I recently came across an interesting article by Ralph Buehler and John Pucher about the city of Freiburg, Germany and its transportation system and planning since WWII (when it was 80% destroyed by Allied bombing raids). The city isn’t so different from Boulder, Colorado, but it’s a lot further down the path to sustainability that we are. In fact, their transportation mode split today is roughly what Boulder has laid out as our long-term goal in our Transportation Master Plan: less than 1/3 of all trips are made in cars. Fully half of trips are done under human power (23% walking, 27% biking), with another 18% via the city’s 4 tram lines and many feeder buses. The transit system covers 90% of its operating costs from the fare-box, with most people buying monthly flat-rate unlimited use passes for around $50. Around 2/3 of all citizens and all jobs are located within a 3 minute walk from a tram line, and the trams run every ~5 minutes during peak hours. Households in the US spend about $8000/year on transportation, or $2700 more per year than Germans do, and it ends up being a higher proportion of our overall household expenditures (19% vs. 14%). You might think that that’s just because the government is spending more on their behalf, but actually their total governmental spending is also lower — $460/year vs. our $640/year. All this, and Freiburg’s per capita transportation GHG emissions are only 29% of the US average. So the idea that a high-quality, low-carbon transportation system has to be expensive is a myth.