In an article in Monday’s Times, I write about various strategies that European cities are using to cut down on private car use and inner-city driving. In Zurich, a multipronged approach has left residents less likely to own a car and less likely to use one if they do.
The goal is to make cities more livable and environmentally responsible places by rebalancing the rights of automobile drivers with those of pedestrians, bicyclists and people who use public transportation. As I toured Zurich with Andy Fellmann, its chief transportation planner, he emphasized that he did not dislike cars or drivers per se. But he believes that private cars are generally not appropriate for city centers, where the pollution and traffic detract from the cityscape.
As Pio Marzolini, a city official, put it, the city’s “emotionless” goal is simply “to keep car traffic capacity on a reasonable level — our goal is not to willingly annoy car drivers.” Traffic policies in European cities aim to rationalize car use -– that is, to make people think twice about whether it is really easier or faster or more convenient to drive than to use an alternative mode of transportation.
When I visited Kristianstad, Sweden, last year, the city was running a program called No Silly Car Journeys. The goal was to discourage car use for trips of less than five kilometers, or just over three miles. Even in that extraordinarily “green” city, too many people were jumping in the car for things like the short trip to drop children off at school.
At a traffic-choked intersection on upper Broadway in New York early this morning, I waited more than a minute to pick my way through traffic once I got the green “walk” sign to cross. I remembered my recent tour of Zurich, where many streets have few if any cars. Pedestrians rule the roost, waiting 20 seconds at most to cross.
So I decided to re-evaluate my own silly car journey of the day: I took a cab to drop off my son, Andrew, at LaGuardia Airport. But for the return trip I decided to try the M60 bus, which runs between the airport and a stop just two blocks from my apartment on the Upper West Side. The cab ride cost $38, but the bus ride was covered by my monthly New York City bus-and-subway fare card. Both trips took about 50 minutes because it was rush hour. Why hadn’t I tried this before?
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL