Heavy usage of cars and trucks is detrimental to urban communities; we should implement policies that reduce car-based access to city centers and other densely populated areas. This is mainly focused on the USA.

Some points:

  1. Cars interfere with the movement of pedestrians and small vehicles (bikes, scooters), making dense urban areas less usable.
  2. Cars require a lot of space, both for roads and parking. This competes with housing and green-spaces in cities, making urban areas less accessible and pleasant.
  3. Cars are dangerous and dirty - especially when at high densities, such as in cities.

To address this, a variety of changes may be instituted:

  1. Traffic arteries (e.g. expressways going to the city center) should be slowed and narrowed as it approaches the city center, so that passenger cars/trucks do not use it. Instead, they should be reserved mainly for motorcycles, buses, single-point delivery trucks (e.g. stores or to transfer packages, not trucks that will drive to each residence), and vehicles required for the disabled.
  2. A portion of city roads should be closed to most cars, either by making barriers that they cannot pass through, or resurfacing and shaping them to be pedestrian focused rather than car-focused. It is especially important that side roads do not allow access towards the city center (so that commuters don’t just drive on side roads when main roads are over-capacity).
  3. Space reclaimed from cars should be re-engineered for greenspace, trees, mass-transit (trolleys), and pedestrians.
  4. Cities should stop subsidizing the construction of massive attractions (e.g. pro sports stadiums), or at least move them to more peripheral locations that are accessible from suburbs while assuring good mass transit from the city center.
  5. For situations where individuals feel that cars are essential, congestion fees should be charged and hefty penalties should be levied on traffic violations within dense urban areas – including prohibition on driving in those areas.
  6. Suburban communities will be told that if they wish to enjoy the ammenities of the central city, they will have to support the expansion of mass-transit networks into the suburbs. We will no longer tolerate the double standard where they insist on having access to urban neighborhoods via cars but intentionally block carless urban residents from accessing their neighborhoods.
@mandy
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It’s tough to approach this materially when most of us are from nations with cities designed around car transport; not just the road layout but where buildings are located and such, which makes cars seem like a good solution to a world designed around them. Add on top of that the social aspects other users mentioned, such as ‘freedoms’ culture in USA, and the impressions given by their current public transport making it unpopular or even seen as a ‘poor person’ thing, I consider cars a status icon in most countries.

As a case study, Beijing has some restrictions on road space, such as [wiki] “restriction of cars that could enter common road space based upon the last digits of the license number on certain established days during certain periods in Beijing. The main objective of this restraint policy in Beijing is to reduce the amount of exhaust gas generated by motor vehicles.”, which were apparently successful, even if temporarily.

This kind of system, even though it’s not really what you described, is also being done similarly in other countries wiki: Road space rationing which lists:

  • Athens, Greece
  • Bogotá, Columbia
  • Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • San José, Costa Rica
  • Santiago, Chile
  • São Paulo, Brazil

Along with other cities doing temporary schemes, mostly in Europe.

I know it’s a bit of a non-answer, and doesn’t approach the redesigning/sectoring you discuss, but food for thought on society and not driving cars in urban areas.

@ricketson
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Thanks. It seems to have the same big-picture effect as congestion fees, though it may be easier to administer and more egalitarian (at the expense of flexibility).

private cities could

publicly owned ones, naw because “muh freedom”

I’m kind of anti-car so maybe we could talk out some solutions. but they also have a lot of benefits and the cons (as mentioned in the post) haven’t been seen as outweighing the benefits for a lot of people.

maybe getting rid of zoning would allow more housing and shops and things to be built next to each other?

or yeah maybe you could close some roads and keep others open so there could be some spaces with less cars

idk has anyone hashed out a decent “urban planning” guide? also keeping in mind remote workers so the city may be less needed for collaboration?

because ironically if the OP anti-car points are for environmental reasons, cities themselves are kind of anti-environment. so maybe getting rid of cities is the outside the box solution to cars being bad in cities?

sj_zero
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Any plan can’t be cookie cutter. Every city is different, and decisions need to be made based on what locally works.

Nice bike paths won’t be nearly as useful for daily use in Anchorage as they might be in LA. Most people won’t be ok with riding a little bicycle in -50C in pitch blackness as they go to get groceries for the week.

Reducing individual transportation options could probably help contribute to a growing distance between the rich and the poor.

@ricketson
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Any plan can’t be cookie cutter. Every city is different, and decisions need to be made based on what locally works.

Of course. These programs would have to be implemented by local political units, so they will be customized.

Nice bike paths won’t be nearly as useful for daily use in Anchorage as they might be in LA. Most people won’t be ok with riding a little bicycle in -50C in pitch blackness as they go to get groceries for the week.

When writing this, I was mainly thinking of the USA east of the Rockies. Other cities have their own issues to consider, but many of them (e.g. San Francisco, LA) face similar problems.

Reducing individual transportation options could probably help contribute to a growing distance between the rich and the poor.

Cars are a major contributor to disparities between economic classes. They promote social segregation and are often a way that the poor are made to pay for the convenience of the rich (e.g. by allowing rich people to use their neighborhoods as a throughfare)

sj_zero
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Your last point makes me chuckle because for years I’ve called out US-style subarbs as having “fuck you roads”. Essentially, roads designed to say “fuck you, get your own roads. We don’t want the riffraff hanging around” that you can’t use for anything but getting to or from a house in that subarb.

@ricketson
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private cities could…

Transit is inherently a public matter managed by the government. Massive expressways are just as much ‘big government’ as public transit. There are no constitutional or principled reasons to make cars/trucks the preferred transportation option. However, these changes would require support from state, county, and city governments (depending on the political structure for the metropolitian area)

I’m kind of anti-car so maybe we could talk out some solutions. but they also have a lot of benefits and the cons (as mentioned in the post) haven’t been seen as outweighing the benefits for a lot of people.

The apparent benefits are in part due to subsidies and other externalization of costs. Ideally we could address those externalities individually, but as long as cars are considered the default mode of transit (for the middle class), there will be continued political support for these externalizations of cost. Furthermore, much of the externalization is directly due to infrastructure. For instance, many zoning laws require developers to add parking spaces to their projects – it is not possible to eliminate those requirements without simultaneously making other changes to reduce overall traffic; otherwise, you end up with more cars than parking spaces, resulting in cars driving around the city looking for parking spots and creating even more traffic.

maybe getting rid of zoning would allow more housing and shops and things to be built next to each other?

High density housing is often opposed on the grounds that it would produce too much car traffic. Even if the local community supports it, it often doesn’t work well if through-traffic makes the area unpleasant and inconvenient for pedestrians.

idk has anyone hashed out a decent “urban planning” guide? also keeping in mind remote workers so the city may be less needed for collaboration?

There’s definitely been a lot of work on this. I don’t know the publications off the top of my head though. I’ll post them here if I find some good ones – please do the same. Some of these proposals have been implemented in places like Berkeley (side roads closed to through-traffic) – other communities have achieved the same effect by making tons of dead-end road sections, but this also blocks pedestrians and bikes from passing through, so it’s a pretty dysfunctional (and elitist) way of controlling car traffic.

because ironically if the OP anti-car points are for environmental reasons, cities themselves are kind of anti-environment. so maybe getting rid of cities is the outside the box solution to cars being bad in cities?

This is about the livability of cities (or high-density areas), but one benefit of high-density areas is lower environmental impact. For a given population size, high-density city centers are much less environmentally damaging than suburban sprawl (the current alternative). I can imagine some layouts that may be better (e.g. high-density urban nodes [small towns] surrounding interstate exit points or train stations), but any environmental conservation program needs to find a way to minimize high-energy transit (e.g. cars) and minimize gratuitous conversion of land to pavement/lawns.

Transit is inherently a public matter managed by the government.

so I comment with ancap-leaning assumptions. so maybe it often is but it could be privatized or be privately owned (including expressways)

The apparent benefits are in part due to subsidies and other externalization of costs.

well idk I had in mind a quick vehicle for emergencies, independence from bus or train times or things out of your control, etc. Frequently these things “other people” are running are unreliable so then people give up on them. And versus a lower tech option (walking, bikes, scooters, etc.), cars can shield from storms or snow a bit.

zoning laws require developers to add parking spaces to their projects – it is not possible to eliminate those requirements

it seems possible. either devs can factor in building their own parking without it being required, or if there’s enough demand some spot could be created as private parking lot, or shuttles could take people to destination.

livability of cities

sounds subjective. which can be fine (I might share your goal too). But the car drivers probably think they’re plenty livable already. So, perhaps I might ask for more precise definition of goal or what livability means.

publications

ahhh I thought I saw something on no or low tech magazine.

I thought I saw this one design where there was basically one central road or rail and the city built off in either directions from it

then of course there’s floating cities…

@ricketson
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so I comment with ancap-leaning assumptions.

Ok. I’m not sure where to go with that, society would be radically different which makes it difficult to discuss any specifics. But I still think this would be an issue – but maybe the issue would be neighborhoods forming HOAs to buy up local roads or something (if they didn’t already belong to HOAs). Or maybe the issue would be how we assess damages for pollution/noise/hazards caused by cars… I assume that would be different depending on whether we considered cars the default way of getting around vs. a luxury.

well idk I had in mind a quick vehicle for emergencies, independence from bus or train times or things out of your control, etc. Frequently these things “other people” are running are unreliable so then people give up on them. And versus a lower tech option (walking, bikes, scooters, etc.), cars can shield from storms or snow a bit.

Cars are useful, but the question is whether they are worth the cost when the user has to pay all of the costs.

I’m not proposing any sort of car ban or rationing law. I just think that we shouldn’t be using them for every little thing and we shouldn’t build our infrastructure around the assumption that cars are the way to get around. Imagine a situation where there is (typically) one car per household rather than one car per driver. When I was young and single, I lived in a mid-sized city and didn’t feel any need to own a car because I could walk/bike wherever I needed to go (granted, I was near parents and could borrow a car in a pinch, but there are also car-sharing organizations that can provide cars for occasional use).

it seems possible. either devs can factor in building their own parking without it being required, or if there’s enough demand some spot could be created as private parking lot, or shuttles could take people to destination.

My point is that insufficient parking has a negative impact on the usability of roads. If the road manager can’t assuring that there is enough parking, then the road manager needs to find a way to keep vehicles off the roads in the first place.

But the car drivers probably think they’re plenty livable already. So, perhaps I might ask for more precise definition of goal or what livability means.

By ‘livability’ I mean favoring the interests of the city residents, and that cities are able to increase housing supply as population increases. The current layout of cities (or the city center) is often built to favor the interests of people who don’t live in the cities (e.g. suburban commuters and absentee property owners).

I don’t think that drivers find cities ‘livable’ – I constantly hear drivers complaining about driving.

  • Gas is too expensive
  • Traffic is too heavy
  • Parking is too hard to find
  • We can’t allow more housing to be built because it would create more traffic.

That’s not to mention that half the reason people move out to the suburbs is to escape the noise/dirt and hazard that cars create in urban neighoborhoods (motor vehicle fatalities are usually the leading cause of death among people <20, though gun fatalities were more common in 2020).

Our reliance on cars is holding us back because people are unwilling to change their assumptions. We’re in a horrible prisoner’s dillemma where we just keep doubling down on the activities that make everyone else worse off.

Some publications:

Posts must present a serious debate topic

For general discussion see: !politics@lemmy.ml

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