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.

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

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 month.

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.

Yet 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)

  • Fascinating. Particularly the charts on pages 69 and 173.

  • Oh, and based on this survey I’m seriously considering moving to Buenos Aires. Mmm, steak.

  • On the subject of Russia, from the survey’s “Market Basket Report”:

    Of particular note has been the growth of vehicle registrations in Russia. In 2006, there were 14.4 registrations per 1,000 Russian citizens, half the rate of 27.0 recorded in Canada. In 2008, registrations in Russia have risen to 23.0, almost equal to Canada’s 25.3.

    The lowest number of new vehicle registrations were in India, China and Mexico, no surprise. The biggest decreases in new vehicle registrations were Spain (thanks, AVE!) and Sweden.

  • Ian Turner

    This report only covers 17 countries. I’m pretty sure it’s not true that “only one nation” can report a majority of transit-takers. In particular, Singapore was not included in this study: In that country, the number of daily passenger trips (4.4m) is just about equal to the population of the country (4.5m)

  • Ian Turner

    Oh, and also, these results are based on an online survey, one of the least-reliable data collection techniques out there.

  • Being Russian I can say that this first place is mostly a result of the soviet times tradition when very few people could hope to buy a car (just because they were a deficite) and the years of economical downturn of the 90’s. In recent years with the growth of income more and more people could afford to buy a car. As a result we have huge congestion in major cities and on busy highways because the old road infrastucture just can’t let through the increased amount of traffic. The parking policies still don’t exist and we’ve our cities’ centers packed with parked cars on all available surfaces.

    The government spendings on transportation increased as well but they prefer building elevated highways rather than investing in transit because road construction gives great chances to steal budget money.

    We still have a lot of people using transit in a lot of different means of it. We have buses, trolleys, trams and subway. But still I can say that the transit is degrading. Most of the time it depends on the same traffic jams as the cars do. The vehicles are old and uncomfortable (in winter it is cold in them, in summer it is hot). So why riding transit if I can buy a car – that is a common way of thinking of more and more people here.

  • i guess walking doesn’t count, eh?