Cars in Cities: How’s That Working Out?

David Byrne in Reasons To Be Cheerful:

In New York, where I live, whenever there’s a big holiday weekend, the traffic on Friday as folks leave town turns much of Manhattan into a hot, fume-filled parking lot. On those days, one can often walk faster than the traffic is moving. That may be the exception, but congestion in many cities has reached the point where getting around by car at certain times of day is almost not an option.

Folks who live in L.A., for example, simply rule out driving to other parts of the city at certain hours. (The old “nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded” problem.) These drivers have synced their lives to the ebb and flow of other people’s cars, a sad but logical response, since congestion costs Americans more than $1,300 per year and 97 hours of their time. When you consider than almost half of Americans would find themselves in a financial crisis if they got hit with a $400 expense, it’s pretty clear that car-based lifestyles in cities aren’t sustainable.

So why do we keep driving? The simple answer is, in some cities, many of us have little choice. The Barcelona Institute for Global Health says that 60 percent of urban infrastructure is devoted to cars. Years of prioritizing driving at the expense of walking, biking and mass transit have left many people no viable alternative to private vehicles.

More here.