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Germany Could Teach U.S. a Lesson
A new Brookings report points to policies in Germany that encourage compact, mixed-use development, suitable for walking or cycling, like this space in Freiburg. Photo by redskunk.

A new Brookings report points to policies in Germany that encourage compact, mixed-use development, suitable for walking or cycling, like this space in Freiburg. Photo by redskunk.

The Brookings Institution just released a new research report comparing sustainability in Germany and the United States: “Making Transportation Sustainable: Insights from Germany.”

From Brookings:

This report examines the key differences and determinants of travel behavior in Germany and the United States. Americans travel by car twice as much per year as Germans and use transit only a sixth as much. Differences in car reliance between the United States and Germany are not solely due to income or residential density. Germans in the highest income quartile make a lower share of their trips by car than Americans in the lowest income quartile. And Germans living in low density areas travel by car about as much as Americans living at population densities five times higher.

The result is a transportation system in the United States that is less sustainable than in Germany.
The per capita carbon footprint of passenger transportation in the United States is about three times larger than in Germany. Although gas prices in the United States are half those in Germany, Americans spend five percent more of their budgets on transportation than Germans. In government outlays as well (federal, state and local), Germany spends less per capita on transportation than the United States.

Download the full report here (PDF).

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  • Dario Hidalgo

    Peter is right in pointing out that there are other very good examples in Europe. The fact that Germany has a strong auto industry, and still has better sustainable indicators than the United States, is a good example for this country, that also gives a lot of importance to its auto industry. As pointed out by the authors of the report, what is remarkable is that auto ownership is not that different. What is very different is auto use, and this comes as a deliberate result of continued policies that foster active and public transport, denser urban development and discourage auto use in city centers. These policies are stronger in The Netherlands and Switzerland indeed.

  • W. K. Lis

    Germany is the birthplace of the autobahn (freeway), yet after World War II (which wiped out many center parts of their cities) they remained focused on public transit for their urban areas. North America embraced the freeway, but tended to ignore the rest.

  • Well and Germany is a bad example. The policians can not say anything against car driving in Germany since lot of people are dependant of the car industry.

    There are economies using more public transport like Netherlands or Switzerland.