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Friday, November 19, 2010

The 10 Best Cities for Electric Cars

November 3, 2010 at 9:00AM by Jim Motavalli |
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General Electric is poised to order "tens of thousands" of electric cars, probably the "largest order in history," according to CEO Jeff Immelt in a London speech. The specifics of that are supposed to be made clear this week, but Immelt said that half of GE's sales force, some 23,000 people, could be in plug-in cars, probably Nissan Leafs. I can't wait -- I live a mile from GE's world headquarters, so it will be nice to see all the electric cars around, and maybe it will be an impetus for EV charging here in Fairfield, Connecticut. This is all the more reason to have charging at the town railroad station, right?

While we're waiting for GE's shoe to drop, the company is blogging about EVs, including a recent post identifying what it calls "the 10 best cities for electric cars." How do you determine that? If you're GE, you use data from the Census Bureau and study the commuting habits of people in the 25 biggest metropolitan areas. You look for the percentage of commuters who drive to work and live within 50 miles of the job, and you also factor in how the region is set up to handle the needs of car commuters.

The irony here is that these rankings tend to favor communities that have done the least to build public transportation networks. They've fussed over light rail plans, or simply have a culture that worships the private automobile. New York City doesn't make the list because it's one of the very few cities where more than half the residents don't own cars, and a majority use public transportation. So it's very green, but not EV-friendly as GE reckoned it. Indeed, it's a challenge to own any kind of car in New York.

Here's the list, which is very Texas-friendly:

Dallas. The city has 2.7 million commuters who live within 50 miles of the city center. An incredible 91.5 percent of commuters currently drive to work. And no wonder, because the city faces "indefinite delays" in building several key components of the light rail system (including the vital link to the airport). Dallas was named one of America's top nine congested cities by the Department of Transportation in 2007. Houston. Anyone who's visited Houston knows that it's outer rings, lined with big-box stores and even bigger mega-churches, go on forever. So it's not surprising that it has an amazing 2.4 million commuters within 50 miles of downtown, 90 percent of whom drive to work. Houston is transit-challenged, too. The METRORail system, which opened in 2004, is supposed to be completed by 2012, but it has been mired in controversies. Currently it has only 34,000 daily riders, which isn't many in a city with almost 2.5 million commuters.Detroit. The Motor City is named that for a reason. More than 92.5 percent of its 1.6 million commuters drive to work (usually alone, one assumes). Detroit has a monorail system, but it makes a very circumscribed loop around the core downtown, the result of disagreements between then-mayor Coleman Young and the Reagan Administration. Now the city is talking about light rail, but it's not a comprehensive system, and it may be a while.St. Louis. Another car-loving city, St. Louis' 1.2 million commuters are 91.2 percent dependent on driving to work. St. Louis does have the MetroLink light rail system, but you can't always get there from here.Atlanta. The scene of congestion so bad that the city temporarily lost federal highway funding, Atlanta struggles with public transit. Some 87 percent of its commuters drive in from suburbs like Lawrenceville and Canton. The MARTA system provides relief for some. 

The other five EV-friendly cities are Miami (88.14 percent car dependent, 2.1 million car commuters); Phoenix (88.15 percent dependent, 1.6 million car commuters); Tampa (89.82 percent dependent, one million car commuters); Cincinnati (90 percent dependent, 922,000 car commuters); and Sacramento (87.3 percent dependent, 800,000 car commuters).

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