What If We Banned Cars From Cities?

Perhaps the title of this post presents a somewhat ridiculous thought, but allowing ourselves ridiculous thoughts often yields the most interesting results in my opinion.

I was thinking about the ridiculousness of cars today.  When I think long and hard about it, the fact that we each need our own automobile to get ourselves around a city is quite absurd.  It would be like Fedex having an individual courier or delivery truck for each letter they carry.  It doesn’t scale very well.  With our world bumping up against the limitations of our petroleum infrastructure I wonder how much further we can continue down our current path.

A much better path in my opinion is to do away with cars, at least in urban centers.  Sure electric cars get rid of a great deal of the carbon emissions, but you still need to have an electric grid that is not connected to a carbon source (ie coal powered electricity).  If we had amazing public transportation options we shouldn’t need cars.  Much of our infrastructure that we currently have in place is legacy from past eras, so it’s very hard to start fresh, perhaps impossible.

The times where I have been most happy have been living in cities where I didn’t need to drive on a daily basis to get around.  I currently live in Edmonton, Canada.  In this city it is not practical to use public transit.  I have lived in and traveled to a number of cities where public transit was amazing.  Places I lived include:

  • Vancouver
  • Toronto
  • New York City
  • Copenhagen

All of these cities I didn’t need a car.  I had a car in Vancouver, but put on about 10% of the KM that I do living in Edmonton (over the course of 1 year I drove around 2,000 KM in Vancouver).

What if we started a city and banned cars?  What if on the outskirts of the city there were parking lots where you had to store your car, and then you would take a subway of some sort into the city?  The city would be designed for walking, and for public transit.  Buildings wouldn’t need to be nearly as tall since their footprint could be bigger because there would be no roads.  There would be way more green space.

I think that living in an urban center would be so much better if cars were removed from the equation.  I like cars, especially sports cars, but I hate driving in cities, it sucks and it’s stressful.  Someday I’ll build a city from scratch that doesn’t even have roads.