How to Un-Do Auto Dependence

After decades of auto-dependence, the French city of Strasbourg turned its back to the car and built a citywide tram system and street grid that reclaims roads from auto-dominance.
December 9, 2009, 7am PST | Nate Berg
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"Just like most American cities, the car's midcentury domination had largely forced public transportation out of Strasbourg. The once-extensive tram lines fell into disrepair, and the last one was taken out of service in 1960. But by 1989 traffic and parking had become major headaches for residents and for businesses in the dense warren of downtown streets. Rather than see retail flee to suburban malls, as it did in America, the city decided to take action.

This being France, where the entire political spectrum is to America's left, the conservatives running for city council in 1989 actually favored building a subway. But the socialists, led by Catherine Trautmann and Roland Ries, wanted to build a new tram. Conservatives and local business owners objected, arguing that a tram would take precious lanes away from cars. But that was exactly the point: to transform streets from hectic, unpleasant gasoline alleys into vibrant, multi-use communal spaces."

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Published on Friday, December 4, 2009 in Next American City
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