Once upon a time, cars were a solution. You could toodle out to the country estate from town without having to harness up the horses. Of course, cars needed smooth paved roads,
processed gasoline, and filling stations less than 50 miles apart blanketing the country from coast to coast, but that only required a major investment of national wealth. We did that. Roads, bridges and tunnels – done! Neighborhoods leveled and new 8 lane throughways laid down – check!
Now, things are different. Cars are a problem, not a solution. The roads they need are ugly and noisy. The people who drive them are crazy. There are too many of them, they kill your air quality and your pedestrians. Your population can’t increase upwards if everyone needs a car.
Cities hate cars. That’s why healthy, working cities have healthy, working subways, buses, ferries, and trams. It’s time to take this notion one step further…. having great public transportation is not enough – you have to actively discourage car ownership. London started congestion pricing in 2003 to discourage cars from driving in the city center. New York makes parking expensive and difficult, with extra aggravation sure to raise your blood pressure when your car gets towed.
Look at the facts. Cities with mass transit options are healthy, working metropolises (metropoli?) that attract talented young people from all over the world and have growing economies. Cities without any way to get around except cars are smog-ridden death traps. Fast, safe, underground subway systems make cities workable. Cars do not.
Let’s review some examples.
The Good When cars are discouraged and mass transit is operational, cities thrive. Take a look at London (population 8 and a half million). London continues to be a financial hub and popular tourist destination. Now, imagine London with no underground metro – it would be a hellhole. Same for Paris – hellhole with great food.
Next up is Amsterdam. It’s a much smaller city, but you can take trams everywhere. Amsterdam is flat as a pancake , and there are huge amounts of public bikes to ride, not to mention those canals and boats. Cars are at a minimum and Amsterdam is a thriving city with some very nice smoked oyster bars. I’m sure these two facts are related.
The Bad Mexico City has one of the largest subways in the world. It works great, and moves over 3 million people on a normal day. Unfortunately, cars are not discouraged, and there are too many of them in Mexico City. A lack of smog regulation plus high elevation means you’ll be a bit light headed, but at least you can take a train before you pass out.
The Ugly In Jakarta, you’ll sit in traffic for 2 hours just to get to the corner. They do have a subway, but it’s not very useful or very finished. In the U.S., Los Angeles commuters spend 59 hours a year in traffic, according to Forbes.
The Revolutionary Evanston, Illinois was created by city planners who had the jaw-dropping idea that people should live within a ten minute walk to a rail line or bus route, and that everything you need should also be within walking distance. Miracle! People like it, and they don’t need a car.
Venice, Italy. No cars in Venice. That fact, plus the canals, make it great.
Catalina Island, California – golf carts, dude.
Central Park, New York City, on the weekends. Cars are banned. Central Park is about the same size as Monaco, so it counts, right?
What about the future of humanity? To help the hundreds of city planners and real estate developers who faithfully read this blog, I’m laying out my patented “2086 Color Adjusted Rating Scale”. The goal is to get all cities rated with the 86Cars scale before the year 2086. That’ll give us 70 years to remake the world into a pedestrian paradise.
Where does your city fit?
Car Color : Midnight Soot
Your city is rated “Midnight Soot” if it meets these standards:
- No usable public transportation. Most people can drive to work within 30 minutes (without traffic), but would take over three times longer by any other method.
- No subway or metro exists. Public transportation is by buses which are stuck in traffic like everyone else
- Neighborhoods are built that have no sidewalks
- All daily errands such as getting clothes dry cleaned or buying essentials such as 60 percent chocolate need a car
- Bikes are for children in cul-de-sacs
Air quality: Bad to dangerous
Desirability rating: woeful
Car Color : Stormy Pewter
Your city is rated “Stormy Pewter” if it meets these standards:
- Young, unmarried people can live in a more densely populated area that allows them to take public transportation between work and home. No one else does, though.
- Metro is limited, but trams or buses have dedicated lanes to make commuting less of a drag.
- Some essentials are delivered to your home
- There are several “pedestrian malls” that are entirely closed to traffic. Unfortunately, they only feature Pinkberry and singing-waiter themed restaurants.
- Bike ownership is rising, and there are some dedicated bike lanes, but these are in or near parks.
Air quality: could be better
Desirability rating: could be worse
Car Color : Almost Green
Your city is rated “Almost Green” if it meets these standards:
- Over 75% of the population does not own a car
- The subway covers 90% of the population area.
- In addition, there are buses, ferries, trans, cabs, and ride sharing
- All businesses deliver to customers, and there’s a thriving trade for services that do nothing BUT deliver (boxed.com, freshdirect.com, etc.)
- Bike sharing is available in some areas, and dedicated bike lanes exist and are used by commuters.
Air quality: non-lethal
Desirability rating: high on the hipster scale
Car Color : Blue Sky
Your city is rated “Blue Sky” if it meets these standards:
- Subway is clean, vibrant, and extensive
- Bikes are abundant
- People walk or use ferries, gondolas, canoes, pedicabs, scooters, or golf carts to get around
- Cars are banned except for service vehicles
- Everything is delivered to your door 24 hours a day
Air quality: like being in a nice forest on a spring day, but without all the pollen
Quality of life: In your dreams!