Climate Index Infographic
Climate Index Infographic

Transportation and Climate Change

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic kept many Americans home, with daily Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) decreasing by more than half in many cities by the spring of 2020. Although many of those cities were back to normal by autumn, total U.S. VMT for the year was down 14% versus the 2019 total. 

The VMT drop recorded in 2020 is a win for the environment, but reducing emissions requires a sustained effort to shift travel from passenger vehicles to low-carbon-emitting modes. While new bicycling and walking habits formed during the pandemic seem to have held in many areas, transit use is down across the country.

To discover how 2020 impacted transportation across all major modes, we ranked the country’s Top 100 largest metro areas by bicycle and pedestrian travel per capita, VMT per capita, and transit trips, among other factors. While Raleigh, Nashville, and Birmingham logged the most VMT per capita, other cities saw droves of cyclists and pedestrians leave their cars behind.  Sarasota, FL, topped the list for bike activity, and Orlando was number one for pedestrian activity.

Download the top 100 to see how your city fared in 2020, and scroll down to discover just how Sarasota’s transportation planners keep people riding safely.  


Sarasota’s Winning Bike Infrastructure

For our annual U.S. Transportation Climate Impact Index, we use StreetLight InSight®, the same interactive tool transportation professionals use to measure travel activity in our cities, to analyze the country’s 100 largest metro areas by how much or how little their transportation system contributes to greenhouse gas. Our data scientists review outputs for driving, walking, cycling, transit ridership, and more.

Sarasota, FL, led our list in bike riding. Not only did Sarasota residents ride more and drive less during the months of pandemic travel restrictions, but they sustained a higher level of bike riding (compared to 2019) once COVID guidelines eased. 

Looking for ways to enhance bike and pedestrian activity in your community? 

Read the case study to see how Sarasota’s transportation planners mapped cycling origin-destination pairs to identify most popular routes, and aligned the existing low-stress network with the shortest potential bike path.