Not necessarily. But i do think there needs to be an overall shift to public transportation or biking. We can’t force people to rethink their morning commute, by themselves, in their SUV; if they don’t understand the ramifications of their actions by now, we can’t make them. What they will understand though, are fines. We really need to start imposing fines on single commuters, uping the benefits of car-pooling, and installing more bike-friendly areas. A change won’t happen immediately, and the government certainly can’t get too parental or there would be an uproar, but gradual changes would cut back on the amount of cars in city centers. And yes, I think there need to be less.
In an ideal world, I think removing cars from city centers would actually be a really cool idea. If there was plenty of public transportation in place and streets were opened up for biking, skating, walking, and other forms of non-car transportation, it would really change the face of the city. If citizens were open to the idea, attitudes might even begin to change about walking and biking, and people would walk further, as has been the cultural norm historically. People would also become more active and healthier as they propelled themselves places. I know it may not be a practical idea, and is prohibitive for people who have disabilities, the very young, the very old, and others who may not be able to be as mobile as a healthy adult. If public transportation could be put in place to help abate these issues and make getting long distances between points in the city easier, I think it would actually be a pretty neat idea.
In practice, banning cars from city centers wouldn’t work in our current environment. Many people rely on their cars to commute to work, and American public transportation isn’t built to withstand a giant shift from using cars. Fewer people use cars in Europe than in America, giving Europe a better public transportation system. If we want to take steps to ban cars from city centers, we need to improve alternate transportation problems. That means expanding public transportation networks, improving security standards, and making walkways and bike paths more accessible. So, while easing our reliance on cars is a great idea, it requires a lot of time and preparation.
I do, but I doubt it is practical at the moment, given that drivers freak out over bike lanes, let alone denying them the road. I think there’d need to be big parking garages outside the city–kind of like going to the mall. I really object to the American belief that driving is a right–it is a privilege, and maybe a luxury.
I think it depends a great deal on the public transportation available and the degree to which congestion is an issue in the city (though perhaps “city center” and “congestion” are inherently linked). If there is affordable, efficient, timely and effective public transportation available, perhaps over time cars could be phased out. A good intermediary step between full banning and no action is charging a congestion tax or charge whenever a car enters the city center (much like a toll booth). London currently has such a charge, and it’s helped both to reduce traffic in the city center, and has raised 148 million pounds in 2009 alone, to be re-invested in London’s public transportation.
Perhaps banning all cars from downtown areas is unrealistic in the near future, but the city of Paris is implementing an interesting strategy to improve urban air quality. High-consumption vehicles will no longer be allowed in city centers, following a trend seen in other European cities of limiting vehicular access to downtown areas. Paris would be the first city to ban certain vehicles altogether, but as a Parisian mayoral official said, “I’m sorry, but having a sport utility vehicle in a city makes no sense.”
Perhaps this is a more practical, incremental approach the U.S. could try in order to promote greener transportation choices. The other suggestions for taxing (or imposing tolls on) vehicles seem feasible too.
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