Transportation solutions for cleaner air - Metropolitan Planning Council

Skip to main content

Transportation solutions for cleaner air

Photo Courtesy of Chris Keating

Our passenger vehicles generate 70 percent of transportation's total global warming pollution!

Recognizing the hazardous effects of air pollution, the Obama administration is proposing tougher standards for clean air.  Clean air is important, and better transportation policies to reduce congestion are one way to get us there.

Electric power and motor vehicles are the two largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Traffic congestion, roadway infrastructure, and fuel type all contribute to the quality of our air. In many urban areas, motor vehicles can produce as much as 90 percent of local air pollution causing severe respiratory damage, asthma, and changes in lung function. Our passenger vehicles generate 70 percent of transportation’s total global warming pollution. With more than 237 million vehicles traveling throughout the nation’s roads and highway infrastructure every day, every gallon of gasoline burned emits 20 pounds of carbon dioxide – the primary greenhouse gas pollutant. 

Illinois is the 7th largest contributor of global warming pollution in the country.  When combined with seven other Midwestern states, it accounts for almost 5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas pollution. More than a quarter of Illinois’ air pollution can be traced back to the transportation sector and it is taking its toll on our health – Illinois has one of the highest death rates from asthma in the nation.

This grim story will only get worse without the necessary reforms and measures put in place to curb the effects of transportation on our air quality.  Public transit remains a key component of the solution. With a public transportation system in place, Illinois was able to avert about 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution in 2006.  By providing more people with transportation choices and creating better land use policies, we can work to stop choking our communities and start breathing in a cleaner, healthier, more livable environment.

Jackie Diaz, MPC Program Assistant, contributed to this report.


No comments

More posts by Emily

All posts by Emily »

MPC on Twitter

Follow us on Twitter »

Stay in the loop!

MPC's Regionalist newsletter keeps you up to date with our work and our upcoming events.?

Subscribe to Regionalist

Most popular news

Browse by date »

This page can be found online at

Metropolitan Planning Council 140 S. Dearborn St.
Suite 1400
Chicago, Ill. 60603
312 922 5616

Sign up for newsletter and alerts »

Shaping a better, bolder, more equitable future for everyone

For more than 85 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has partnered with communities, businesses, and governments to unleash the greatness of the Chicago region. We believe that every neighborhood has promise, every community should be heard, and every person can thrive. To tackle the toughest urban planning and development challenges, we create collaborations that change perceptions, conversations—and the status quo. Read more about our work »

Donate »