in the analysis.

“As we see the effects of climate change sort of all around us, including with the lack of snow, bringing down emissions overall in the transportation sector is critical to meeting net zero,” said Emily Adler, director of content at Streetlight Data.

She said that could mean increasing federal funding to build more EV charging stations and build more walking and biking lanes. Notably, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act are making investments in EV charger networks and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

But there is a long way to go, said Adler, adding that transportation emissions are back to pre-pandemic levels after dropping dramatically during COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions, and the work-from-home boom.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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