Not surprisingly, Detroit, MI and Portland, OR find themselves on opposite ends of the spectrum in Fast Company.com's latest rankings of the top global cities.
Portland has spent the past two decades minimizing highway construction, expanding public transit service, reigning in sprawling development, reclaiming abandoned industrial properties, and embracing diversity. As a result, Fast Company, one of the more future-oriented business magazines on the rack, ranks the City of Roses among Stockholm, Chicago, and Vancouver as one of the most sustainable cities in the world.
Detroit, by sharp contrast, has spent the past two decades making essentially the opposite moves. The city continues to expand highways, ignore mass transit, enable runaway exurban development, and remain divided across racial, economic, geographical, and political lines. As a consequence, Fast Company counts the Motor City among Havana, New Orleans, and Budapest as one of the world's "urban centers going nowhere....slowly."
An entirely separate study published by CEO's for Cities on Portland's innovative approach provides new insight on just how much that kind of moribound thinking costs urban residents economically, environmentally, and socially.
After two decades of extending public transit service, redirecting growth back into the central city, and promoting development that encourages biking and walking, Portland residents now drive about 20 percent fewer miles everyday when compared to commuters in other large metro areas.
In fact, according to Portland's Green Dividend, the study authored by economist Joe Cortright, vehicle miles traveled by city residents peaked in 1996 and have since flat-lined or even declined. And that, it turns out, frees up all sorts of money for Portlanders to spend on other things besides gas and cars.
The way Cortright figures it, Portlanders annually save approximately $1.1 billion by avoiding car travel, and that translates into some $800 million additional dollars spent locally rather than exported to gas and car producing states, like Michigan.
Cortright also estimates that the 2.8 billion miles Portland commuters avoid every year translates into some 100 million fewer hours traveling which, in turn, translates to an additional $1.5 billion in precious time saved.
In other words, Portland's commitment to actively advance the practice of sustainability is not only attracting new residents, modern businesses, and national honors. It's putting real dollars in real people's pockets. Meanwhile, Detroit's puzzling inability to adapt continues to draw stiff jabs.
"Last one out, shut off the manufacturing line," Fast Company declares.