National Geographic Reveals the World’s Transit Superstars

moscow.jpgGuess where these people are. Photo by danncer via Flickr.

National Geographic released the results of their annual Greendex consumer survey yesterday, ranking the environmental friendliness of housing, transportation and eating habits in nations around the world.

only one nation can boast that a majority of its population rides
transit at least once a day… the surprising answer comes after the

Russia ranked the
highest on the Greendex scale, with 52 percent of respondents reporting
daily or near-daily use of transit. Hot on its heels was China, where
43 percent reported very frequent transit rides. More than four out of
five Chinese surveyed ride transit at least once a month, according to
the Greendex.

On the flip side, only one nation reported a majority of travelers who never use
transit: the U.S. An eye-popping 61 percent of Americans steer totally
clear of rail and buses, with just 11 percent riding at least once a

Americans also ranked the lowest on the Greendex’s
walking-or-biking scale, which measured how many people reported
frequent use of either mode of transport. Just 26 percent of U.S.
travelers use their bikes or their feet most often, a far cry from
Mexico’s 48 percent and Britain’s 52 percent walking-or-biking scores.

the Greendex isn’t all bad news for the U.S. Asked for the reasons why
they forgo transit, the number one reply from Americans was that the
option simply isn’t available — suggesting that a sustained investment
in expanding transit options would have a significant effect on
traveling habits.

And as bad as Americans’ driving habits
are, we managed to avoid placing last in the driving-alone index.
France is the biggest offender, with 80 percent of its travelers
burning fossil fuels solo at least once a week.

The U.S.
also narrowly avoided last place in the bike index, where 52 percent of
Britons reported owning at least one bicycle, compared with 55 percent
of Americans. (Swedes were the most common bike owners, with an
impressive one-third reporting that they have three or more bikes.)

The entire survey is worth a look. I wonder how well members of Congress would fare…

(h/t Grist)

  • DaveO

    The Moscow subway is fantastic. Though most of its stations are deeper than the proposed Central Subway and many of its transfers are longer and more circuitous than the planned Union Squre/Powell street one, it still has more riders than London and NYC combined.

  • marcos

    St. Petersburg as well is a stunning system. Most lines are so deep that you can’t see the end of the escalator from either side and you know that Stalin threw prisoners’ lives away building them.

    The appointments in the central city stations likewise are overstatements in proletarian luxury. But what else would you expect from a city that houses the over-the-top Hermitage?

    Of course, the Russian systems were built as rapid transit subways capable of hauling massive passenger loads, not hybrid streetcar underground systems like we’ve got.

    I guess that when we travel abroad or out of San Francisco and see how far behind we are from other places, that it is just socially unacceptable to point that out in polite company. Mon faux pas.


  • DaveO

    I found the St. Petersburg disappointing, actually. While Moscow’s network literally went everywhere, and I was rarely a few blocks from a station, St.Petersburg was more limited and not as useful. Station opulence in Moscow was also unreal. Probably a bit much though.

  • Andy

    Riding transit in Russia is certainly an experience.

    Vasilievsky Island in St. Petersburg has one of the heaviest street cars I’ve ever seen. A fine display of Soviet era industrial design. Kind of like the historic street cars on the F line, but seemingly three times the size, five times the weight and ten times volume [sound – not capacity].


  • You say that “a sustained investment in expanding transit options would have a significant effect on traveling habits.” But the main reason transit isn’t available to most people is because most Americans both live and work in the suburbs; Central Business Districts are not a majority of jobs in almost all metro areas in the country. Building transit systems that serve far-flung, low-density suburban fringes and far-flung, low-density office parks is basically impossible. Look at the Bay Area – someone might live in Blackhawk and commute to Menlo Park, and someone else might live in Saratoga and commute to Pleasanton. Or live in Concord and commute to Danville. There’s really no way to effectively serve those commutes with transit.



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