Cars Kill Cities

25 Jan

OK, I’m finally getting a chance to make another post.  I have temporarily relocated to Mountain View, CA and have been up to my eyeballs in work, both ‘real’ work and research work.  It’s nice to get back to this blog.

Cars do not belong in cities.  A standard American sedan can comfortably hold 4+ adults w/ luggage, can travel in excess of 100 miles per hour, and can travel 300+ miles at a time without stopping to refuel.  These are all great things if you are traveling long distances between cities.  If you are going by yourself to pickup your dry cleaning, then cars are insanely over-engineered for the task.  It’s like hammering in a nail with a diesel-powered pile driver.   To achieve all these feats (high capacity, high speed, and long range driving), cars must be large and powered by fossil fuels.  So when you get a few hundred (or thousand) cars squeezed onto narrow city streets, you are left with snarled traffic and stifling smog.

Even if you ignore the pollution, cars simply take up too much space.   Next time you are stuck in traffic behind what seems like a million cars, try to imagine if all those cars where replaced by pedestrians or bike riders.  Suddenly, the congestion is gone.

60 Cars, 60 Bike Riders, and 60 Bus Passengers in Munster, Germany.

But why am I complaining about traffic?  Traffic only affects those stuck in it, right?  Once all cars go electric, essentially eliminating inter-city air pollution, then there will be no more problems for pedestrians, right?  Wrong!!  Probably the biggest problem with cars in cities is that they require huge amounts of land for storage (a.k.a. parking).  Here is a photo of Midtown Atlanta between 5th street and 12th street.  This is one of the densest and most pedestrian-friendly ares in the entire state of Georgia.  The red blocks indicate parcels of land that are 100% dedicated to car storage.

Red Squares Indicate Land that is 100% Dedicated to Parking in Midtown Atlanta

Dedicating all this land to car storage basically reduces the density by about half, doubles the average distance between locations, and reduces walkability.  Throw in the 16-lane interstate and the 45+ mph traffic on most of these streets, it becomes exceedingly hard to believe that this is one of the most walkable areas in the entire state.  Such is life for pedestrians in a car-dominated city.

It wasn’t always this way.  Atlanta, like all cities, used to be walkable and people actually lived IN the city instead of commuting 50 miles every day.  But as more people moved away from the city, the more Atlanta had to become like a suburb, being retrofitted to handle all the automobile infrastructure required by a million 40 hour-a-week temporary citizens.  The result of this retrofit is a wasteland of asphalt and isolated neighborhoods, a slow decimation that has rolled along since the innovation of the automobile.

Contrary to how it may sound, I do not want to rid the earth of cars.  I just want to use them smarter.  Do you really need a 2-ton vehicle to pickup your dry-cleaning?  Probably not.  Although I do see the appeal in loading a family of 6 into an SUV and traveling to Florida for vacation.  That is a totally reasonable use of an automobile.  What I really want  is clean, walkable, safe, affordable, and family-friendly cities and towns.  In a strange way, I kind of want to live in Mayberry.

In the next post, I promise to discuss a few ideas that may get us a little closer to this goal.


321 Responses to “Cars Kill Cities”

  1. Joe January 26, 2012 at 4:21 am #

    interesting article on parking in LA…

    • bennythegreat January 27, 2012 at 2:59 am #

      you should visit Jakarta, Indonesia…

      the heaven of car producers..where the traffic congestion happening everyday

      • cas cis cus-nya CHA January 27, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

        agree with that..Jakarta totally traffic city..!

      • paddyworld January 29, 2012 at 7:23 am #

        I guess its the corruption thing, from the car producers to the government.

    • SanFran123 January 27, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

      Very interesting articles. Maybe this will possibly inspire laws on car use.

      • TaraK January 27, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

        Yes, because we need more un-enforcable laws.

    • marieandtheappletree January 28, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

      If you check out “Peak Moment Conversations” on utube, or their website, they have a lovely conversation about getting your “Undrivers license” making a pledge to stop driving, and get your own ID. I think urbanites are in a unique position to have public transport, if you move to a rural area, your options are more severely limited, you will be spending a minimum of $250 a week on keeping a car, compare this to your city cousins that have taxi and public transport services, country people are at a distinct transportation disadvantage.

      Yes I agree Cars Kill Cities, the WHO has lots of statistics on air quality leading to ill health and mortality from vehicle use.

  2. Qoda January 26, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    Perhaps the solution would be to ban vehicles from inner city areas by introducing park and ride facilities instead. Besides, as you mentioned this would alleviate a huge amount of “wasted” real estate. Good post, thanks.

    • fefevox January 27, 2012 at 12:46 am #

      Agreed. Now only if the creepy people would stop bothering everyone so they can feel safe and enjoy minding their own business. That would be nice. (Sorry, lived in NYC 🙂 )

    • Dana January 27, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

      I totally agree, Qoda. Park & Ride is an under-utilized option in many large cities.

      Of course, so is carpooling.

      • Jonathan January 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

        That’s so true. If only more people took this simple option of carpooling, our cities and towns would be about half as congested.

    • Silver Fang January 27, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

      Several cities in Europe have done just that. I don’t see it happening in the US any time soon though.

  3. Tomasz Kolinko January 26, 2012 at 5:20 am #

    A nice solution (I think it’s European, we’ve got it in Warsaw) is Park&Ride – cheap parking places at the far subway stations. The idea is that people from suburbs drive to subway, and then switch into the mass transport.
    These parkings are packed.

    • theamberlight January 27, 2012 at 11:59 am #

      That is how it is in Chicago as well. Park about 30 mins. from the city then ride the ELE in. LEss and smaller cars would be so helpful! what a great comparison to show everyone how crowded a silly car makes everything. I often think about how many people drive into Indy alone every morning. It is wasteful. Glad to see the awareness movement is getting into the heads of everyone who sees a solution! Keep up the great posts and congrats on FP!!! AmberLena

    • Jonathan January 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      There are a lot of cities here in England that have that, but not enough. London’s at least as bad as Atlanta.

      Maybe part of a solution would be if someone could invent a car where the back seats, and maybe even the boot, could just fold inwards, so people’s cars would only be as big as they needed to be on any occasion. That would reduce some congestion.

    • Lachlan January 27, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

      It has been proven that some park n’ rides are full of people who live only 400 m away from the station leaving no car spaces for those who live further away from the station, and would otherwise have to drive the whole way.

  4. Xavier Noria January 26, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    It’s a pity that Dean Kamen’s vision has not cristalized so far. I’d prefer to live in a city where pedestrians, bikes, Segways, rollerblades, skates, etc. were the norm, and cars the exception.

    • rastelly January 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

      So would I – though, I really don’t care to live in cities.
      and I think that is part of the problem, many are forced
      by their jobs to commute to a place they would rather
      not live in. This seems wasteful too but could also be
      prevented if these people could do their work via
      computer corrospondence, most jobs in cities
      seem to be desk jobs anyway.

      I don’t like to drive – but I also hate populated areas.
      I guess my works just cut out for me.

  5. January 26, 2012 at 6:59 am #

    Excellent analysis. I live in New Delhi, one of the most congested cities on earth. What other alternatives are there:

    1. Metro Rail -> stations too far
    2. Buses -> overcrowded and but stops still too far

    People use cars because they need point A to point B connectivity especially in our weather where it reaches 45C/123F in summers.

    • Jason Morrison January 27, 2012 at 9:26 am #

      I’ve been living in New Delhi for a few months now.

      I absolutely agree about Metro stations being too far. I lived in Boston/Cambridge MA before this, and the metro there seemed denser. It was my only mode of transport, and was pretty good.

      In Delhi, do people use the busses instead of the metro, or are they complementary? I wonder if using the metro as the transport backbone, and busses as a “last-mile” shuttle between your endpoint and the metro would work any better?

      The CNG autorickshaws have been my primary mode of transport, although I generally try avoid travel from 4pm-8pm (traffic is very congested then). I’m curious, do people take autos in the summer here? I imagine the 45C makes it much more unpopular.

      • Shadab January 28, 2012 at 3:30 am #

        Well most people have no choice but mostly middle class and above use cars and hence the congestion. Another problem with New Delhi is the reverse “suburbs” effect.

        Most people who live in New Delhi and have to travel to suburbs/neighbouring cities like Noida or Gurgaon to work.

  6. Carl Youngblood January 26, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    Driverless cars will change this. They will quickly drive away to pick up another passenger rather than needing to be parked somewhere.

    • January 26, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

      We already have this – they’re called taxicabs. They’re driven by a human instead of a computer, but otherwise the concept is the same. They aren’t as popular as you might expect because fuel and maintenance cost money, which translates to a rather expensive charge per trip.

      What’s needed is better public transit – more buses and trains with more stops and reliable schedules – and ways to encourage people to use bicycles and electric mini-cars, leaving their full-size cars for long-distance travel.

      Still, people like to have their own cars, because it’s theirs – always available, fully under their control, customizable. You don’t have to wait for it to arrive, you can play whatever loud music you want, and you can make it look cool and show it off. They also work in winter – try using bikes and mini-cars or asking people to wait for buses when the roads are covered in snow and it’s 40 below out.

  7. Jason Comely January 26, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    Fantastic post Derek. Is there a chance I could republish this post on – with of course credit to you? I’ll also have a canonical URL tag pointing to this article, so you keep all the SEO juice.

    Just let me know. Again, brilliant post.

    • dedwards8 January 26, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

      Go for it.

      • Jason Comely January 26, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

        Great Derek. Thank you!

  8. Derek January 26, 2012 at 8:05 am #

    Even worse, cars kill people! On average there are 40,000 auto-related deaths each year, the equivalent of a Vietnam War each year. All of this death (and healthcare costs) just so we have the luxury of not walking. What people don’t realize is that in a well designed city (i.e. one designed before the 1940s) you don’t need to walk that far to get what you need. The car has been a massive, deadly misapplication of capital.

    • dedwards8 January 26, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

      Larger numbers like 40,000 deaths are hard to comprehend. Here is a map that really makes that number hit home.

    • Duncan Birtwistle January 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

      Have a look at the work of John Adams and risk compensation. The theory is that as we try to make things safer people consume safety benefits as performance benefits. e.g straightening a road may increase the sightlines but people just drive faster. Or introducing safety belts makes us safer, but we want to maintain our level of risk, so we drive faster and the death rate stays the same – compensating for the reduced risk.

      Click to access Management-of-the-risks-of-transport2.pdf

    • Erik Griswold January 26, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

      Since this blog is read worldwide, we should clarify that the 40,000 figure is for the USA alone.

      I’m sure cars in the rest of the world kill many more.

  9. Phil Rae (@iamphilrae) January 26, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    I think the problem of city congestion is more to do with car ownership, rather than it being a case of cars not belonging in cities. I live in London – not too near the centre, but still close enough that public transport massively out-weighs the need to use a car. Also I cycle the 10 mile round-trip to my office about 2-3 days a week. If everyone within the city limits would do this, then there would be less money spent on cars and road repairs, and so typically transport fares would be cheaper and people would have more money to spend on public transport.

    A great scheme in London (and some of Europe) is the cycle-hire scheme, where you can pick up a cycle from one of the hundreds of cycle-points across the city, cycle to where you want to go, then deposit the bike at the cycle-point nearest to your destination. Should this scheme be expanded to include car hire (i.e. small city cars like the “Smart Car”), then there would be less of a need to own a car, and so people would be more inclined to only use a car when they absolutely needed to (i.e. a trip to the shops rather than every day commute to work). There are currently car hire schemes in the city where you can turn up to your nearest parked rental car, unlock it with your smart card, then use for as long as you need it. Unfortunately though you need to return the car to the same location, plus there aren’t nearly as many cars available to meet the demand of a population who are lacking their own personally owned vehicle.

  10. Juan Ignacio Dopazo (@juandopazo) January 26, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    Absolutely. There are already some projects with this in mind like the Arcimoto

  11. Tom January 26, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    Interesting read, but I’m quite disappointed about how short it is.

  12. Drew January 26, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    As a native to the Atlanta Metro area, I’d be curious to see the above graphic with dedicated mass-transit areas mixed in. I would think they would not compete very well.

    Never mind the whole “As many Mass Transit Authorities as there are Counties” issue that the Atlanta metro has.

  13. Russ January 26, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    While I respect your way of thinking and I think the pictures really help illustrate what you’re striving at, I think there is one potential issue with your way of thinking.

    You state that automobiles are necessary for traveling far distances, and that this is a good use of an automobile. If I’m tracking with you, you’re trying to make a point that for other tasks we could use much smaller “vehicles” (for dry cleaning), or for some things not a vehicle at all (bike or walk).

    The potential issue I see is that although it may be true for the majority of our activities we’re using something that’s too big, the fact still remains that every so often we will need to use that tool (to visit families for holidays, towing our boat to the lake, the trip to florida as you suggest). So although we may be able to get an additional smaller tool (smaller vehicle) for most of our activities, we still need to store our big tool for when we need it. Which means ultimately we just raised the total amount of storage necessary for vehicles.

    Curious what your thoughts are on this, but perhaps I’m jumping the gun on your next article.

    • dedwards8 January 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

      We need a better model for automobile use. Instead of owning several vehicles, one for each dedicated use, we need access to a shared toolbox of several different vehicles. This is essentially car sharing, which is becoming more popular. However it still suffers from the last-mile problem. You still have to walk to the nearest shared-car parking lot to be able to reach a car. And the shared car companies, at least those in my area, still haven’t figured out a pricing scheme that can compete with car ownership.

      If self-driving cars ever hit the market, it will completely change the way we think about personal transportation. I will discuss this in my next post.

      • Scott January 27, 2012 at 7:38 am #

        The solution to the pricing problem might be a car-sharing co-operative. Here is a website for one in Vancouver, Canada.

        Personally, I think the self-driving car won’t solve the problem of poor land-use in urban areas. Not to mention the problem of the ever-widening waistline. As absurd as it may sound, we really need to learn to walk again.

        Great article.

  14. Mark January 26, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    Nicely written, and very good points. Especially enjoying the Munster experiment.

  15. Shelby January 26, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    If you’re going to continue to use Atlanta as an example, I would be interested in seeing you contrast Atlanta’s MARTA system with something more successful, like Chicago’s Metra.

  16. Rory Gianni (@digitalWestie) January 26, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    Fab, thought provoking post. Keep them coming! Reminds me of Dean Kamen’s arguement for the segway –

    • dedwards8 January 26, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

      I’ve met Dean a few times. That dude is the ‘real’ Most Interesting Man in the World.

  17. eugenevd (@eugenevd) January 26, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    Wow, those images really hits home the relativity of the problem. I’ve been for a long time disgusted with cars in cities – total overkill. It’s a waste in almost every way. If you consider the relative cost an individual has to incur for such a terribly inefficient transport, how much money is going into the vehicle and it’s maintenance, how much money is going into building and maintaining those roads? Money that could better and more efficiently be spent to implement a public transport systems.

    I’m not an expert but I’m thinking along the lines of scaling according to needs; foot paths, then bicycle paths, then maybe trams, subways, trains… roads? when do we really need roads? Rarely I think.

    Looking forward to the next one!

  18. Andres January 26, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    Making passenger cars smaller might help a bit with this. Make them one-seat wide, instead of two-seats wide and you could add another lane to each street, or fit more cars into existing parking lots. (Conversations amongst a cars’ passengers would feel weird at first, but we would adapt. We could add mirrors, or cameras and video screens, to be able to glance at each other occasionally as we talk.)

    If we make cars self-driving, we could get rid of a lot of lots used for parking. Cars would simply drop you off at a store, go park themselves at a nearby shared parking garage, and pick you up when you summon them. Stores would only need to provide a small strip of asphalt for loading and unloading.

    If a city provided a fleet of reliable self-driving taxis, with affordable fees, a lot of us would be emboldened to get rid of our private cars, thus reducing the number of cars clogging up the streets.

  19. Kevin Ball January 26, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    In general, I agree with your point. I try to structure where I live and where I work in such a way that I can walk and take public transit to almost everything I need to get to.

    That said, I’ve been recently experimenting with car2go, a service that allows for by-the-minute car rental of electric cars, and it has led me to think that at least part of the issue with cars is the low level of utilization. When everyone has a car, and they’re only using them for a very small amount of time, you have both massive resource waste (in the cars), and massive space waste (the places to put them). Moving to a shared-car structure improves that dramatically… the utilization of the cars goes up, you need fewer cars, and thus you need less place to put them.

    I’m super excited about this trend because, as someone who uses public transit quite a bit, I’m extremely aware of its limitations. I think the trend towards car sharing is one that has become possible with real-time always-on communications (basically, smartphones… I can use my phone to find an available car), and will continue to accelerate.

    It gets even more exciting if we can get to self-driving cars… imagine if you could queue in a request in your phone for a car, and get one to come to you, without requiring a driver, at a very affordable cost. At that point, our needs for parking drop to almost nil, and we can push car utilization to very high levels.

    • dedwards8 January 26, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

      Yes, I believe cars are idle, somewhere in the neighborhood of, 95% of the time. If we can get this number down to 50% of the time, then does that reduce necessary parking by nearly half? One would think so.

  20. Grant Feek January 26, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    wonderful insights. there’s definitely an urban opportunity for a low end disruption of cars as we know them (bmw i, for one, may be working on it).

    i posted just yesterday regarding the ramifications of fast-approaching autonomous vehicles. two potential outcomes spell greatly reduced traffic: increased capacity utilization (spelling less cars on the road), and algorithmic rush-hour navigation.

    if you aren’t familiar, you should check out louis kahn’s proposal for a car-less redesign of downtown philadelphia in the early 60’s.

  21. Undertoad January 26, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    Self-driving cars. Thanks for dropping me off, car; now head 20 blocks south to the mega parking structure, plug yourself in, and I’ll call you later to come pick me up.

  22. Vincent January 26, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Great stuff and one of the reasons why I make fun of some large american cities because they are glorified suburbs

  23. Tim Olsen January 26, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    I love your map indicating the space dedicated for car storage. These spaces are dedicated for car storage yet most of them only have cars for 8-12 hours a day. What are some “green” or productive uses of parking garages when they are empty? Ice rinks? Sport playing fields?

  24. Kantor January 26, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    The best economic reasoning to the wastefulness of allocating space to parking in the inner city is probably that of agglomeration externalities. A basic concept in Urban Economics is that the denser the economic activity is in the city, the more productive firms become.

    Since it is an externality – a boost to productivity the firm gets from nearby firms without paying for it – it is considered a market failure. Textbook economics would therefore argue that there is room for intervention of the public authority to increase the density of economic activity by (among others) limiting parking places or by reducing their necessity (anyone mentioned public transport? … or NITS?).

  25. Jon January 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    I would buy a ‘tandem car’ if someone would actually manufacture one.

  26. Opus the Poet January 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    I’m starting to see this meme popping up on lots of sites devoted to liveable cities. It showed up on the “How We Drive” blog over a year ago, and Vanderbilt is not really concerned so much about liveable cities his focus is on getting people from A to B quickly, safely, and with the minimal expenditure of energy and creation of pollution. Having places that are farther apart because you have to put parking places around them increases travel time, energy usage, pollution, and makes us less safe because of increased exposure to traffic.

    I ride a bike for transportation, and the ironic thing is I can never find a place to park my bike, but I’m surrounded by acres of empty parking for cars.

  27. senxu January 26, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    “Dedicating all this land to car storage basically reduces the density by about half”. I think the way this sentence is wrote is problematic. Car storage took up space, what should be available for other use; hence it increase the density, not reduce it. Maybe replace “density” with “available space” to clear things up.

    • Nick January 26, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

      It decreases the density of business and other more productive uses of the space. Points of interest are more spread out due to the parking areas.

  28. Tim Chapp January 26, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    Way to see it like it is, Derek. For some strange reason, most people are unwilling to acknowledge what huge problems cars subject us to (and did you know that if everyone in the world started consuming oil at rates to match the U.S., the world would be OUT of oil in 9 years? And how much sooner would it be completely unaffordable?). I do hope that in your next blog you mention PRT (Personal Rapid Transit), which is the ultimate solution, and which is already now being implemented in a few cities across the world.

    I would be happy to send you some startling statistics to back up my claim, or more information on PRT.

  29. Larry IEOR Tools January 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    I believe if someone is going to solve your defined problem of cars in urban settings you will need to find the reason why cars are there in the first place. I don’t think that is simple. Urban population I imagine is mostly transplant from sub-urban communities. Cars are just a by-product of an efficient, cost effective and practical method of transport from suburbia to urban centers. So what caused people to live in suburbia as an alternative to living in the urban center? Lots of reasons. Crime, cost of living, housing availability, schooling for children, noise, pollution, cleanliness, nature. I believe its more a social dilemma than a technological one.

    • dedwards8 January 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

      Let’s not pretend that the modern suburbs popped up first and then people used cars to get there. Suburbs, as we know them today, would not be possible without cars. Cars were not created to meet this need, they created the need. Levittown, NY (,_New_York), is widely considered the first ‘modern’ suburb. It wasn’t built until after WWII, long after automobiles became popular.

      Before modern, sprawling suburbs, people lived in self supported towns. While these towns avoid the hustle and bustle of large cities, and the associated problems of those cities, they were generally walkable and did not suffer from the traffic and other problems that occur as a result of modern suburbia.

      • Mister Nomer January 26, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

        Hi there,

        I find it interesting you mentioned Levittown, NY, because I thinks it helps illustrate how tough this problem is to solve. Tough in that cars didn’t create it, people did.

        Consider the generation that made the decision to move to the burbs. When they were children they watched classmates get crippled by polio and other diseases. Later they lived 5/6 (or more) to a room during the Depression in tenement housing that provided little respite from hot Summer and cold Winter days and a shared bathroom at the end of the hall. Then they fought a gruesome and horrible war.

        So, in the early 50s a salesperson comes up to them and says “You, yes you, can raise your family in a brand new home. You and your spouse will have your own bedroom and bathroom and your kids will have theirs. Your kids will play on grass in your front yard. All you have to do is drive 30 minutes back and forth to work each day.”

        They didn’t just say yes, they said “Hell Yes!” Here was a way to use an existing piece of technology (the car) in a way to make life better. Or so they thought.

        Now, of course, nobody thought about air pollution back then. Nobody thought about traffic. And, nobody thought about the injustice of Robert Moses bulldozing over the poor to make this new middle class dream possible.

        But, when you consider the early life experiences of that generation their choice to move the burbs (and its inherent + and -) becomes completely understandable.

        I wish you well on your quest, but to reverse this trend you’re going to have to provide a similar value proposition as that earlier one in the 50s. And, I think the only thing that’s going to work is not so much better planning as much as better technology like driverless cars. Indeed NextBus and Google transit have already vastly improved the experience of public transit and, as someone else pointed out, actually made car sharing possible. Better policy would help too, say, maybe, a carbon tax – but I digress.

        P.S. Quick update on driverless cars: It’s been reported that the next Audi A8 will drive itself in traffic jams – which means it’s probably only about 10 years (15 tops) until that technology is available in regular cars.

      • Uly January 27, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

        Don’t forget that the transition to cars was hardly inevitable. General Motors and others pushed it forwards by buying up and destroying existing, viable streetcar lines.

      • Mister Nomer January 31, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

        RE: GM and the Streetcar.
        It’s true that GM tried to sell cities buses at the expense of streetcars but I hardly think that accounts for the transit choices of the generation of people who moved out to the burbs.

        Consider this: Levittown was created on Long Island, right outside NYC. If people really wanted to commute by subway or rail, they could easily have chosen to do so. Instead, for the reasons I outlined above, they chose to live the in the burbs and commute by car.

        I don’t think that the presence (or lack) of transit really drives car ownership. It’s a value proposition. If it’s too expensive (gas/parking) or too inconvenient (no parking), people will decide it’s not worth it. Conversely it’s also true that if transit does not offer good value, people will decide it’s not worth it (and by that I mean vote NO at the next referendum).

        Building better places to live will require a combination of better technology, smart politics (we need to get people on our side), and an acknowledgement that, yes, there are life situations where car based transit is simply the right tool for the job. Same goes for trams, subways, and buses.

      • gaycarboys January 31, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

        There is no doubt in my mind that we became addicted to cars and therefore oil. It was driven by big car makers and the oil companies. Remember, Dr Diesel designed all diesel cars to run on vegetable oil. No big city has escaped it and only the price of fuel has driven the huge recent increase in the use of public transport which is still way too expensive. Still after al these years the best way to get from one side of sydney to the other and back again in a timely manner is by car which take a 1/4 of the time.

  30. jim January 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    This is part of the UN ‘Agenda 21’ ‘Smart Cities’ planning propaganda they try to shove down our throat here in Portland, OR. Basically they want to restrict freedom of movement under the disguise of “urban planning” and “smart cities” by claiming they would reduce congestion and pollution. Here in Portland I live smack downtown and I drive a Toyota PU. I use it almost everyday: last week I moved a desk for a friend. The week before I moved a mattress for my friend. I lent my truck out to a friend so he could go to labor ready, which if you have a vehicle you are prioritized for work. We have a train called the MAX and a trolley. The MAX actually causes a lot of congestion in the Northern part of the city, on interstate avenue. Traffic is worse now then before. The trolley is to slow to get around town – you can walk faster. Try riding the MAX, Bus or Trolly from Portland to Hillsboro — its a 2 hour ride. That means waking up at 4:30 to get on the bus at 5:30 to get to the Intel campus at at 8:30. Try to bring home more then two bags of groceries from Safeway or Fred Meyers in the rain. Try moving a mattress on a bus. A lot of this was agreed upon in the UN Mandate ‘Agenda 21’. It calls for a lower quality of life by promoting ‘High density urban development’, but basically its a socialist agenda to kill freedom of movement and private property.

    • dedwards8 January 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

      Just like the personal automobile, transit is not meant to be a one-size-fits all solution. It takes a variety of transportation tools to meet a variety of transportation tasks.

      You might want to be careful when using the phrase “socialist agenda” when discussing transportation. Unless of course, you make it a point to only drive on private roadways.

      By the way, Portland is a beautiful city, I look forward to my next visit.

      • gaycarboys January 31, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

        It seems those addicted to cars forget the roads on which they drive were built by governments. I like the idea they have in London of a congestion tax. They should have 1 here in Sydney and make it more than the cost of a bus.

    • Erik Griswold January 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

      Enjoy your Pickup while you can. There are 40 years left of oil at present consumption levels.

      • Donovan Corpse January 28, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

        This would be impossible to determine.

    • thelyniezian January 27, 2012 at 11:09 am #

      I think your truck is still far different from a car as much as from a bus somehow. It’s in theory a working vehicle which no-one in their right mind would want to replace by a bus anyway. Personal passenger transport, i.e. cars and motorbikes, is another matter, and they’re what causes most of the congestion. Yes, busues aren’t great for many things, but there’s too few of them and too many cars blocking up the way as well if you ask me.

      And to have high density urban environments you don’t need to kill private property, you just have to have houses much closer together than your typical American suburb. Here in the UK we don’t even have space for that sort of thing, even in our suburbs, and we’re not complaining much. All you need is for it to be comapct enough to be walkable. You’re probably imagining Soviet-style tenement blocks I’d imagine, which are probably a waste of time (due to concerns like letting enough light in, fitting all the infrastructure and so on, they actually reduce density!)

      Likewise “freedom of movement” need not be killed- if you design everything around cars, then watch your “freedom of movement” disappear if you don’t have one. It’s fine in my town, but try to get across to the Lake District, say- 50 years ago there was a bus which went across, not anymore, and forget taking a train to somewhere like Keswick- Dr. Beeching put paid to that just as many years ago too. I dread to think what it might be like in America, with all the sprawl, zoning laws, and some suburbs which don’t even have sidewalks as I understand to be the case.

      Talking of “socialist plots” to “reduce our quality of life” is also typically American and a bit myopic, best avoided.

  31. Weight It Out! January 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Great read. Got me thinking and reacting 🙂

  32. americanclassicalmusic January 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Great blog. You should visit Philly. It would boggle your mind.

  33. MJ, Nonstepmom January 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    This is a real eye-opener, the first photo taken in Germany of 60 cars vs 60 pedistrians speaks volumns! Great information all of us need to absorb; not just from your post but many of the great comments….thanks

  34. Pasha Kamyshev January 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    Fantastic article! Look forward to more. To me, the solution to the car problem is properly privatizing everything:

    a) allow for private transit
    b) toll major roads and then sell them
    c) repeal all the laws that say you can’t put a grocery store here and there
    d) repeal all the laws that require parking lots for stores/buildings


  35. sukhvirk150 January 26, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    Thank you so much for your insights. I would love to see possible small solutions or steps we can take to curb this problem individually.

    Personally, I live across the street from where I go to school In the Minneapolis winters, I can’t utilize the public bike system, but catch rides from friends. A small step I could take is to buy my own bike and ride while it’s still warm. It would be another positive step in the right direction I think.

    I’m also trying to convince my parents to sell a car back in Seattle. We have 3 (for 3 family members since I’m not there), and can easily function with 2, maybe even 1 if we plan out our days well. Still working on it.

  36. Alan Carl Brown January 26, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    Stop subsidizing cars. Highways cost money to build and accommodating rush hour traffic is the biggest driver of that.

    If we had tolls and demand-based pricing, like they do in Singapore, there wouldn’t be a crush of traffic at rush hour. More people would use alternatives and there would be more alternatives, especially at rush hour. And your taxes would go down.

    If we paid for our hotel rooms the way we pay for our roads, with prices the same regardless of when you travel, we’d build more hotel rooms than we really need and still have chronic shortages. Just like we do with our roads.

    This is just another instance of the tragedy of the commons. Don’t pay for what you use and you use much more than you would otherwise.

  37. Thick-Skinned Robot January 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    Very intriguing post. Most people, I think, are aware of the cost of cars, both financially and environmentally, but it will be hard to do away without them. Walking and riding your bicycle would be the health driven choice, especially with such an increase in obesity, but not every city has the lay out to lend themselves to this option. Public transportation is another option, but not every city has the funding to offer a reliable service. Having to do a combination of these is reasonable for adults who are young and/or single, in order to get to work, do errands, etc. But for parents with more than one child, having a car is much more convenient. There’s also now the option to rent cars, but that can also be hit or miss. Of course, not every city will benefit from the same approach, so different ideas/combinations of options will have to be drawn for each.

    I look forward to reading your next post on your ideas for this!

  38. dreamsburnred January 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    Yea. So many people have cars, when bus’ or bikes would work so much better. Cars take up alot of unneeded space, I don’t own a car and I probably wont ever either. The bus just makes more sense to me.

  39. DCM January 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    Being a small town guy from Missoula, MT I can’t even imagine living/commuting in a “big city.” I think I would become aggravated very quickly!

  40. joaoacioli January 26, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    I may have skipped a few comments or didn’t really get the point. Why do we talk so much about a future solution (self driven cars) rather than an current one (decent wide-ranged mass transportation)? Is it the excessive re-structuring needed to adapt?

    I am a fan of mass transportation and couldn’t agree more that cars kill cities. I live in a city in Brazil (well, not right now) that can’t have subway systems and where mass trasport is not reliable (dangerous, takes long, packed, not on time…). In São Paulo, for instance, they have a rotation system where each day of the week cars with license plate ending in X and Y cannto drive during certain time periods. The result? People (that can afford it) have 1 or two extra cars at home.

    I still think reviewing bus lines/stops and re-drawing parts of a city would be the way to go. Am I being to conservative on the approach?

    Regards and congrats for the post.

  41. John J. Rigo, Texas' Poet January 26, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Well thought out and beautifully written. The storage problem of autos and where they are parked in a city was a huge revelation. We need folks like you planning our future cities.

  42. findingtampa January 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Very well written, and an important topic. Thanks very much for sharing this. Here in Tampa, the lack of an intelligent transit system hurts the local economy more than most people realize. As an aside, I used to live in Mountain View and I still miss it!

  43. starlight January 26, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    nice article! maybe the better solution is to provide the best public transport.. i live in the philippines and cities are becoming more and more congested with cars.. i think our main problem here is that public transport aren’t that friendly at all unlike in korea (lived there for quite a while) or switzerland (my brother lives there and he doesn’t own a car), or maybe some other parts of the globe.. i so agree with you about the reasonable uses of cars.. congrats on being FP.

  44. Rick January 26, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    You should move to Seattle, one of the most car-hostile cities I know, with a Mayor who bicycles to work and hates cars. Seattle has made it clear it does not want us outlanders to visit, so we don’t. The only time I go into Seattle anymore is 4-5 times a year for the opera; I used to go in 2-3 times a month. Those visits are now to other places – like Bellevue – that actually WANT our business.

    Your example is ridiculous. Sure, 60 people on a bus take less room than 60 people in 60 cars, but only if those 60 all want to go to the same place! And 60 people on 60 bicycles takes less room, but the 30 miles from where I live to Seattle takes 45 minutes, tops, by car and according to Google would take 2 hours 42 minutes by bicycle and 2 hours 15 minutes by transit. And the transit option is “only” 2 hours 15 minutes if you happen to catch the right bus, otherwise you have to wait another half hour for the next bus. Oh, and that’s after a 20 minute drive to the park and ride, so you still need a car! I’ve taken Metro Transit and Sound Transit from the Issaquah park and ride to the King County courthouse (for jury duty) and to Century Link Field Event Center. The former wasn’t too bad; the later not so much – my daughter and I were dropped off over a mile from the door. Never again.

    As far as the parking lots in Atlanta, if the land is so valuable then they’ll build parking garages. No parking garages? Then the land must not be worth as much as you seem to think. Most buildings these days come with parking in the basement, so really that’s a red herring argument.

    If you really hate cars this much, come up with better alternatives than 2 1/2 hours on a bicycle, or a bus ride almost as long that drops you a mile from your destination. Come up with an alternative that’s as convenient as a car and I’m there. Believe me, you’ll make millions so it’s worth your effort. Until then, please shut up.

    • dedwards8 January 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

      I don’t hate cars. I hate the way they are used. I, and many others, are looking into transportation options that rival the convenience of the car without the negative side effects of the car. It is a difficult problem, but one worthy of a solution. I will not shut up UNTIL we have a solution and not a moment sooner.

    • gothichydran126 January 27, 2012 at 10:11 am #

      Maybe Rick just doesn’t like to get out and “walk”. Are you seriously complaining about having to walk a mile? And another thing, don’t use Google to calculate how much time it would take to cycle somewhere because it’s inaccurate. It mostly depends on how fast or slow or if the person themselves are and if they know any shortcuts or better routes.

      • Steph January 29, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

        Having lived in Seattle, Rick makes several good points, and several baloney points. The mayor and the city do not hate cars – but they do believe in encouraging alternatives and making them safer. I perfer to use alternative commuting tools whenever I can, and when I lived in West Seattle and commuted to Bellevue (14 miles) I was able to travel that distance in one hour – 15 minutes faster than the bus could get me there. I’m not sure what the bike-route options are out to Issaquah, but in Bellevue it was fairly dangerous along part of the route – no shoulders, and the car drives are dangerously rude. I prefer Seattle’s bike lanes!

        Nowadays I telecommute full time, so only use my car to travel the 12 miles to Fairbanks for groceries, banking, etc. All errands get planned ahead of time, so a single trip can be made. Much more efficient, and I fill the cars tank about every month and a half. Lower insurance rates, too. I’ll be most people no longer think about how their insurance is partially based on average miles travelled per year. Cut the miles, save some money!

    • Uly January 27, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

      So because the public transportation system was systematically destroyed by the car companies (yes, really) and all development over the past 50 years has been to promote car travel at the expense of other options, you think that means public transportation that works can NOT be designed?

  45. dimosioshoros January 26, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    Cars kill cities. Not only cities but also very important film directors like Theo Angelopoulos in Athens on the day before yesterday. My congratulations for your article.
    Yannis Rentzos

  46. truthspew January 26, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    A lot of the city travel could be reduced if they had REAL public transit, even if they were buses.

    I’ve seen what happened here in Providence from the first time they introduced the trolley service to now. When first introduced they ran every 11 minutes. That gradually stretched out to 15 and now 20 minutes. Plus they ran until 11PM, now only until 9:45PM. I’ve even said to officials from RIPTA that they killed the service by screwing with the schedule.

  47. Phil Gutowski January 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Very cool blog post about the effect of cars in a city.

  48. justalittlebrit January 26, 2012 at 5:36 pm #


  49. gaitdoctor January 26, 2012 at 5:39 pm #


    • dedwards8 January 26, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

      I agree that we need to rethink the transportation model, but why are we yelling!!?!

  50. Willem Visser January 26, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    Wow, it’s crazy if you look at the space cars use only to stand still!
    I don’t know if this is comparable with the situation in The Netherlands (where I live). Cars take up a lot of space, but there’re lots of people who use a bicycle or (at least in the cities) public transport. Parking in our cities can be quite expensive, even when you live in it.
    The illustrations are revealing. I have never looked at it like this.

  51. Isaac Sukin January 26, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    I wrote up my response to this article here:

    • dedwards8 January 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

      Thanks for the thoughtful response. You are assuming a world that was designed and optimized for the automobile. As someone who prefers to not spend unnecessary time behind the wheel of a car. All I want is for cities (dense urban areas) and towns (well planned low density suburban areas) to be better optimized for pedestrians and cyclists.

  52. Cafe23 January 26, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    Well, I don’t drive but it’s always good to be reminded and informed about these things, so thank you and congrats on getting this FP! 🙂

  53. karlman01 January 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    Love it! Great post.

  54. ann heatly January 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    nice blog

  55. J Roycroft January 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    I live in Atlanta. I would never ride on the MARTA system because it is not safe. This city is run and operated by fools who have no clue what the hell they are doing. The mayor and his city officials are corrupt. As long as the inner city crime continues there will never be a reason to ride rapid transit here. Your fantasy vision of people walking to work in Atlanta is just that, a fantasy.

    • italianice85 January 26, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

      I live in Marietta. I’ve used MARTA sparingly, and the biggest compiment I can come up? Ummm, the trains work, right?

      But if I worked in the city, I imagine my biggest MARTA turn-off would be the extra time I’d have to put into my day to use it. And since I’ve moved here in 2007, I think MARTA’s altered its scheduled at least once (I want to say twice). You don’t want to screw with people’s time. Humans are simple. Don’t make us think more than we have to.

  56. karlman01 January 26, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    Reblogged this on Critical Mass Topeka.

  57. Yatin January 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    …and environment too!

  58. Peter January 26, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    Great read, thanks for posting!

  59. rantingonrealestate January 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    Word. I think I’ve figured the most important subject that’s relevant to both of our blogs: Zoning laws. Ever read The High Cost of Free Parking? I’ve wanted to, but it’s not in the library…

  60. pnwauthor January 26, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    I totally agree with you. I’m car-less, a pedestrian living in Bellingham, WA. Six percent of the population here rides a bike to school or work, the number might be slightly higher, and could be substantially higher. I would love to see more streets cut off from traffic–pedestrian or bicycle only streets. We have a good public transit system here, quite active with college and university students, but not so much with the car diehard folks.

    If as you say, people use their cars for only long distance travel, that would be ideal. I think we also need to do away with this suburbs idea and create better density models for cities where people can afford to live in the same city where they work. This isn’t possible with the high price cities like San Francisco, and less possible in Seattle these days. Obviously we need to look at the whole range of city planning with the transit issue, job wages and price of renting and owning a home.

  61. Mathieu Helie January 26, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    Even in that shot of Munster, pedestrians are conditioned to stand aside from the road like gutter rats.

    The key to restoring cities is not taming cars, it’s taming the roads. Bring back a rough equality between space for people and space for transit, and sprawl will fix itself.

    • halfbakedlog January 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

      I agree. Sometimes it is safer to drive a short distance than walk or bike. I have been yelled at for riding a bike while hugging the curb and well out of the way of cars in a subdivision and not even a main road. Also I’m sick about the pedestrians and bikers getting killed by cars. Some drivers seem to feel that the world belongs only to them.

  62. lunchbreakfoodcritic January 26, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    good points here, good points!

  63. lanceschaubert January 26, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    Wow. Impressive and convincing. Way to go.

  64. Moon Under Water January 26, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    That car storage image is really fascinating. It certainly would be an argument for increased underground parking at the very least. This is a very insightful post, thank you very much.

    If you were looking to do further reading on inner-city traffic, I know two good resources. The Santa Fe Institute published papers (which should be available from their website, as all their papers are public once approved) about how increasing the number of streets in a city actually increases car density and creates more traffic issues. Not directly related, but very interesting all the same. I read a summary of these papers in Jeffrey Kluger’s book “Simplexity”, which you could also use to read this information.

    Secondly, a book called “Power Trip” by Amanda Little deals with oil consumption but there is a large section dedicated to describing the growth of suburbia exactly as you are referring to it when talking about Atlanta.

    Sorry to rave, it’s just something I have a big interest in myself, and thanks again for the post!

  65. Eric January 26, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    We *HAD* good public transportation until GM purchased Atlanta’s streetcar system and replaced it with a bus system that is getting more and more worthless by the decade. I lived in Toronto for six months and I used my car about three times… there was basically no reason to drive it; I was able to use their public transit system to get to work, to get to meetings, to get food, to go out with my young family, and get home at the end of the night.
    Another major difference is that if you walk for five minutes down any major street in Toronto, you pass about fifty business. It’s feasible to get many things done on foot. If you walk for five minutes down most of our main streets (like Ponce de Leon), you pass about eight businesses, sometimes less. You spend most of your time walking past parking lots for businesses. This can be solved by getting rid of the ridiculous “parking area” requirements for businesses. Do you think Manhattan requires a small business in the lower East side to provide parking for its patrons? If it was a PITA for people to park, they’d use public transit, and they’d bitch and complain to their politicians until the public transit system was worth a damn. Right now it’s just too easy for rich people to ignore our public transportation problem.

    • dedwards8 January 26, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

      Yes, automobile companies had a hand in taking down the streetcar networks that almost every large city in the USA had in the early 20th century. (See But it wasn’t like people weren’t already aching to stretch out into the country before GM got involved.

      I don’t necessary want to go back to that model. I want to move to a model that allows people who want to live away from the city to do so, while simultaneously allowing city-dwellers to have walkable, clean cities.

      Surely we can come up with something that makes nearly everyone happy, and the answer isn’t cars cars cars.

    • J Roycroft January 29, 2012 at 12:02 am #

      That’s funny. Rich people ignoring our public transportation problem. Maybe if someone would stop appeasing the damn low lifes and get MARTA on a decent schedule going to the right areas and doing something about Atlanta’s culture of crime people like myself would use the system. It is not safe. Period. It has nothing to do with rich people.

  66. Cy QuickCy Quick January 26, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    Ah, now I’ve got it to stay put. Most interesting refs the area of land for car parks and roads. I would have linear cities, two blocks wide, three-level electric rail between the two. Top level stops every 100 blocks, middle level every 10 blocks, ground level every block.

  67. themovieblogger January 26, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    I agree, but there is no short-term solution in place. We have to make big, lasting changes here.

    • Sir G January 26, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

      good post. cars have certainly killed my city (Chiang Mai, Thailand). cars and outdoor karaoke bars.

  68. slimsalaclay January 26, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    Reblogged this on slimsalaclay and commented:
    An excellent article/blog post

  69. gerard oosterman January 26, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    The solutionis to take a leaf out of the Dutch mode of transport. Get on your bike!

  70. Rai January 26, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    HEY you live where Google lives! COOL!!!

    Also congrats on being fresh pressed! WOOO

  71. Erin Chantry January 26, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    Great post on cars. I constantly wrestle with this topic as an urban designer and go back and forth between a realism that cars are an integral part of people’s lives, and that they are destroying our urban environment. But what I really love about your post is that you talk about the other side issues that constantly are overlooked. Global warming is always referenced but I think there is not enough understanding by urban designers of how to mitigate the social exclusion and economic unsustainability that is a result from the car in the city.

  72. Panfilo Castaldi January 26, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    Great post, and very close to my heart.

    I live in Melbourne, Australia, according to the Economist the most liveable city in the world. Our public transport system is becoming increasingly popular, as is the use of bicycles. Both have enjoyed immense growth in patronage over recent years. Even so, the automobile remains the #1 choice of transport for most people, most of whom travel without passengers… As you observe, just like using a diesel-powered pile driver to hammer a nail.

    Your observation about car-parking requirements filling up otherwise valuable real estate is spot on and something I had never thought about before.

    One further observation I have made is this: our inner city speed limit is nominally 50km/h (30mph), yet the combination of insane congestion during ever-lengthening peak hours, inefficient traffic management systems, and rampant use of roundabouts, speed humps, chicanes etc. means that I rarely achieve an average inner-city speed of greater than 30km/h (19mph).

    So an extension of the over-engineered tool idea is that the very nature of cars in cities creates unmanageable congestion that further reduces their efficacy.

    Dutch architects, BIG, have made this fascinating contribution to the debate.

  73. Fiona.q January 26, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    i would rather be killed by bike, lol

  74. b r January 26, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Thanks for writing this! I’ve lived in LA all my life, and have known very little else outside cars, traffic, and smog when it comes to cities.

    This entry puts a lot of things in perspective.


  75. jcswanston January 26, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    Have you seen the study that the National Geopgrahic did a while back on urban transport issues?

    There are some great studies and reports that also highlight the cost impact of congestion.

  76. millodello January 26, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    Cars don’t kill cities. People do. You are absolutly right. It is the short sighted choices that we make regarding how we use our cars and our cities. I live 325 paces from a Starbuck’s and find myself driving there on most days,only because I can. They have a parking lot. Get rid of the parking lots and the cars will follow. Remember, “First the cart then the horse”.

  77. Michael Hartl January 26, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    It’s not cars that are the problem. It’s cars that are usually 3/4ths empty that are the problem. Full cars are comparably good to other forms of mass transit.

    The solution is called “jitney transit”. It is illegal due to taxi medallion laws. So the real problem is special-interest groups (such as taxi cartels)—and a political system that encourages their formation.

  78. Jean January 26, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    I’m glad you got Freshly Pressed…to reach an audience that isn’t primarily cycling-oriented. Maybe a few fence sitters. 🙂

    If people wonder just really how much money can be saved by use a bike more often per for transportation:

    Am also at my other blog: @

    It’s exciting times right now for this dialogue!

  79. bandwagondan January 26, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    Wow. This place is so civil, my urge to troll has been completely nullified.

  80. evsetia January 26, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    Agree ! Everywhere ! But maybe, it,s very difficult to reduce the cars. And unfortunatelly, the cars has to be life style for some people in any place.
    And the cars not only can kill city, but will kill everything

    Great info

  81. Scott January 26, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    Please research and do a post on the upcoming TSPLOST tax vote in Georgia. It is a hot-button issue that is of course finding huge opposition from Tea Party supporters but could revolutionize public transit and livability in Atlanta.

  82. barcncpt44 January 26, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    I know about the car culture in Atlanta. If you think Atlanta is bad try Birmingham, AL. Everyone must drive a car by themselves. And the mass transit is a joke with breaking down buses and no proper funding. If you want to work or play you must have a car.

  83. theabstractionist January 26, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    Reblogged this on TheAbstractionist – Blog of artist Carolyn Scanlan and commented:
    Send this to the politicians all across North America! Cars are what stops cities efficient transit systems from flourishing, as well as reducing the pollution by working together as a community. Show this to as many big cheeses as possible!

  84. Ray @ best walking shoes January 26, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    The growing number of cars is definitely a matter a concern. Especially with multitudes of mini cars coming at lower prices will only increase the clogging up of streets.
    I personally prefer walking or riding a bicycle as it also helps me to remain fit without a treadmill.

  85. nigelthedragon January 26, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    I totally agree. And its not just regular city life that the car is killing. It’s disasters.
    My town recently had epic flooding and landslides. Entire roads were closed for weeks. People were literally evacuated and houses red stickered. That created a monumental traffic cluster fudge. The traffic was so appalling, there were warnings all over TV and radio: Drive only in absolute emergency, Don’t bother sending kids to school or going to work, don’t even go outside unless you will die of cancer or something if you don’t ect.
    To put it into perspective: I was moving that day. It took my mother 4 hours to get to my house. It’s a half hour drive from her house to mine. At the most. We nearly had to CANCEL the moving van it was so epicly late.
    So what could possibly be more important than someone moving house, or God forbid, being evacuated? What could possibly be an absolute emergency for that many people to be on the roads that day, leaving a woman nearly homeless while moving and leaving people who had to literally abandon their home and possibly never see it again in traffic for four hours?
    I know! I found out much later, near dinner time when I actually moved something to new apartment! In disaster level rain, while the entire city was in a state of emergency, the reason everyone just HAD to sit in traffic for four hours: CHRISTMAS SHOPPING!!!!!

    This is just one reason I hate cars and therefore never bothered to get a license.

    • Jean January 27, 2012 at 9:28 am #

      Wow, disaster traffic jam and more. How do you get around?

  86. Victoria C. January 27, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    I love your accessible analysis. Practical, insightful, and aware. Thanks! Can’t wait to read the ideas…

  87. James' Stuff January 27, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    do what London does… charge the arse of those who want to drive around the CDB. Better parking facilities around stations, with park and ride spaces available, is the best way I see in reducing congestion on the streets… but this is too logical and costs more than a wishful promise.

  88. G A Avellone January 27, 2012 at 12:45 am #

    Very eloquent and insightful post. I strongly believe that the largest blunder in American history, which is now a major factor in our decline, is sub-urbanization, automobile dependency, and the subsequent erosion of walkability. It is part of my professional mission to rectify this great blunder in our civilization.

  89. fefevox January 27, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    Reblogged this on fefevox and commented:
    hmmm. who will change first?

  90. lennysjam January 27, 2012 at 1:52 am #

    Every city should have reliable and efficient public transportation, much like New York.

  91. Andrew Wurster January 27, 2012 at 2:00 am #

    Urban planning in so many places has a long way to go.

  92. janemumana1 January 27, 2012 at 2:40 am #

    Reblogged this on janemukamanatheking.

  93. vibo January 27, 2012 at 3:23 am # makes an interesting complimentary read

  94. wearywanderer64 January 27, 2012 at 3:43 am #

    Bicycles or similar are the future transport of cities. There are aready new bicycle lanes in many cities and in general cities are not so big (at least in Europe) that you can’t cycle from one end to the other in a relatively short period of time.

  95. englishaddition January 27, 2012 at 4:11 am #

    yes its right cars kill the city but Urban planning in so many places has a long way to go.

  96. rio January 27, 2012 at 4:17 am #

    this is nice observation

  97. percelion January 27, 2012 at 4:23 am #

    I like your name progressive transit

  98. Prasad January 27, 2012 at 4:37 am #

    Reblogged this on Lighter Thoughts and commented:
    Loved this article..very practical one and something to ponder upon

  99. slightlyreworded January 27, 2012 at 4:40 am #

    Great article. I totally agree with you. I live in Beijing, where car sales have grown significantly in recent years. Most of the people I know who own cars don’t need them because they’re usually just traveling short distances (plus, the public transportation system here is very good).

    It’s just a sign of status.


  100. MegaTechToday January 27, 2012 at 4:53 am #

    Cars can kill the world as well! Too much pollution… Nature just can bare more!
    Great write up dude!

  101. olivermckenzie January 27, 2012 at 5:35 am #

    Reblogged this on O.M..

  102. Leen Steen January 27, 2012 at 5:43 am #

    Here in Holland our right-wing government raised the speed limit on the freeway with from 12o kilometers an hour to 130. One may ask what’s the use since our small country is one big traffic jam every morning and every evening. Holland has no dirt roads at all; asphalt everywhere yet lots of people drive SUV’s. I can’t understand that.

  103. Prezyack101 January 27, 2012 at 7:03 am #

    J.B -Kenya.
    I can’t help nut agree with your story.At first I thought it was mindless whining but I now see it.I suppose a limit to the number of cars a family can buy by the governments would help the situation.Probably an extension to roads too albeit that would be extremely expensive.

  104. thediaryofsugarandspice January 27, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    Interesting and so true, we really need to work on getting a system in place!

  105. septic tank wiltshire January 27, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    O may that’s shocking the amount of parking. I suppose until you look at a map and analyze what’s what you don’t really know do you!

  106. purplepolitico January 27, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    Very smart post. After living in Europe for the last 18 months I wish that America would take the European model for mass-transit.

  107. teresa January 27, 2012 at 7:41 am #

    Reblogged this on Thoughts and Reflections and commented:
    very true. But will the car industry agree?

  108. liquidf January 27, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    great article 🙂 thanks for the insight!

  109. awgwpoint January 27, 2012 at 8:20 am #

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  110. lilywintergarden January 27, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    I used to live in San Francisco and used public transportation to get everywhere. Even heavily pregnant I walked a ton and was the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been. Additionally, I felt more engaged with the world around me. It was a very difficult adjustment when we moved back to western PA and now spend a majority of our time alone in our car.

    Wonderful post. Thank you!

  111. awakeshawn January 27, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    Congrats on being FP!! This is an interesting post. We had an old photo of our town’s square from the late 1800s and, you are so right, it was not set up for cars. Interesting thought … Enjoy the fun.

  112. fmerza January 27, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    So very very true! We need to really keep this mind, but also do something about it. Cars take up space in cities, and people need to realize that they can make a difference if the collective is willing to lobby against cars. Maybe cities need to be a pedestrian only with parking facilities just outside the city to accommodate those that are traveling from city to city. For those that are interested, my latest post in my blog is all about that so if you want, read about it!

  113. Irwan Juanda January 27, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    Great post, you know if you have time try coming to Jakarta, Indonesia. And please do the same research there. 😀

  114. livelovelmg January 27, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    you’d be very interested in Peter Norton’s book: Fighting traffic: the dawn of the motor age in the American city. It’s amazing how society transformed (for the good or the bad) b/c of these metal machines. We used Norton’s book in a class and the detrimental effect on those who walked and became “Jaywalkers”; the lives taken by modern technology and those thrown in jail due to the battle of who the streets belongs to: the cars or pedestrians/children at play….

  115. Desenvolvimento de Sites January 27, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    Truth in several cities in the world today.

  116. sarahnsh January 27, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    I’m not a fan of driving and avoided for as long as possible. I love biking but I don’t want to be run over by a car doing it. I think that some cities are kind of made for walking and the transportation around it makes it easy not to have a car, but I think a lot of the cars might be the commuters coming in for their job in the city.

  117. kitsproson January 27, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    A great example of where cars can easily be easily be done without is in Berlin. A), the city has trams and the U-Bahn, and B) the place is flatter than an ironing board. I did a bicycle guided tour of the city, and it was not just an amazing amount of fun, but I didn’t even work up a sweat the streets were so even.

    A very good point you make, Sir!

  118. renemaltos January 27, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    Great Post! Last year I started using the bycicle instead of a car and I’ve noticed that it has many benefits compared with cars, the city where I live in, Saltillo in Mexico has a problem too many cars, too many traffic people don´t even think there are another ways of transporting themselves. This is wrong I would love it if my city had alternative ways of transport this would make us happier people no doubt about it.

  119. joewade January 27, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    The visual demonstrations you give are powerful ones. I live in Brooklyn and where I live, despite our extensive subway system, people still use cars. I sold mine before I moved here. I’m happy without the burden. Personally, I hope I never have to drive again.

  120. Rachel January 27, 2012 at 10:38 am #

    It would be awesome if all of that land allocated for parking in Atlanta could be turned into urban farms… All of that space, efficiently managed, could feed all of the people in that immediate area. Thus, reducing the need for diesel fueled trucks polluting the city with exhaust when hauling in “fresh” produce for the city.

    This revolution won’t be televised. But it will be eaten. And taste oh, so good.

  121. Betty Amazing January 27, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    That’s mental – I don’t drive (yet!) and I get along fine travelling, particularly within city centres because everything is so well connected and generally public transport covers pretty-well everything when it’s needed. Mostly in my local city center, the space is pedestrian and traffic is forced into one-way systems or the like which would make driving my second choice if I had one.

    The problem that I get is in more residential areas where transport isn’t so good, and getting around on a weekend or evening is nigh on impossible. xx

  122. juliabloom January 27, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    I do live in Mayberry – a large version of it (midwestern town of 25,000 people) – and cars are a problem in our town too. A large insurance company headquartered downtown bulldozed a few houses on the corner to put up another parking lot last year, and I wondered how many of those people are driving less than a mile to get to work?

    We were delighted when we moved here and realized we could walk or bike almost anywhere – and we do – but people often treat us like heroes or crazy people for doing so!

  123. shakkka January 27, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    Reblogged this on militantmoments.

  124. Jenny January 27, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    I love cycling and walking, but perhaps aggrivated by a little too much strenuous excercise over the years, my poor old knee is very painful some times. I am too active to be registered disabled where I live in the UK, but find long waits at public transport stops, particularly on cold days, painful enough to stop me making trips in to the town. How would a person like me, possibly with shopping and two children in tow move around your carless city?

    I guess what I am asking is can a carless city be an accessible city too?

  125. squirminehrmann January 27, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    I enjoyed your post and look forward to hearing some of your proposed solutions. I definitely agree with you, but feel that the biggest challenge is convincing our fellow Americans that this is the way to go. Most Americans are too LAZY though =-(

  126. James A. Arconati January 27, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    Visually, this is a great presentation on why cars should be discouraged if not outright banned. Good post.

  127. audreygjohnson January 27, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    I gave up my car last spring to start cycling and it has totally changed how I see commuting. Great posting!

  128. Rae January 27, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    Hi neighbor! I live in the Bay Area too, and my favorite thing about it is that I don’t have to drive to work or to do most things. I do have a car since I have a lot of family in California and I want to be able to visit and travel easily, but I drive very little on a regular basis and usually it’s just to drive to a Bart station to park and ride. It’d be nice if we could get more cars off the road.

  129. frenchimmersion January 27, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    Its so refreshing to read a post like yours – especially with well researched maps to illustrate the problem. One of the pleasures of a car-less city is the opportunity to take in the surroundings, enjoy the architecture and take time to absent-mindedly amble in the middle of the street. Reduce the cars and slow the pace. Free up the city centres and develop tramways. Keep posting!

  130. indywest January 27, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    The solution is to put tolls on cars entering the downtown city area. If you make it too expensive for people to drive and park their cars every day they will use public transit.

  131. Tofa IT January 27, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    These situation are worse in cities like dhaka. It is even unbearable right now. We do see good things and say good things, but we seldom really do things

  132. laliaberry January 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    Reblogged this on Crazy Happenstance.

  133. preestineart January 27, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    wow interesting get read of the cars i say

  134. John Franklin January 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    Nice Utopia and I too wish I could walk to work (without freezing weather and rain), buy groceries next door and just listen to nature around me but, I live in a real world where I have to work, get to work in some comfort (not sweaty or wet from rain/snow), move large objects that I buy, afford a comfortable house (not mega size) and don’t want to spend an extra hour one way to go somewhere. I sometimes take the GO train and have been soaking wet as a result, biked and got sweaty and wet from rain and, walked and slipped on the icy sidewalks. So, it’s nice to think about these things and maybe something positive will come of it but, Utopia only happens in fantasy books. Maybe it’s a California thing where weather is perfect and end of the world is just around the corner.

  135. loriemmons January 27, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    I totally agree & I am fortunate to say that because of my disability I am more able to do my part to reduce traffic, pollution, & fuel use by riding my medical scooter for nearby errands. It obviously is a bit more challenging on snowy or rainy days, like today in Denver, but it’s so much more fun to cross paths & greet other pedestrians during my travels. 🙂 I’m working to promote bio-fuel use made from industrial hemp! Great post!

  136. morningdaydreams January 27, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    Wow! I totally agree I lived in downtown Toronto for several years and never would have dreamed about driving anywhere. Now that I live in the suburbs if only transit was more efficient (like bigger cities) I doubt I would ever drive. Driving is stressful and doesn’t get you around a city very quickly. Walking/biking/using public transit is more relaxing and keeps you in shape!

  137. patryantravels January 27, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    Great post. I couldn’t agree with you more. Once again, a good idea (automobiles) got out of control so now it’s a bad idea ruining our quality of life. It really would not be that difficult to fix it if we stepped away and thought about it. Automobiles in crowded cities are just a stupid idea. We could really make things so much better with a little emphasis on public transport, some well structured bike paths, and walkable sidewalks. Why don’t we? Because the corporations that force feed us fossil fuels own our government.

  138. Jbot January 27, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Let me know when you’ve got the perfect solution.

  139. J & M January 27, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    This was a nice post. I like the picture comparing the different modes of transportation. If you drive up from Mountain View to Berkeley, where I reside, you’ll notice the traffic as soon as you get off the freeway. It’s insane. I walk everywhere and take the side streets to avoid the chaos of cars. Maybe if we limited cars public transportation would get better and go to more diverse places…and reduce the cost of use? Hmm?

  140. igcompany entertainment January 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Cool article! Also has been featured!

  141. antarabesque January 27, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    My thoughts exactly, although much better communicated. Thank you and congrats on being FP!

  142. January 27, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    I agree that cars shouldn’t exist in cities, except for taxis for those times when you need them (say, you bought a TV–I’m not walking home with that!) Cairo has a terrible traffic problem and smog, and part of it is the people’s fault–my husband had us drive to an ATM just down the road from our flat, because he didn’t want to walk. But when walking, we can stop to see the sights, observe our world, think, get exercise…as long as it’s not snowing, it’s a win!

  143. djronstar January 27, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    Wow, never would have thought so much space is allocated for “car storage”.
    Great thoughts and post!

    Cheers and congrats on being freshly pressed


    How To Be A DJ

  144. exilemca January 27, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    Reblogged this on Sepia Tinted Heart.

  145. dmanstow123 January 27, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    you should send this to people in power really! 🙂

  146. slabworldsports January 27, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    Wow good stuff

  147. Imperio January 27, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    I’m curious. Pretend you live in a city where you can afford the house mortgage, your 4 year old goes to school in another city, because your city doesn’t offer after child care, and you and your spouse work full time in a third city where the mortgage is just out of your reach. You are mindful of pollution so you choose to have only one car. However going to school and work means carrying backpacks, purses, umbrellas, jackets. You are not really able of doing this riding a bike (although you all would be super fit!). A bus could work (but there is no bus route), and you are carrying already all this stuff (which you could most surely simplify to very few things). And would commuting by bus add to the commute time (would you be spending even less time at home than you are now)? I’m not sure how it could happen. What do you see are the changes you and your family would see happening that would assist you if your car is no longer an option?


    • gerard oosterman January 27, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

      In Australia we have built all our cities around the use of the car. Most drive around relentlessly, even just to get the newspaper or a carton of milk, our lives need the metal box.
      Town planning is at its worst here and sometimes overseas experts are called in to try and make sense of it all. Cities take the space of entire countries. All because of the car. It’s the umbilical cord to our lives.
      The good thing is that there finally seems to be a change in the air whereby people are chosing to live closer to the center of the cities and use public transport.
      European cities generally have imposed rules whereby parking and using cars within city limits is becoming prohibitively expensive and the car gets punished rather that the people.
      The bicycle as a mode of transport also points to a better way of get around.

  148. Gilberto Cedolia January 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    You’re argument has some fallacies that were easily skimmed over.

    A: Needing car storage that “reduces density (population/building?) by half, doubles average distance between locations”.

    B: As people spread outward, “Atlanta became more like a suburb”. People now live in “isolated” suburbs accessed only by a “wasteland of asphalt.” These same people flock back to the city to work everyday in their cars that create congestion and pollution…

    I’m not terribly familiar with Atlanta as I am say, Toronto, Canada or Milano, Italy both of which suffer from their own congestion problems. However, I’d suppose that a good number of those parking lots you outlined continue to exist as a consequence of a contracting economy. If business were thriving in Atlanta, then those lots would be sold to highest bidder and built upon in no time. But they’re not so they remain vacant. You could build a park or a playground I suppose or just paint some lines on it and run a parking lot. It’s the easiest solution and it generates money. Those lots are less a ‘solution’ to overwhelming car congestion than they are an opportunity to monetize empty space. Now, I’m not sure if by “density reduction” you meant people or buildings. In any case, building upon those lots does nothing to improve walkability or reduce distances between two locations.

    Regarding suburban Atlanta: people didn’t move out to the ‘burbs because of cars. The automobile certainly made living remotely much easier – I’m using ‘remotely’ relatively because one can argue the megalopolises created by ever-expanding cities feel anything but isolated – but it wasn’t the driving factor. Again, I have to point to economic factors like renting vs buying, property taxes and fixed costs over the amount of space available and to social factors like living conditions and crime, which all boil down to the balance between quality of life and standard of living in the end. So these “million 40 hour-a-week temporary citizens” who can actually afford living in the suburbs have no other choice but to commute for a living and sometimes by no other means than the automobile.

    Now I don’t know whether you live in a city and by that I mean, live within the core “downtown/centre” of a city where cars are “killing” your quality of life, subjecting you to noise/air pollution coming from traffic a few meters away from the patio where you’re sipping a coffee, reading the paper. Or, you’re a commuter yourself and sick of the congestion and travel time needed to get to and from work. Either way, the automobile itself is not responsible for “killing” a city. Poor planning at the municipal level decades ago and increased population is where the problem lies.

    • dedwards8 January 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

      Thanks for this response. I appreciate the thought you have put into this.

      I will respond a few of your points. If the car lots were not present, maybe something else would pop up there, maybe they would stay as vacant lots. It is hard to say. However, if some shops, residences, businesses, grocery stores etc. appeared there, it would certainly increase walkability by creating more destinations in an already walkable area. People complain about having to walk 3 miles to get to the nearest dry cleaner. Well if there more more people living/working in a given area, then more dry cleaners could be supported by the economy which would likely lead to closer dry cleaners than the one three miles away. (Did that make sense?)

      I totally understand why people live in the suburbs. You get more house for the $$$. However, I would be willing to bet that a lot of those people living in the suburbs would rather live in the city (or at least closer to the city) if it was more affordable. Property rates are all about supply and demand. Property rates are high in city the because there is more demand than supply. It seems to me that if these lots were replaced with residences, then there would be more affordable in-town housing. I will have to see if I can get my friend at RantingOnRealestate ( to give a more educated answer to this.

      Ultimately, you are absolutely correct. It was not the car that changed the cities, it was the poor planning and increased emphasis on accommodating the car that is to blame.

  149. Riazi Snaps January 27, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Good point about how so much parking space increases the distance between locations, which essentially further encourages people to drive rather than walk. I personally find cars to be such a hassle to have, but if you live in the suburbs, it’s impractical to be without a car given how underdeveloped their public transportation system tends to be.

  150. mindshapedbox January 27, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    For some reason this reminded me of the super-train idea from the movie Singles (1992) 🙂 Remember it?
    Anyway I’m all for the new urbanist design and kudos to you for the blog idea and the enthusiasm 😉

    • dedwards8 January 27, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

      Yes! Good movie, a lot of great music in that move. Too bad the Super-Trains was a total flop.

      Did the good guy get Kyra Sedgwick in the end? I don’t remember.

      • mindshapedbox January 28, 2012 at 7:14 am #

        Hehe I don’t remember either, should watch again.
        But I do remember her reply when he presented the idea to her (and she, too, was eco-concsious, being marine biologist of some sort). She said “But I love my car.”
        And then later when he presented the idea to the mayor of Seattle he also said “people love their cars”. And that’s the attitude you’ll have to face and come up with something people will love more than their cars 😉

  151. Ali January 27, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    We’re in the same situation as Imperio….I would love to got down to one car, or even none. The reality is I have two children to get to school a job to go to, a college to attend and my husband has a 50 mile commute. If he were to use public transport his commute time would balloon from 45 mins to 2.5 hours. There is a single bus that leaves from our house at either 7:30 or 8:30 and returns at 3:30 or 4:30 and it only goes downtown. No where near college, school or work.

    My other thought is, horses and buggies took up a lot of space as well. There were just fewer of them. Same streets though, and just as polluting. There is no easy answer, and the answer is not one size fits all. I don’t envy city planners at all. Thanks for getting me thinking again.

  152. whorefinder January 27, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    People like their cars and the autonomy they provide. They like walking around a small, dense area, but they also prefer to have control of the transit themselves if need be. Remember that while 8 million people live in NYC, a lot more could never imagine enjoying living there and depending on subways, buses, and trains for their transport.

    That’s a huge stumbling block.

    • dedwards8 January 27, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

      This is the ultimate goal. Providing the autonomy of the car without the negative consequences of the car. Arguing between trains and cars is such a 20th century argument. We need to come up with new ideas.

  153. Different Perceptions January 27, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    When you come to think about it, it totally makes sense.. A shift to the inevitable electric cars with much efficient utilization of space has become a must !

  154. deathgleaner January 27, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Reblogged this on Thought Box.

  155. TheSecretSarah January 27, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    Nice! I love the concept. Not being to overly green, but sensible!

  156. thelyniezian January 27, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

    I like the sound of this article, and probably echoes what I’ve thought for a while now. For one thing if you go to some older towns and cities in Britain (probably true for the rest of Europe) the streets are very narrow and not at all suitable for cars. This was particularly seen when I went to university in Durham- it was virtually impossible to be a cyclist and share the road in some particularly narrow stretches (though buses and trucks were worse!) and parking in the areas near the city centre was very limited- to about 2 cars per household max., and the unversity actively discouraged students from having cars. Walking was pretty much the only way to travel- a mile from my college to where I had lectures and having to negotiate sometimes quite steep hills. Pretty much the same where I live now (not telling you where!) except out here on the edge of town (what we call ‘the suburbs’- really our neighbourhood is the outgrowth of a ‘swallowed-up’ village though!)

    It makes me despair to think what things are like in part of the States- much more spread out, zoning laws which prevent the sort of neighbourhood convenience store we have round here (one row of shops literally a minute’s walk down our road!) and even some neighbourhoods with no sidewalks! I think I’d not like it if I was forced to drive anywhere or get lifts (I haven’t passed my test yet even after all these years!) rather than walk or take the bus. Buses are still pretty inconvenient at times, but I have few issues with riding on them. You actually realise other people exist then!

  157. Anne Gray January 27, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    Keep in mind any solution still needs to serve families with kids. With my toddler in our jetta with her car seat and her stroller in the car also, a trip to the grocery store will frequently fill at least half our available cargo space. Of course, it’s a small car. But it doesn’t take six kids to need substantial hauling space.

    • dedwards8 January 27, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

      Sounds like a perfect use for a car. Cars will likely be apart of any transportation system. There certainly is a place for cars, just not every place.

  158. Eric January 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    It’s interesting that you chose Atlanta as your subject city. I’ve traveled all over the US and Atlanta is likely the most sprawling city in the US, in terms of having a very small walkable urban core and disconnected car-based subdivisions stretching for dozens of miles, starting surprisingly close to the urban core. Seems like it started booming long after the automobile became the primary means of transportation. Based on its current layout, it’d be one of the hardest cities to develop an effective mass transportation system for.

    I’m also curious what you’d think of Pittsburgh’s current transportation crisis. Pittsburgh is my favorite city due to its very old houses, density/compactness, narrow and confusing streets, and steep topography. It’s an extremely walkable city. However, their transit agency is suffering from high legacy costs due to bad management in years past, and, from what I hear, it appears that they’re cutting their routes and service frequency to less than half of what it was several years ago (which already was perhaps average for an American city, which means not much). Due to the nature of the topography, and the age of the city, the freeways and local streets can handle far less capacity per capita than the average American city. People who used to take the bus are undoubtedly needing to buy cars as their neighborhood’s bus service is reduced or eliminated. This will probably lead to horrible traffic jams on local roads and freeways, far worse than anything most comparably-sized cities have ever seen. I hope they can quickly redevelop their mass transportation system to correct the problem.

    • dedwards8 January 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

      I didn’t exactly choose Atlanta. It chose me, as I have lived there for the last 10 years. I will have to check into Pittsburgh’s situation. I am not familiar with what is happening there, but it sounds like Pittsburgh is going through a lot of the same issues that many other transit systems are wrestling with. Many agencies are making ‘temporary’ cut backs in service to save money in the short term. However I believe the long-term negative consequences of these cut backs will far outweigh any temporary improvement to the bottom line. Maybe traditional transit doesn’t work anymore. Maybe the system is rigged in favor of cars (it definitively is). As a technology enthusiast, I am optimistic that we can invent our way out of some of these problems.

  159. batmanwell January 27, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    Reblogged this on BATMANWELL and commented:
    Great blog, I totally agree with your findings

  160. Deskeptor January 27, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    Well done!

    I have been through that section of Atlanta near Georgia Tech, and near midtown and even been to the Jocks n Jills which was there in the old days. Not only do the cars take up an enormous amount of space, but it takes a good 10 minutes of sitting with the engine idling just to get through there. This replicates all over the planet, and is a source of significant cost and resource waste.

    Of course from my perspective, this in part stems from a lack of leadership in Science, and the desire on the part of those who rule over academic science channels to promote only single mold followers.

    Today’s skeptic is busy out there plugging his ears, covering his eyes and yelling “There’s no such things as ghosts!!!” – when we need them to instead be doing exactly what you just did here – skeptically challenging the status quo, with data which has rarely been seen before. Denied data which shows us just how destructive the current normative is.

    Love it!!!

  161. eleighsplace January 27, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    Reblogged this on Something With Amazing In It.

  162. Andrew McKaysmith January 27, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    Reblogged this on andrewjmck and commented:
    Here, here .

  163. tufsmatt January 27, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Check out Tokyo’s mass transit.
    It is safe, clean, convenient and claims to have the only profitable city train system in the world. In the center, stations are walkable from anywhere (one apartment I lived in was within 10 minutes of 3 different lines/stations). The least convenient place I lived (way out in the northern suburbs) was still only a 10 minute bus ride to a train line that took me into Tokyo w/in 35 minutes). A big negative point is that the trains can be stress-inducingly crowded – but still better than the time and money a car ride would cost.
    I hope I never have to live in a car-reliant city again.

  164. Chuck Bryan (@digital_duck) January 27, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    Cars killing our cities? Cars did not kill Detroit, that required a perfect storm of civic problems, politicians, and a collapsing industrial sector. But go ahead, blame “cars” for everything that’s wrong with cities without having to really think about the the social problems inherent in greater density and a failing economy

  165. Chef Ivan January 27, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    Manila is pretty much the same. The dedicated parking areas indeed have increased walking distance from point A to point B. The traffic congestion has increased travelling time to as much as 2 hours. Motorcycles are more practical. In Zurich the transportation system is so efficient there is hardly any need for cars when you live in the city.

  166. Matt January 27, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    Reblogged this on Matt on Not-WordPress.

  167. tgrey468 January 27, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    I drive for an transit system in a city of 1,000,000 and must say I agree wholeheartedly with your article. We are also a city of conscious consumption so we get a lot of oil & gas industry staff and spouses driving Hummers, Suburbans and 4x4s to get groceries or the dry cleaning. A fellow transit driver was saying just yesterday that they should ban driving in the core and redesign access to be transit only. We’ve just spent $300 million+ on two new branches of our Rail System and $25 million on a pedestrian bridge. Part of the problem is that our city is VERY spread out AND has one of the best gas prices in Canada, so people would rather pay extra for the right to drive their vehicle in rush hour than take two buses a train and a bus to get to work. Can’t say I blame them, though.

    The changes need to come from the top. Not the politicians, but the money-makers (the 1%?) who fuel (pun intended) the changes in any city.

    But that’s all just my opinion as a transit user and bus driver. Not to be misconstrued as the opinions of my employer. 🙂

    Thanks for fighting the good fight.


  168. olivia January 28, 2012 at 12:57 am #

    I love Mountain View! It’s a surprisingly bike-friendly city (if you can call MV a ‘city,’ that is…), but I found it kind of hard to just walk around, as it is kind of spread out. What do you think of MV? SF is a totally different story though – terrible traffic, but I found that once there, one can bike/walk around fairly easily. I spent two summers in MV, as a NASA intern, and I biked all around town, reveling in the lack of hills and spacious bike lanes – I come from Seattle, so I love decent bike lanes!

  169. themolesworthdiarist January 28, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    Great topic. With peak oil already having been reached according to some, it’s time we as a global community re-vision transport for the future. Fantastic to see a sustainability blog featured on FP, and it looks like a lot of ppl are interested in discussing these issues.

  170. Mostak Mohammad January 28, 2012 at 1:39 am #

    clear massage portrayed in one picture…… excellent, excellent

  171. tercüme January 28, 2012 at 2:58 am #

    People who used to take the bus are undoubtedly needing to buy cars as their neighborhood’s bus service is reduced or eliminated.

  172. henk50Henk Algra January 28, 2012 at 3:44 am #

    What impresses me also is the tolerance and relief of many people when there is no car-traffic in the town. I have seen that when I was young and I lived in Amsterdam. There were days without cars and everyone seemed to be happy. The noise, the pollution and the behavior of a part of the car-drivers make people more nervous.
    Now I see it still in towns where there is not much car-traffic: everone seems to be more relaxed.

  173. Travelling Writer January 28, 2012 at 4:22 am #

    definitely true. car congestion is a typical everyday problem here in the philippines.. sad reality but true… :c

  174. Law Li Ming January 28, 2012 at 5:26 am #

    That was enlightening. Is this the case with car parking areas around the world though? That map: shows how the human race are still having problem with coping with development.

  175. lgyslaine January 28, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    Hi, I found your article very interesting and the problems are the same as those experienced here in France. A city like Nantes, has multiplied some tips to limit the influx of cars downtown.
    Extension of tram lines. Parking outside the city and paid for, giving free access to the tram and bus, for a period of 1 hour. A system as, bike rental, with different points of deposition over the entire city and its periphery. And to the villages too far from the city, parking areas were created to encourage car pooling. A new line train / tram is being built to strengthen the existing systems. For now, all these systems work well and are thriving. Nantes is a city growing and highly prized for its comfort life. What can be seen in recent years is that population growth had no effect on the growth of vehicles in the city center, thanks to the systems in place

  176. The Hook January 28, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    Who wouldn’t want to live in Mayberry?

  177. MollysVote January 28, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    Excellent post. I am still amazed that people still drive to pick up their laundry! In Europe this is long gone…talk of reducing one’s carbon foot print is keeping all this unnecessary driving at bay. Get on your bikes! And buses people…

  178. ReflectionSeed January 28, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Excellent post and more the diversity of answers. The impact of combustion engine vehicles is far larger than anyone suspects and covers every single human aspect: health, environment, personal risks, insurance providers greed, emotional impact, tax monies, space, sense of being, time management, energy consumption, etc, the list would be endless. Traffic jams and crisis happen almost everywhere in the world: India, Mexico, Brazil, France, US, Russia, China, etc, another endless list, Government regulation? The only possibility to address this world issue is human consciousness and action. Perhaps what governments can do to help it a tiny bit is: an effective, reliable, affordable, environmentally correct, public transportation grid. But in order to get there, most cities will require to halt traffic so the grid gets build. Personal vehicles can be driven through by pass roads to central hubs. Possible? A few countries already have been addressing this issue. Some built streets exclusively designed for mass transportation. Therefore, cheap mass transportation is the fastest way to get to most places. The best persuasive way to get the user packed with thousands of other people everyday. As well, the creation of a system that provides services to specific employment areas/destinations. But users take their transportation as a reflection of their lifestyle and personality and both come across so clearly when we see everywhere, such as in the US 6 or 7 passenger vehicles traveling empty to any destination. As well, it is impossible to ignore that fact that most drivers are really lousy and increase many folds what already and naturally is a world problem.

  179. elysiafields January 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Great article. I love it when people examine a problem then provide a viable solution. My contribution isn’t so scaled – I’m going to turn my own house into an eco home, but I think it’s a great start – my eco home and your examination of the serious problem of resource hogging cars.

  180. mplsthrumywindshield January 28, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    Great post. Minneapolis is in a constant battle over policy issues like these. If only we could get the suburbanites to understand the value of public transportation. In time, I suppose.

  181. Pamela Haley Design January 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    Reblogged this on Pamela Haley Design and commented:
    The point of the city was to make daily things convenient. It’s not convenient when you spend half your day staring at the rump of another vehicle and another quarter of it looking for a place to seat your vehicle.

  182. indiajones January 28, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    You have knocked on a global problem, and that’s not excluding the oil surplus countries of the world.
    Coming as I do from India, where now half the population can afford cars, there wouldn’t be enough roads in the entire world to accommodate those cars.
    It’s for the US of A to lead the way in alternative lifestyles, meaning the big sacrifice, cars, and be the change that you want to see in the world around you, as Gandhi said.

  183. DewNestry January 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    I just agree with you so much… Somewhere along the development of transportation, something got terribly wrong. There should have been a much better public transportation system instead of private cars.

  184. refillyourprinter January 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    Really a problem for us. In my country was done a study and found that 80% of the cars have one passenger, that is of course the driver. It creates problems especially in the morning when everyone takes their children to school. I know best, because I live in an area where there are 3 high schools, one middle school and two kindergartens on the same street 30-50 m away from each other. I prefer to go on a walk to work and use the car only when I go shopping and go out of town. Congratulations for the article. Great topic

  185. jaya January 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    great idea!

  186. George Jadavich January 28, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    Text Free Personal Jet Packs seem to be the answer I think

  187. kellyflynn January 28, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    Reblogged this on Kellyflynn's Blog.

  188. industriousrandomness January 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    OK I get the whole better use of cars thing but what happens to the automobile industry? They tried making smarter cars and have mostly failed so far. Look at what has happened to electric car companies that the government even supported? The economy cannot support a major technology shift in an industry that big so I do not see many changes happening very quickly. Over time there have been some minor changes in fuel efficiency and such, but the economy needs to recover before it can start phasing out the number of cars for alternative modes of transportation.

  189. Kathleen Hoffman, PhD January 28, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    Just wanted to let you know that I agree with your statement that cars use up too much land and are wasteful..Unfortunately the South is not the best place for mass transit (reference to Mayberry). Additionally, although there are sidewalks in my part of my town, this is *the* big selling feature for our neighborhood (and one of the oldest neighborhoods in town)…just not that many neighborhoods with sidewalks. Looking forward to more of your blog.

  190. AGIAD(A Guy in a Dress) January 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    The infrastructure here in Toronto is terrible.

    I went to NYC a few months ago. This city has over/about four times the population of Toronto, but has a much better transportation infrastructure. The fact that the traffic moves much more fluid than Toronto shows how the planners did not think ahead.

    On top of that, we have a mayor that’s anti-bike, so good luck with that.

    Our public transportation is terrible, especially when compared to NYC. Not efficient or quick. The subway system doesn’t go as far as the NYC or the London (which I used) system.

    So there isn’t an incentive to ditch the car. Although, we have a bike rental system (BIXI Bikes) that has been set up, which I think is a step forward. Stations are placed around Toronto and people swipe their credit card and go.

    A new neighbourhood is being built and it seems they’re trying to have services placed in walking distance, so hopefully there will be more thought being placed into the development of this city.

  191. Rodolfo Antonino January 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    Try Manila Philippines too in traffic it takes 1 hour to get to a 5 mile destination

  192. valentinedee January 28, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

    I always said that cars simply do not belong in the city. I’ve been to cities across the world and they’re all the same; simply nuts.


    • gerard oosterman January 29, 2012 at 12:32 am #

      The car is so passe. In many European countries they are wise enough to keep on rewarding those that travel either by foot, bicycle or public transport and make driving more and more expensive.. However, here in Australia as in the US, the economy is so linked to the car that not many politicians are willing to tackle the outrageous cost of cities being dominated by the metal box on four wheels.
      Those isolated Australian and US style suburbs, miles from anywhere. The only relief is to drive and visit the shopping mall, end up in the food courts, chewing their cuds and end up mortally obese.

  193. Bill Briggs January 28, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

    Some interesting facts pointed out. Cars are bigger then people. Cars are bigger then bicycles, scooters, and other things.

  194. israelkwalker January 28, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    I think its a bit simplistic to say “cars kill cities” I know I am splitting a fine hair here, but I think the subject of that sentence is wrong. People kill cities. Sometimes they use cars. Sometimes they use interstates. Sometimes they use zoning. Sometimes they use school districts. But cars are just one tool in the ruiner/developer’s tool box.

    Let it be said, I don’t think developers are generally ruining things on purpose. They really do believe all the crap they spout about growth and sustainable shopping malls. It’s just that they put a premium on short term gain for the few, rather than long term gain for the many. That mindset, and not any physical projection of it is what ruins cities. Rome was a wonderful city long before cars, and Paris was filthy, rotting tangle of alleyways long before cars. One had sufficient democracy. One did not.

    Cars don’t kill cities. Small groups of influential, wealthy people who are not held accountable to powerful, local democracy kill cities.

  195. eeryweerywoe January 29, 2012 at 2:10 am #

    I agree that cars should be banned in cities, however governments all over the world should look at the prices for public transport. It is often cheaper to take the car to the city and pay for parking and fuel. 90% of people are always going to go for the cheaper option. I’m speaking from experience living in the Netherlands where the public transport system is excellent but too expensive to be considered by the ”normal” working family.

  196. pastorblastor January 29, 2012 at 2:33 am #

    They recently did a cost effect study here locally on mass transit and it was revealed that it costs them $29 per rider while they only charge $1.50! Who makes up the difference? We all do! So, like buying “green” energy or electric cars, we all end up paying to subsidize it, paying to power it, and paying for others to use it. While I believe there are too many cars commuting into cities, until you can make mass transit pay for itself, it will always be safer, cheaper, and a more sanitary choice for one to drive themselves. Just my own thoughts…

  197. Sarah Harris January 29, 2012 at 2:54 am #

    Please come resolve the traffic problems of LA!

  198. oldswimmer January 29, 2012 at 3:20 am #

    I like your vision. One of the things traveling to other cities (countries) does is to educate a person born in ,( say Philadelphia, as I was,) in the pleasures of enjoying a city with effective transit choices (say New York, or London) where ‘EVERYONE’ uses the tube or the metro or the bus to get around.
    We are so connected here to our “cocoons” we think we cannot fly out unencumbered and travel light, pay less, walk a bit in our city streets and parks, and shop on the way home for fresh grocery items. It’s really nice.

  199. mydestiny2011 January 29, 2012 at 4:27 am #

    Reblogged this on MyDestiny2011 and commented:
    Would like to share this. I have to agree with you. While our government are trying to make people to take public transport, people still can’t fully depend on it, so they drive. The situation gets worse every each day .

    Thank you

  200. ramirbenito January 29, 2012 at 4:59 am #

    Affordable mass transport can minimize the use of cars. Green (or hybrid) cars like solar powered is another idea to help. Traffic management and better roads can minimize mileage hours of cars.

  201. C Ward January 29, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    Reblogged this on JJASON What's in Season.

  202. fey's diary January 29, 2012 at 8:20 am #

    Wow, your post really make sense. I like it when you said of bicycle, I love that!

  203. tommywahyuutomo January 29, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    it is more worrying in Jakarta, the number of cars nearly one quarter of the total population (that’s not including motorcycles). While this city alone has about 8 million inhabitants.

  204. satyam January 29, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    some countries fed up of cars vehicles and some countries car is highest degree for a status.

  205. Brandon Arkell January 29, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    Yes! I totally agree with this article. It says exactly what I think. It is as though I’ve been channelling you all this time! I’m in Seattle, which is relatively compact and walkable (by American standards), and there are almost no parking lots in the densest neighbourhood (which is downtown), so seeing that satellite photo of Atlanta kind of was a paradigm shift for me. Wow! It looks like our suburb of Bellevue.

  206. Chi Techie January 29, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    In these days of $4 a gallon gas, I doubt that there are many people using a car just to pick up dry cleaning. And carless cities are not a practical solution for disabled people. While Chicago has paratransit services, they only operate 6 AM – 6 PM.

    Chicago sold off their parking meters to a company which has been raising the rates annually, to the point where it’s cheaper to commute using public transportation, or to park in a public garage. The result is fewer cars parked on the street.

    Have to agree with you on the parking garages, but not for the same reason. Total waste of gas trying to find a parking space! One garage I recently used (for the first and last time) did not have public parking for the first 11 floors.

  207. Andreas Moser January 29, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    I absolutely agree with you.
    I used to be the lawyer for a city council and it was terrible to see how much time we had to spend to accommodate pieces of metal instead of people. So much space lost, and usually used in a very ugly way.

    Giving up on cars is not only good for your city, your environment, but even for yourself:

  208. photographyfreestyle January 29, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    kill cities and kill people with all the smoke

    where i live the heavy traffic in at 5:00 am and then 7:00 pm at that hours your literally YOU PARK IN THE STREET…

    if you have car same problem, if you take the bus same problem… the only one who move in that traffic are motorcicles, bicicles and walkers.

  209. Chaks January 29, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    great explanation with detailed map. very good post.


  210. Randel January 29, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    Here is a suggestion.

    First, Americans love cars. They make sense for intercity traffic. Building them creates lots of high wage jobs. And, the federal gas excise tax more than collects enough money to keep up the interstates and the US highways. Money is actually taken for bike trails and mass transit.

    The problem is for county and city roads where the externalities are not fully recovered. Perhaps, one way to do that is during commute hours only allow cars no bigger than say a Honda Fit into the city. Commercial traffic would be banned between say 7-9am and 4-6pm. This would allow people to use much smaller cars, bikes, motorcycles without the fear some truck or SUV will maim you. Downsize the vehicle size for the commute period in cities of say 300,000 people or more.

    About fifteen years ago the Milwaukee mayor loathed putting in interstates to downtown areas in his book. The highway system combined with school busing and racism in a country where you can choose where to live, also contributed to the demise of the Great Cities. Free trade took away the high wage manufacturing jobs in the inner cities too. Makes you wonder if bulldozing all the empty factories and ware houses in blighted city areas would also be a good idea, creating new green space and future development zones. Twenty years from now there will be more empty space in big cities actually than in suburbs or exurbs, and there are plenty of people who need the work living in the city.

    America can be competitive with the rest of the world, free trade and all, with a new think about transportation. Lastly, perhaps abolish the income tax and raise the revenues from energy taxes to fix some foreign policy issues we have going on.

  211. johnzeus January 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    Reblogged this on johnzeus and commented:
    What is progressive transit?

  212. johnzeus January 29, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Great blog, love the post, thank you!

  213. Tincup January 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    Great pictures and arguments. But, don’t you know there is big money against common sense — car insurance, oil, car manufacturers, car part manufacturers, mechanics, gas stations, parking lots, parking tickets, speeding tickets,tabs for plates, tolls…hell your common sense idea would cost jobs…LOL

  214. the777man January 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    When I lived in San Francisco, CA, I walked everywhere, and I love it. I also used to take the stairs instead of the elevator, but now days they don’t let you into the stairs except for emergencies. I was very very fit then. I also rode the muni and loved doing that. Now I live back out in the sticks, way beyond the suburbs. I work from home and have done so most of my adult life. I enjoy that! I use my car to go to town to get groceries, and the likes. There isn’t public transportation available from the ranch to town.

    If more people worked and lived in the same place ie their home, as technology is already available then there would be less cars. People could live where they wanted to live, and life would be good. Obviously there are some jobs that require one to be at the factory, but those jobs are lessening as computers are coming more and more prominent.

    My problem with mass transit and the car sharing ideas is the cost of it to build in today’s economics. Who is going to pay for it? It needs to be paid for by private companies and ran for a profit. Here in California we have an almost bankrupt state, that is wanting to spend 100’s of billions of dollars on a High Speed Rail from SF to LA. We are firing teachers. We have huge financial problems and we are going to spend 100’s of billions on a high speed rail to LA. I don’t understand this! If I want to get to LA quickly I will get on a plane. Besides I ask you who is this Magical “They” that is going to pay for all this?

    Just some food for thought! How will the alternative be paid for?

    Peace and Blessings

    • Tincup January 29, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

      You would have to take the huge leap and think beyond a moneyless society to achieve common sense. Everything, both man made and not man made, was not created with money. All things are created by energy employed.

  215. kramykram January 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    Cars really takes up a lot of space.

    • gerard oosterman January 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

      The best way to tackle the car and its imposition on peoples lives is too push the disadvantages of the metal box on rotating wheels back onto itself. Make the driving of the car expensive, do away with its exorbitant over the top part of the economy.
      In The Netherlands and during the oil crisis of 1974/75 the driving of cars was limited to being allowed to drive only every second day with a system of even and uneven registration numbers, and Sundays were car free. It worked like a dream and had amazing little impact on peoples lives. In fact, it became the catalyst in pushing the car back to a much more modest and acceptable level.
      In Amsterdam they are slowly taking parking spaces for cars away and replacing those with trees. If you want to live in Amsterdam you can’t have a car except by leaving the car well away from where you live.
      Of course, with this punishing regime on the metal box, the government has been spending big on public transport. A win win for The Netherlands.
      Here in Australia as I suspect is the case in the US, a low taxation pared with the manically adherance to the mantra of ‘ letting The Market’ decide everything, it becomes a jungle and people just get obese from spending entire lives sitting in a metal box rolling around aimlessly…
      We make choices, don’t we?

  216. vickychachi January 29, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    To buy a car or not to buy a car, that is the question… I´ve lived without a car for 2 years… Would I feel guilty if I buy one now???

  217. Greg Mews January 29, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    excellent post.. I use this compelling image quite often myself, combine it with outside dining and activities it creates a good argument for better value for money, especially with retailers that are reluctant to give up their car park spot in front of the shop.

  218. Joe Labriola January 29, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    Wow, some great observations and perspectives here! Unfortunately, most have trouble accepting such ideas! Thanks!

  219. Craig Daitch January 29, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    Interesting post and one that we all think about. I work for Ford and if you have not seen our Chairman, Bill Ford’s TED speech on the challenge of global gridlock, I recommend you take a look. It’s brutally honest and I think you’ll appreciate that the two of you share a similar concern:

    • dedwards8 January 30, 2012 at 12:42 am #

      Thank you for posting this. It is nice to see someone smarter and more well-connected than myself sharing these same concerns. Especially, someone named Ford.

      Something we should not forget in our ranting about traffic and pollution, is how much freedom the automobile has given us. 100 years ago, people could barely travel outside of their own towns, now we don’t think anything about hopping into a car and travel 500 miles in a day. This is a freedom that we need to keep.

      It is also nice to see a car lover discussing alternatives to the car. Something I say to all car-enthusiasts is, cars are meant to be enjoyed not stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. If we have alternatives to the car, maybe the streets will open back up for some actual recreational driving and driving will not be the laborious chore that it is today.

      I also really appreciate Bill Ford going beyond the environmental debate, because even clean electric cars are still too big for city-use. He says we need options, and he’s exactly right. Cars are good for some things. Bikes, trucks, trains, and our own two feet are good from some things too.

      Mostly I like his optimism. Like me, he believes that technology holds the key to solving our congestion/livability problems without giving up the freedom that we have come to expect and enjoy.

  220. The January 30, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    What about low powered motorbikes ? The fuel efficiency of motorbikes can be pretty high compared to cars and seem like a decent compromise between cars (overpowered, inefficient and bulky) and bicycles (manually powered, not very quick).

  221. meirikalim January 30, 2012 at 2:21 am #

    I would like to suggest you looking at Jakarta, Indonesia here. But looks like somebody else already mentioned it.

    Here, most of people lives in the (what we called) “satelite” cities, as Jakarta itself is quite densed already. Most of people have to travel around 20-30 KM on single trip to office every day (multiple it twice if you count the trip home).

    We would love to use public transport, if it is easy to be reached, safe (there are lot of crime happened recently in the public transport), and well-organized.

  222. rohitmaiya January 30, 2012 at 5:40 am #

    Greetings from India,

    Although India accounts for less than 1% of the cars sold around the world, the major cities in India faces traffic problem on a daily basis. Mass transport is still very popular and you will see the buses and local trains full almost every day.

    The problem with US is the lack of public transport. This is a very well planned and doctored by the automobile industry in the US. To give you an idea, the state of California uses more fuel to run the cars than any other country!!! Now can you beat that. Imagine how much the country of US is spending??

  223. tegantallullah January 30, 2012 at 6:10 am #

    A clear and concise post. I agree with you about the misuse of vehicles… Cities should be designed for PEOPLE. In Portugal it is commonplace for towns to be pedestrianised, and they manage absolutely fine and have pretty coloured tiles all over their streets creating murals.

  224. gaycarboys January 30, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    I write about cars, I drive cars and i love cars, but we simply can’t go on the way we are. Funily enough when I go to collect a car from the manufacturer as I do once a week, I usually go by public transport. But then I don’t use the roads or public transport during peak hour. Perhaps that’s why I don’t mind it. all big cities need to double the public transport and halve what it costs to use it. City residents should travel for free outside peak hour times.

  225. drkrmreddy January 30, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    Rightly said. In India along with the human population, the cars are also increasing on the roads……

  226. justin mercer January 30, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    i agree with numerous people on this topic the vehicles and the emisions andf destroying our earth and our towns the advancment in vehicles should help our towns alot more with the use of electric and solar vehicles

  227. caleber96 January 30, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    Great post! Why we don’t have better public transportation in the cities is beyond me. At least set up a park&ride!

  228. Chas January 30, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    This was brilliantly written, so even a child could understand.

  229. Nationwide January 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Wow this was a complete eye opener. I can’t believe your first picture with the 60 people. We live in the city with a car and spend most our time in traffic anyway. Great post, I look forward to more.

  230. SQLGator January 30, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    They need to make more Ford Excursions!

  231. Fotografia de bebes January 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    Wow, what an amazing tangilble photograph showing how much space cars take and that this is solved by alternate transport methods that are safer, funnier and eco friendly. Thank you for your research. i live in Mexico and in my city (guadalajara) there’s nearly 1,5 million cars, we are getting crazy for the car rising each month. This should stop.

    Have a nice day!

    • gerard oosterman January 30, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

      Quote:Although I do see the appeal in loading a family of 6 into an SUV and traveling to Florida for vacation. That is a totally reasonable use of an automobile. Unquote
      Are you sure that this is reasonable? Surely that journey to Florida would be much more enjoyable and environmentally responsible if taken by train. Who can forget train journeys such as the ‘Continental express’ or the ‘Orient express’?
      In trains you meet other like-wise people. In cars one is isolated, a world fraught with bored kids, fiddling with Ipads or vid player. Are we there yet, etc?
      I don’t know the logistics of train travel between where you live and Florida. I suspect, train travel in the US might be very limited, hence the addiction to the metal box. It’s the same in Australia where train travel, amazingly, is slower than car. In Europe even goods trains travel at 200km per hour.
      Your article is well timed. There is change in the air and we , in order to save our environment must be weaned away from car back on our feet and public transport. We will be slimmer, fitter and happier.

  232. Chris January 30, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    Welcome to the Bay Area! Here’s a project in your own backyard you can support: Bus Rapid Transit is proposed through Mountain View and other cities in Silicon Valley, but it’s bumping up against significant opposition along El Camino Real. To get involved visit

  233. gaycarboys January 30, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    reblogged on GAYCARBOYS

  234. devin howard January 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

    I’ve always been a fan of reducing automobile use in cities, whether by repurposing streets for pedestrian only traffic, investments in public transportation, mixed-use, high density construction, etc, but honestly, until this post I for some reason had never even considered the land use aspect as related to parking facilities. Cool post, thanks!

  235. remydooby February 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    I think that most of the people coming to your blog will agree it.
    Just one point to be ‘fair’ with the auto-lobby and for people who defend eco-side to be stronger against opinions: the experiment with 60-60-60 from Munster should be done with 25 cars making the hypothesis you can put 4 people by car… even they are not doing it anyway (but it is another debate). then noone can object that buses are not always full.. (do I become a bit crazy?!)

  236. GG February 3, 2012 at 6:22 am #

    Parking outside the CBD and slidewalks inside it.

  237. shecyclesnairobi February 13, 2012 at 5:29 am #

    Great insights! Hopping to get the Nairobi City Fathers to stop thinking cars = development.

  238. bolanja February 15, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    Reblogged this on bolanja and commented:
    I have said so all along. When I mused that there shouldn’t be any vehicle in London at all, apart from emergency vehicles and public buses, I was told I was crazzy. So, I am glad, somebody else on this planet thinks that car free cities would be a great idea.

  239. Allie February 15, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    I recently moved back to the US after living in Mexico City for over a year. The smog there is terrible (partly due to being in a valley surrounded by mountains, partly because it’s a city of 20 million people.) They have a system where each car is given a sticker and is not allowed to be used one day a week. Many people use public transit to get to work or go do ‘big shopping’. Almost every neighborhood there has everything within walking distance. Now that I’m back in the states, my driving has increased since there is no easy to use public transportation. I have always believed in limiting my driving, preferring to plan my route to or from work according to my errands.

  240. jonesspielberg April 11, 2012 at 5:21 am #

    Very interesting article, May be this will possibly inspire laws on car use. Hope the Government take serious decision about this.

  241. hvac jobs houston tx June 30, 2012 at 1:48 am #

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  243. medium haircuts July 31, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

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  244. Antonio Lopes January 7, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Here in São Paulo is no different, we are being invaded by so many cars, and public transportation is a catastrophe


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