6 Cities Where Highway Removal Made the City Better

Car culture has ruined cities with never ending traffic problems and made the streetscape untenable for modern living. Smog from cars kills too many people every year. Yet, we still see places looking backward and ensuring that this regressive car-focussed planning continues. Toronto is one such place with it’s obsession on keeping a decaying highway running right through it’s downtown.

Gizmodo has collected six examples of cities that are actually doing something about their traffic problems: the highways got torn down. One example not included in their list is Maastricht which is presently in the process of removing a highway.

Let’s hope that even more places learn that the best way to deal with urban traffic planning it is to make it urban and not for cars.

Looking at San Francisco now, it’s hard to believe that a massive, stacked freeway ran right along what is now one of the most scenic views of the bay. But there it was, State Route 480, until the 1989 Loma Prieta quake damaged it. There had been talk about removing the freeway since the early 1980s, but the earthquake spurred the conversation along, and demolition began in 1991.

The result was a triumph for downtown San Francisco, which now had miles of public space, walking and bike paths, plus new transit routes where the double-decker freeway once was. The city also helped prove to the rest of the world that freeway removal was not only possible but could be an economic boon for the city, since San Francisco both saved money on construction—installing the wide boulevard was cheaper than fixing the freeway—and the new development increased property values. San Francisco actually got two great removal projects out of this earthquake: The city’s damaged Central Freeway also became Octavia Boulevard.

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More Cities Ditching Cars to Increase Transportation Speed

Cities that are designed for cars now have the problem of switching from the traffic-causing polluting machines. Most places can’t build more roads so they need to use what they have more effiencetly. This means repurposing some roads or only having roads used for efficient transit solutions instead of old-school inefficient automobiles. Here are nine cities that are in the process of getting rid of cars.

1. MADRID, SPAIN

THE PLANThe boundaries of Madrid’s current car-free zone are continuously expanding outwards, reaching a square mile earlier this year. While those who live within the zone are allowed to take their cars inside, those who don’t have a guaranteed parking space can expect a hefty fine. New smart parking meters throughout the city can also gauge vehicles’ fuel-efficiency, so gas-guzzler owners will have to pay more at the meter.
ECO-BONUS: As a greener alternative, Madrid’s new bike share program supplies 1,500 bikes stationed at 120 different locations throughout the city.

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Groovy Bike Helmet Lights Up

The Lumos helmet is designed to make riding a bicycle even safer. In the majority of collisions between automobile drivers and cyclists the car driver is at fault, so to make riding safer the helmet projects bright lights. This means that people who aren’t paying attention to the road as they drive will be forces to acknowledge the presence of the cyclist.

The helmet is a high-tech beauty for a low tech transportation solution. I just bought one.

ALWAYS HAVE A GREAT SET OF LIGHTS WITH YOU
It shouldn’t be difficult or inconvenient to take care of your basic safety as a cyclist.
With Lumos, rest easy knowing you always have a great set of lights on hand.
BRIGHT LIGHTS TO STAND OUT ON THE ROAD
14 super bright white LEDs in the front and 16 super bright red LEDs in the rear provide over 80 lumens of illumination to ensure that you stand out on the road.

Check out the Lumos Helmet.

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Light Rail Bringing Massive Change to American Cities

Let’s face it: driving sucks.

Car traffic is bad for everyone and a lot of American cities have caught on to this. As a result, more light rail is being built throughout the USA, recently Pheonix residents voted to back more light rail with a tax hike.

What’s pushing this? It turns out that the awfulness of the commute, more cities adopting good public transit policy, and increased urbanization.

The future of light rail looks bright!

“Light rail” is a broad term that means a passenger rail system with tram-style cars—as opposed to “heavy rail” subways, as in New York and Washington, D.C.—that runs on its own right of way, usually at street level. Light rail cars typically run at 30 to 40 miles per hour at top speed, much less than a heavy rail subway.

In many cities, the building of light rail lines represents only one aspect of broader efforts to solve the public transportation puzzle. Cities are increasingly connecting light rail lines with major nodes of activity and other transportation modes such as expanded express bus services or bike lanes. Phoenix’s light rail connects downtown with Arizona State University in Tempe and Sky Harbor Airport. Charlotte has a light rail system and is now adding a streetcar. Atlanta and Miami have traditional heavy rail transit systems but are investing in other technologies such as streetcars and bus rapid transit. Las Vegas has a monorail along the Strip but is talking about a rail line to the airport.

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Watch Streets Evolve From Car-Focused to People-Focused

they-keep-tabs-on-urban-transformation-blogs-and-architectural-projects-so-they-know-where-to-check-on-google-street-view

Streets were for people, then cars took over and ruined cities. For the last hundred years cities transformed themselves from walkable places to sprawling buildings which were designed for heavy car use. Now, cities have seen how that’s a mistake.

A design firm, Urb-i, has used Google street view to catalog how cities are making themselves good places to be. Hopefully this trend of making cities human-focused instead of car focused continues!

In São Paulo, Brazil — which boasts over 10 million residents — a third of the people travel by car, another third takes public transit, and another walks. Yet cars take up a majority of the roads and public spaces.

Seeing that, a Brazilian urban planning collective called Urb-i set out to demonstrate that imbalance and show off examples of more people-friendly design. They scoured Google Street View images to find the most stunning public space transformations from around the world. The results give us hope that our cities are becoming more beautiful places to live.

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