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Cities need to make the car obsolete

Walking in London. Photo: Frank Augstein / AP

In London, owning a car is becoming increasingly pointless. While London is far from perfect, it has been working hard to ween us off car usage.

The bottom line: As Americans rebuild cities hit by the recent hurricanes, they should do so in a way that makes owning a car unnecessary in major U.S. cities, too.

Car-share schemes allow me to find and book a car on my phone, and park it in any type of bay for free. I have a folding bike I can carry on public transport or in a taxi. We now have Cycle Superhighways – protected bike lanes running across the city. Employees get tax breaks on bicycles.

The subway in London works well, and carries 1.37 billion people per year. At rush hour, trains come every 1 minute. London buses are clean, and taken by everyone. Public transport data is open-sourced, so apps like CityMapper show me exactly how to connect all these transport options.

This is made possible through public sector investment into public transport and government-managed schemes to incentivize or discourage certain behaviors. We are discouraged from driving into Central London by Congestion Charging of $15 a day, and parking fees as high as $10 an hour. Congestion charging reduced pollutants in London's air by up to 20% in the first 1 to 2 years, and saw nearly 40% more people taking the bus.