NatGeo Surveys Countries’ Transit Use: Guess Who Comes In Last

Americans are far less likely to use public transportation than residents of other countries, according to the National Geographic Society’s 2009 Greendex report. Only five percent of Americans surveyed report daily use of public transportation, and only seven percent report taking public transportation at least once a week. 61 percent of Americans report that they never use public transportation.

Internationally, 25 percent of respondents in the 17-nation survey report using public transportation daily, and 41 percent report using it at least once a week. Even Canadians are more than twice as likely to report weekly or more transit usage than Americans; Germans are almost five times more likely to use transit at least weekly, and Russians are over ten times more likely.

Americans were also the least likely of those surveyed to report walking or biking to destinations “often.” Overall, 51 percent of the survey respondents reported regular walking or cycling, while only 26 percent of Americans did. 71 percent of Germans report regular walking or cycling, as do 68 percent of Brazilians and 58 percent of Japanese.

Greendex surveyed over 17,000 consumers for indicia of “progress toward environmentally sustainable consumption.” Parameters measured included “energy use and conservation, transportation choices, food sources, the relative use of green products versus traditional products, attitudes towards the environment and sustainability, and knowledge of environmental issues.”

For some cool graphs, links to the study, and such, go here.

Kaid Benfield is director for sustainable communities and smart growth at The Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, DC. He has his own blog on land development and community issues and enjoys contributing here, too, since there is so much common ground.


  1. In the U.S., using public transportation, even where available, is considered infra dig. It is like renting instead of owning a home.
    In the Washington DC metro area I have been told that it is okay to take the Metro (subway train) but only the plebians take the bus. In Manhattan a bus is more “respectable.”

    So how can taking public transportation, living in rental housing, and living in small but adequate housing be made into desired lifestyle choices? There was a Hollywood star who talked about how much she loved living in her less than 700 sq. ft. home in Manhattan (I am forgetting her name). If we can get Brad Pitt to ride the bus, it would help. But I doubt that will ever happen in L..A.


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