Evanston ranks 10th in country for green commuting

Rachel Janik and Jia You

Evanston ranks 10th in the nation for green commuting, according to a new survey by a personal finance website.

Financial advice website Nerdwallet.com published the ranking Monday after studying the commuting habits of 439 cities as part of a series on affordable living in different cities. Evanston residents’ green commuting habits — such as walking or taking public transportation — earned the city a top-10 ranking, project analyst Divya Raghavan said.

“The majority of U.S. commuters drive alone in a car to work, which is the absolute worst way you can get around, as far as reducing your carbon footprint,” Raghavan said. “We wanted to highlight cities with people that were taking steps to become greener in their daily lives.”

Raghavan said Evanston commuters take public transportation far more frequently than the average urban American. According to Nerdwallet.com’s data, 11.7 percent Evanston commuters walk to work. Although the study shows only 2.5 percent of residents bike to work, Raghavan said she expects recent improvements, such as the protected bike lanes, to bring that number up.

Ald. Jane Grover (7th) said the ranking reflects a “strong green activist community,” as well as the wide availability of public transit in the city, with both the Metra and the El trains running.

The website also praised the Evanston Climate Action Plan that was created in 2008, which listed 220 strategies to reduce community carbon emissions. According to a 2011 report on the plan’s progress, the city reduced transport-related carbon dioxide emission by 14 tons from 2005 to 2011.

Grover said the City Council is considering expanding Evanston’s bike infrastructure. The city will implement a second protected bike lane on Davis Street in October. Another program under discussion is a bike-sharing service similar to the one in Washington, D.C.

Nerdwallet.com has an interest in green cities as a way to save money, Raghavan said.

“At the micro level, being green helps your personal wallet — you save money on gas, maintenance, insurance,” she said.

On a broader scale, Raghavan said with enough effort the U.S. could improve its economy by reducing dependence on foreign oil.

The top three cities in Nerdwallet.com’s rankings are Cambridge, Mass., New York and Union City, N.J.