Mar 4, 2016 - Things to Do

Should we ban cars from Uptown Charlotte?

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Our transportation ideas make me think that we’re bringing a slingshot to a gun fight. More lanes. Streetcars. The thinking is so linear.

What if our city decided to not allow cars in Uptown? Seriously.

Why does this seem so impossible? Bold ideas like this should be on the table. Everything should be on the table.

European cities like Copenhagen and Madrid are already starting to go car-free. I love the way that Fast Company introduces this idea:

“It isn’t just the smog or the traffic deaths; in a city, cars aren’t even a convenient way to get around. Traffic in London today moves slower than an average cyclist (or a horse-drawn carriage). … Now a growing number of cities are getting rid of cars in certain neighborhoods through fines, better design, new apps, and, in the case of Milan, even paying commuters to leave their car parked at home and take the train instead.”

The Atlantic’s CityLab reports on what’s happening in Oslo:

“The Norwegian capital is the latest city to declare a goal of going car-free, with reports emerging this week that private cars will be banned in the central district by 2019. Though the details are still being settled, the city will apparently enhance its bike infrastructure and give a ‘massive boost’ to public transit.”

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What if we partnered with Google to get human-driven cars out of Uptown and replace them with self-driving cars?

I recently asked a smart urban planner how the inevitability of self-driving cars should impact our current transportation policy. She said she doesn’t think they will cause the street system to change, but they will re-emphasize that street networks must be connected as possible — for walkability and efficient transit.

“Cities used to be built around people,” she said. “In the 1960s, we started to design them around cars. We pretty much destroyed our built environment, and will spend centuries trying to mitigate the very negative impacts of sprawl.”

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Do I know the details of how an Uptown car ban would work? No.

But if we don’t explore bold ideas like this, we’re going to end up with less money and more traffic. Charlotte needs big, bold ideas and the population feels smart enough to handle the discussion.

I wish a city leader would bring a transportation solution the size of the problem.

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