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New York City earned the top spot for most sustainable public transit systems in North America, according to a new report. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Though many people have their gripes with New York City’s public transportation system, a new study says it’s No. 1 in North America — at least when it comes to sustainability.

New York City earned the top spot out of 23 United States and Canadian cities in the Sustainability Cities Mobility Index, a report out Monday by Arcadis, a global design, engineering and consulting firm based in the Netherlands.

The index ranked 100 total cities around the world on their overall sustainability of public transportation systems, looking at three “pillars” of sustainability: social, environmental and economic (the report also referred to these as people, planet and profit).

Under those umbrellas, cities were scrutinized on details like commuting travel time, affordability of public transit, air and emissions pollution, bicycle infrastructure and more.


Though New York City ranked first in North America, it ranked 23rd globally, with Hong Kong taking the No. 1 overall spot, followed by Zurich and Paris. 

In general, North American cities ranked lower than European or Asian cities because of our “car-centric culture,” according to the report — with the exception of New York City, where most people use the public transit system rather than private vehicles.

“A city is most sustainable when it is most attractive for people to live, work and invest,” said Wassim Selman, Arcadis president of infrastructure, in a statement. “While some North American cities enjoy well-funded and comprehensive transit systems, most rely heavily on private vehicles and lack developed public transit options.”

New York’s fewer cars helped it earn its high ranking, along with factors like its “higher level of transit affordability,” its extensive digital facilities and the low rate of traffic fatalities, considering the density of the city.

How can New York City’s public transit improve? By adding even more stops, according to the report. Though the transit system is extensive, the report notes, “there are fewer stops along many routes [and] congestion continues to be a problem.”

See the full report here.

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