- Arcadis released its 2017 Sustainable Cities Mobility Index on Sunday which ranked 23 North American cities on overall sustainability of urban transportation systems, based on measures of social, environmental and economic impact. New York City took the top spot, followed by San Francisco, Vancouver, Montreal and Washington, D.C., respectively.
- The measures of impact included fatalities, rider connectivity, wheelchair access, congestion and delays, electric vehicle incentives, economic opportunity, affordability, commute time and public finance, among others. New York ranked No. 1 largely due to its robust, heavily-used metro system.
- In the global index of 100 cities, New York ranked 23rd, indicating that North American cities are falling behind European and Asian cities due to a car-centric culture.
New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has put an incredible amount of attention on its transit system lately. The department has been implementing a $32.5 billion capital program to enhance the system, most recently announcing plans to add high-tech fare payment systems to subways and buses across the entire city. While the MTA still faces issues regarding weather and rail fixes, among others, developments to expand the transit network via infrastructure projects has placed the city in a top position.
However according to the study, car-centric cities across the U.S. and Canada will hold North America back from ever having urban transit systems as sustainable as Hong Kong, Zurich or Paris, which took the top three spots on the global index. Hong Kong, for example, offers cheap public transport and allows riders access to 3G internet in all of its metro system. Due to these attractive features, among many others, less than one-fifth of citizens own a car. Of course, there is a stark contrast of Hong Kong's population to some other less-populated U.S. cities where the metro system may not be as expansive — Hong Kong is home to 7.3 million people — yet it remains a role model city for global metropolises to watch.
While there's no one-size-fits-all strategy to improve city mobility, and reduce dependence on single-rider cars, some U.S. cities have introduced promising initiatives. Boston (No. 6 on the U.S. index) recently announced a plan to launch a regional bike-share project for 16 city suburbs, and Phoenix recently partnered with Lyft to offer "First Mile Last Mile" rides to bus stops. The trends of ride-sharing, bike-sharing and high-tech subway stations will be crucial to watch as U.S. metro areas strive to meet the standards of other leading sustainable cities.