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Imagining a Car-Free Future

November 13, 2015

Officials in Oslo recently announced plans to add nearly 40 miles of bike lanes to its infrastructure and make the city center entirely car free by 2019. Norway’s capital joins the ranks of other cities around the world that have implemented car bans or have announced goals to be car free in the future.

How do cultural shifts away from car dependence apply here in the United States, where owning a car has, at least until now, been a fundamental part of the American dream? Let’s take a look at how things are starting to change.

Action by Cities

Several studies have measured the impact of city walkability on city dwellers. Some have found that people who live in walkable cities are happier, while others have found that walkability increases health, but maybe not happiness. What is difficult to capture in study statistics is the opportunity to build a stronger sense of community in a city where people engage with one another on the sidewalk, rather than remain isolated in their cars.

There are many cities that aren’t implementing full car bans but still support public transit, walking, biking, and other options through infrastructure. These alternative commute options, without a doubt, benefit the environment by mitigating air pollution caused by cars.

Action by Technology

Efficient cars, from the Toyota Prius to Tesla’s full fleet of vehicles, are becoming more popular as technologies develop. Beyond EVs, autonomous vehicles are also being tested and developed. It is believed autonomous vehicles will help drastically cut the number of car crashes, as 90 percent of accidents are caused by human error. If advancements could provide us with incredibly safe and low-to-zero emission vehicles, are we getting ahead of ourselves by seeking to eliminate cars from city life entirely?

Action by People

Whether or not cities choose to go completely car free, many people are seeking ways to reduce driving time, and there are great resources available that can help. Clean Air Partners has a few tips for a car free commute, while Commuter Connections can help you find a local ridesharing service. If you know you want to live somewhere where you can take advantage of alternative transportation options, Walk Score assigns rankings to cities, provides commuter reports, and lists apartments and homes for sale in walkable neighborhoods.

Action by PRR

Washington, D.C. and Seattle, both home to PRR offices, have shown leadership in promoting alternative transportation. Actions have likely been driven (pun intended) by necessity. Both cities are dealing with some of the worst traffic rates in the country, with D.C. taking the number one spot in 2015, above even Los Angeles. Fortunately, beginning on January 1, 2016, D.C. employees will be eligible for the Commuter Benefits Program, which will help make paying for public transportation more cost-effective and convenient. The City of Seattle also offers a Commute Trip Reduction Program to encourage alternatives to driving solo to work.

PRR has worked with a wide range of clients to promote efficient vehicles, improved air quality, alternative transportation, and more. During this global shift towards smarter travel – from EVs to “car free” – PRR is eager to continue to collaborate with the influencers shaping the future of transportation.