10 Best Cities to Live Through an Oil Crisis

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At some point pretty soon the price of oil is going to start rising again. The election is over (some have suggested that it always drops before elections when Republicans are in the White House), the heating season is about to kick in, and who knows, maybe the recession will be short. So where is the best place to live when it does?

"Strategic Sustainability Consultants" Common Current compared the 50 largest American cities, looking at heating, transportation, sprawl, public transit infrastructure, density and rates of telecommuting. They presented it at the Re-imagining Cities: Urban Design After the Age of Oil conference.

The results were not exactly surprising:

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1. San Francisco
2. New York
3. Chicago
4. Washington DC
5. Seattle
6. Portland OR
7. Boston
8. Philadelphia
9. Oakland, CA
10 Denver

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Ranking highest were cities with strong public transit system ridership, well-organized and dense city centers, a high degree of mixed real estate uses (retail, commercial, residential), and medium to high population density. Some cities, such as Honolulu, were reduced in the overall ranking by their use of oil for electricity, while Boston and New York were slightly reduced in their ranking because of their use of oil for heating.

The highest-scoring cities had strong public transit ridership commute-to-work rates both by their city residents and by those within their metro area.

Additionally, cities ranking high overall in this study had some of the nation’s highest rates of telecommuting to work. San Francisco had the highest rate, at 6.3% in 2005, while Portland, OR and Seattle also had more than 5% of their total workforce working from home. The exceptions in the top ten overall were Chicago and Boston (tied for #30 in telecommuting); and Philadelphia (#41 in telecommuting).

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The ten worst cities to live in:

41. Virginia Beach, VA
42. Forth Worth, TX
43. Nashville, TN
44. Arlington, TX
45. Jacksonville, FL
46. Indianapolis, IN
47. Memphis, TN
48. Louisville, KY
49. Tulsa, OK
50. Oklahoma City, OK

All ten of the lowest ranking cities in this study were based in the South or lower Midwest. With the exception of Indianapolis, all ten of these cities lie within what has been called the nation’s Sunbelt. The region experienced tremendous population growth during the 1960s and 1970s with development that can often be characterized as urban or exurban sprawl. Most of the lowest ten ranking cities in the study, with the exception of Virginia Beach, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida, were based inland and do not have a major port—though such factors have not been correlated for this study.

Some oddities come out in the various categories. Number 1 in each:

Carpooling: Mesa, AZ
Telecommuting: San Francisco
Public Transit Use: New York City
Walk/Bike Commute Rate: Boston
Sprawl (or lack thereof) New York

Download the PDF at Common Current

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Other best and worst lists in TreeHugger:

America's 50 Greenest Cities: Popular Science Ranks 'Em
The 10 Greenest Cities in America - TreeHugger on MSN City Guides
Sustainlane ranks Greenest US Cities
7 Hidden Eco-gems: Under-the-Radar Cities Worth a Visit

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