Climate and Transportation


We are running out of time to address and mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis. We know that transportation is the single largest source of carbon emissions in the United States, so to act aggressively on climate, we must reduce vehicle miles travelled (VMT). Spearheaded by our senior policy fellow Bill Pugh, we are campaigning local and regional leaders to understand the link between land-use, transportation, and climate policies.

Reducing sprawl and promoting transit and active transportation have always been at the forefront of CSG’s advocacy, beginning in 2010 with the release of the Cool Communities report, which highlighted the importance of walkable, transit-oriented communities as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need to drive. See below for all of CSG’s work on climate and transportation.

Jump to:
 Smart Growth and Climate Presentation and Fact Sheet | Letters to the Transportation Planning Board | Greenplace | Cool Communities



Smart Growth and Climate Presentation

To address climate change, we must reduce emissions from transportation. Unfortunately, electric cars are not the panacea that many people believe them to be. If all vehicles in the United States were electric, the amount of electricity needed to support American driving habits would completely overwhelm our electrical grid, which is also not yet fully carbon neutral. To reduce transportation emissions in the U.S., we must address suburban sprawl, which causes far too many Americans to unnecessarily rely on cars. Incorporating smart growth policies like mixed-use, transit oriented communities can bring us much closer to our emissions reduction goals. To learn more, see the full presentation below.


Transit-oriented Development and Greenhouse Gas Fact Sheet

To learn more about how transit-oriented development (TOD) can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, see our fact sheet below.



Letters to the Transportation Planning Board

The Transportation Planning Board is the federally designated metropolitan planning organization for the Metropolitan Washington area. It is staffed and organized by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG). We work with TPB on Visualize 2045, which is their long-range transportation plan. Most recently, we successfully advocated for the TPB to require projects to prioritize VMT reductions. See below for our letters to the TPB and other related resources.




GreenPlace helps people understand how living at new transit-oriented housing will reduce traffic, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and foster healthier, active living by measuring vehicle miles traveled (VMT), parking, and transportation demand management (TDM). Five projects have been certified under GreenPlace. Click here to read the full report.

What makes GreenPlace so great?

A GreenPlace certification quantifies the transportation and environmental benefits of transit-accessible housing in walkable neighborhoods and can help decision-makers, developers, and neighbors work together to support healthy, low-traffic, low-pollution living. GreenPlace certified housing has these benefits:

  • Environment: significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the leading cause climate change
  • Traffic: significantly reduce the average daily miles driven by residents, and associated traffic
  • Transit: provide traffic reduction strategies to residents so they will walk, bicycle and ride transit more
  • Health: point to the health benefits of creating more places to live in neighborhoods where residents can use active transportation for many or most of their trips.

GreenPlace Certified Places

GreenPlace projects are assessed by looking at their location, number of units, available transit service, parking supply, affordable housing supply, traffic reducing strategies, like transit passes and Bikeshare and Carshare memberships.

These five pilot projects have been certified through the GreenPlace program.

  • Blagden Alley, 90-91 Blagden Alley, Washington, DC
  • Patterson House, 15 Dupont Circle, Washington, DC
  • Rhode Island Center, 680 Rhode Island Avenue NE, Washington, DC
  • The Conway Residence, 1005 North Capitol Street NE, Washington, DC
  • Takoma Connected, 327 Cedar Street NW, Washington, DC



Cool Communities

When you think cool communities, you might think of vibrant neighborhoods with great streets and parks, coffee shops, bars and restaurants, a variety of stores and other activities. But these communities also offer the opportunity to help reduce the warming of our climate, while reducing oil consumption and transportation costs. Where we build and how we build our neighborhoods will make a real difference.

Over the last decade, a consensus has emerged about the importance of focusing a significant share of our region’s job and population growth in compact, mixed use places around transit, especially our Metrorail system. Doing so reduces traffic congestion, lowers household transportation costs, cuts air pollution, reduces loss of forests, farms and natural habitats, and improves health and access to jobs.

The threat of climate change now looms, but smart growth policies can also contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This report modeled the travel characteristics and greenhouse gas emissions from eleven development projects in the Washington metropolitan region. The analysis found that compact mixed use development within walking distance of high frequency transit offers substantial reductions in CO2 emissions from new housing and commercial space. Transit-oriented locations and walkable designs can reduce CO2 emissions by anywhere from 8 to over 40 percent.

Major Findings

Mixed-use walkable developments with an interconnected street grid and frequent transit perform much better than indicated by the standard traffic estimates. Reductions in CO2 range from 10 to 35 percent.
Total CO2 reductions when combining on-site design and regional accessibility were substantial, ranging from eight to over 40 percent.
This assessment demonstrates that there is great potential to reduce the carbon footprint of future growth while simultaneously improving access to jobs, increasing transportation choices and offering better housing opportunities for households throughout the region.

Download the full report here.

Download the Executive Summary here.

Cover Image: 5220 Wisconsin Avenue, Washington D.C. approved project by Akridge, adjacent to the Friendship Heights Metro station.