Chart of the Day: Sustainable Transportation in the USA vs. Germany

Passed on from a reader, and from this Citylab article, a simple side-by-side comparison of the USA and Germany. Check out some of the transportation stats:

germany v usa chart


It’s not that the Germans don’t love cars. In fact, I hear they have a few car companies there, and sort-of invented the modern day freeway.

Here’s what Citylab’s Eric Jaffe has to say on this:

What’s especially notable here is that driving behavior in the remote periphery of Stuttgart is about the same as it is in the suburbs of D.C. To wit: the two most car-dependent suburbs of Stuttgart (NĂ¼rtingen and Geislingen) have shares of all trips by car roughly equivalent to the two least car-dependent suburbs of D.C. (Arlington and Alexandria): roughly 70 to 75 percent in each place. Meanwhile, walking and cycling account for 6 percent of trips in most D.C. suburbs, while in Stuttgart’s most car-oriented areas these modes still account for more than a fifth of all travel.


3 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: Sustainable Transportation in the USA vs. Germany

  1. Serafina ScheelSerafina

    Thanks for sharing this fascinating chart.

    I’m living in Muenster, Germany, for six months this year, and transportation all-around is so different than in Minnesota. Here’s a few of my anecdotal take-aways:

    AUTO DEPENDENCE–It’s far preferable to live without a car than with one in a denser city with mixed-use neighborhoods. Most housing doesn’t have parking and people scramble for street parking or drive around looking for the perfect spot, much as in the U.S. Driving is slow on the narrow streets and no quicker than biking. Out of the 50 people I know well enough to ask, only three families have a car.

    Half the adult students in my German class commute by train or bus from 20-30 km outside the city, a 45-minute daily trip, because rents are too high for them to live in Muenster.

    People bike everywhere and there’s a strong bike path network, but it’s somewhat poorly maintained and paths (rough pavers more often than smooth asphalt or concrete) are not large enough to accommodate the number of bikers, any more than streets can comfortably accommodate the cars. Plus lots of traffic controls for bikes that make no earthly sense to me.

    SAFETY–While there are fewer traffic fatalities in Germany, despite no speed limits on the Autobahn, the traffic crash rate is higher overall (6.1 million reported crashes in US vs 2.5 million in Germany), and accident rates are rising here despite more stringent driver regulations (barriers to licensing, vehicle maintenance laws, etc.). German drivers can be as rude and impatient as their US counterparts and likewise reluctant to yield to pedestrians.

    But I love seeing all the schoolkids bop off down the street in the morning on their feet, their scooters, and their bicycles. No schoolbuses, and no long lines of parents in cars dropping off and picking up their offspring. Most everyone lives close to their schools (and yes, families have choices of schools). Children as young as 7 or 8 frequently go back and forth to school on their own, even on the dark winter mornings.

  2. SuperQ

    One of the more interesting things about German traffic law is that unless the crosswalk is marked (signaled or continental stripes), pedestrians have no right of way. In my neighborhood in Berlin, we have tons of yield only, no stop sign/light, intersections. Drivers are required to move slowly, but not stop. Only a small percent of drivers will stop to let you cross the street at these intersections.

    On the other hand, where there are signals, German drivers are not allowed to turn right on red. This is fantastic for pedestrian safety.

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