The End of Auto-Dependence

Enough European cities have shown it can be done. It's time for U.S. cities to follow suit.

2 minute read

February 3, 2020, 6:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Car-Free Street

Martins Zemlickis / Good Free Photos

According to an article by James Nevius, cities in Europe are blazing a new trail of multi-modal planning, and it's time for the United States to get on board.

It can be easier to imagine European cities car-free because for so much of their histories—whether they are 300 or 3,000 years old—they were. Streets evolved as pedestrian thoroughfares, and cars still seem like interlopers. If you are a city with actual medieval walls, like York in the U.K.—a pioneer in pedestrianizing its old city—those walls can offer easy templates for vehicular “no-go” zones. This is true in large cities, too, such as London and Madrid. It’s no coincidence that the Madrid Central plan, which keeps older vehicles out of the center of Spain’s largest metropolis, covers the 1.8 square miles once surrounded by the ancient city walls or that London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone is rolling out in the densest and oldest part of that city.

Nevius argues that cities in the United States are capable of the same kinds of changes—because most cities in the United States are older than the automobile.

Nevius also lists the kinds of steps U.S. cities could take, "relatively quickly and inexpensively," to effect auto-independence:

  • Make streets multimodal
  • Implement congestion pricing and/or limited traffic zones
  • Eliminate street parking
  • Boost transit options
  • Reclaim plazas and other public space for people

The article includes details on each of these policy proposals to help get U.S. cities headed in the car-free direction.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020 in Curbed

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Pumping Gas

10 States Where the Gas Tax Is Highest

As the gap between gas tax revenue and transportation funding needs widen across the country, the funding mechanism is drawing increased scrutiny from both public officials and consumers.

June 9, 2024 - The Ascent

Concrete walkway with landscaping, decorative tiles, and picnic tables in a Los Angeles County park.

Wish Granted: Former Brownfield Transformed to New Park

Wishing Tree Park in West Carson, California officially opened last month, replacing a brownfield site with a much-needed green space for recreation and respite.

June 14 - Urbanize LA

"No right turn on red" and "Turning vehicles yield to pedestrians" sign.

The Tide is Turning on Right Turns on Red

The policy, which stems from the gas embargo of the 1970s, makes intersections more dangerous for pedestrians.

June 14 - NPR

Thick green forest on edge of lake in Louisville, Kentucky.

Louisville Begins Process to Clean Superfund Site

A public forest is home to dozens of barrels that have been leaking toxic materials for decades.

June 14 - Inside Climate News

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.