Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Car free for a better life

While wandering around the internet today, I thought about a car-free world. While the current obvious disadvantage of pollution is caused by our using internal combustion engines, in the future we will continue to have problems when it comes to congestion and other issues that make life miserable. One obvious solution is to significantly improve our mass transit systems so they are convenient to use. I've written about this before, but another idea which is done in many parts off the world is to simply make the most congested parts of the city car-free and require people to go by foot, or by mass transit (which should always be free anyways) to make life more comfortable for people. One big reason is the amount of space needed for people decreases significantly, as shown by this graphic:

Any major tourist attraction which has heavy pedestrian traffic in a major city should be served by public transit moving people around to where they need to go and there needs to be convenient parking outside of that area for people to get back to their cars. Parking outside of the area where there can be a good-sized parking garage towards the direction of where they are coming from (or just having good mass transit in the city preferably) would reduce congestion, pollution, and save time for everybody involved in the area.

Cities should make it very clear where there are large park and rides in the outskirts which are well served by mass transit getting people to downtown in order to reduce congestion. A large sign for free (or at least inexpensive) parking on all freeways leading into the city with fast transit to the city center is a very common sense solution which needs to be implemented. Just having a park and ride with slow bus service to the city center is not more convenient for people. Urban planning needs to take into account time savings as well as money.

The riverfronts/waterfronts of most cities are particularly good for closing them to all non-working vehicles given that they frequently have a lot of traffic congestion and many people trying to move around on foot. They also tend to be where downtown is located. Increasing mass transit options and prohibiting cars just makes sense.

When living in a large city with many people trying to move around, it makes no sense for people to be driving their cars. The following locations seem to make the most sense to me to make them car free given their size and level of congestion.

Bike sharing programs are popping up across the world right now. Increasing these options for people is another major step towards making cities more able to accommodate the populations they need to serve.

We could also instead of prohibiting cars just make it extremely expensive to drive in these areas, while making buses free which will still have the effect of making them more convenient for people to drive around. As an economist, I favor this option because it will mean if you absolutely have to drive in a city you still can. The toll would be set based on the amount of time you spend driving  the city. A city like Macau could make such a system work by increasing the cost of gas through a general carbon tax while we continue to use fossil fuels, and in the long run making a large fee for parking.

Looking at geogrpahy, the following cities seem to me to make the most sense in terms of limiting access to vehicles in order to make the cities run more smoothly and faster:
  1. Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington USA
  2. Granville Island, Vancouver, British Columbia CANADA
  3. All of Fisherman's Wharf north of Bay St., San Francisco, California USA
  4. Downtown Los Angeles, California USA within the freeways.
  5. New York City Financial District South of Chambers St., New York, USA (3.5 sq km)
  6. National Mall area, Washington, DC USA
  7. Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland USA
  8. Downtown Philadelphia east to Penn's Landing, Pennsylvania USA
  9. Downtown Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  10. Downtown Detroit, Michigan, USA
  11. Downtown Chicago, Illinois, USA
  12. The city of Sydney, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA
  13. Downtown Brisbane, Queensland, AUSTRALIA
  14. Downtown Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS
  15. Area around Westminster, London, England UK
  16. Macau
  17. Kowloon, HONG KONG
  18. Downtown Shanghai and Pudong, Shanghai, CHINA
  19. Downtown Seoul, SOUTH KOREA
  20. Downtown Tokyo, JAPAN

All in all, we should make our cities more liveable by making our cities people-friendly and easy to move around in. Hopefully we will see this shift soon to make our cities more comfortable.

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