The Transformation of Paris from Traffic Jams to Quick Movement

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Paris once had a reputation for horrible traffic, long queues of cars and taxing journeys via cars. When you have a problem stemming from one element sometimes it’s best to just get rid of it. That’s exactly what Paris is doing. By getting rid of the car traffic jams are going away and travel times for everyone are decreasing. By adding more mobility options people are able to navigate the city faster, easier, and are reliant on only one mode of transport. They have the freedom to choose how to get around.

OK, quickly: At the start of the 20th century, in the ’20s, ’30s, the car asserts itself as a travel mode in urban centers, which are transformed. Paris is clearly an old city with many centuries of history with an urban fabric. Even though it was transformed by Haussmann in the 19th century, it has an extremely dense urban fabric with a lot of small streets and a configuration a priori not adapted to the auto. When the car arrives, we transform what we can call public space, and this public space becomes automobile space, with the logical system of the car imposing itself in Paris. And public space is completely devoured, eaten away, and in a certain way privatized to one single, unique use.

Very quickly we see the limits of “total car” in Paris, even in the ’60s and ’70s. We try to say, “How can we preserve this city?” Well, by putting cars underground. So we construct parking, even whole highways, under Paris. But there’s opposition to the highway on the Seine. There were protests. When we did the parking under Notre-Dame, there was a lot of opposition, because they were going to graze the crypt underneath.

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