The Center for Neighborhood Technology has added some great maps to their Housing and Transportation Affordability Index series that show, side by side, the difference between CO2 emissions per acre and per household from auto use. Minneapolis/St. Paul is part of the series.
The message? Urban living produces up to 70% less transportation-related CO2 than suburban living, according to the press release.
“Cities are more location-efficient – meaning key destinations are closer to where people live and work,” said Scott Bernstein, CNT’s President. “They require less time, money, fuel and greenhouse gas emissions for residents to meet their everyday travel needs. People can walk, bike, car-share, take public transit. So residents of cities and compact communities generate less CO2 per household than people who live in more dispersed communities, like many suburbs and outlying areas.
I know, you say, that transportation is a big deal, but what about all those other factors like heating and cooling and waste? We need to be looking at transportation in context and looking for complete solutions, you say. So, what difference does location make as a percentage of total household emissions, between a household in Minneapolis (a community with the lowest auto-related emissions per household) versus one in say, Lino Lakes, Ramsey or Prior Lake (communities with the highest)? If it’s minuscule, let’s focus on other strategies to reduce emissions first, if it’s big, let’s admit that land use and transportation planning can play a big role in mitigating climate change and get to work.
The map says the difference is roughly 5.3 metric tons of CO2 from auto transportation. According to the US EPA emissions calculator, the average emissions for a household of three people, in total, is 62,250 pounds or 28 metric tons. This means that if you choose an urban location over a very suburban one, you can cut your total household emissions by nearly 20%. Some portions of Minneapolis, near downtown and in northeast, are between zero and 3.3 metric tons per household, meaning the difference could be up to 30%.