A great article in yesterday's New York Times (Europe Stifles Drivers in Favor of Alternatives, Elisabeth Rosenthal, June 26, 2011, New York Times) shows how Europe has reversed the trend of more people wanting to own more cars by reversing policies that favored drivers and re-conquering space for pedestrians. Some of the tools include: providing good public transit, including bikesharing; making it harder and more costly to park; providing more bicycle parking; capping the number of parking spaces in new buildings rather than providing minimums; slowing cars down and closing streets to cars altogether and creating pedestrian plazas; synchronizing signal priority for people and transit, not cars; and giving people on foot the right to cross a street anywhere they like. All of these things together have reduced traffic and the number of cars in cities and helped create places that are more livable for people. And contrary to retailers concern, foot traffic increases where cars were banned.
We've been doing good recently in the core of our region in starting to reverse policies that favor cars over people. What this article points out is that we still have a very long way to go and that by following these examples we can make the Washington, DC region an even greater place to live.
Chris Hamilton is the Commuter Services Transportation Bureau Chief for Arlington County in the Department of Environmental Services, manager of CommuterPageBlog and a biking/Metro commuter from the LeDroit Park neighborhood in Washington, D.C.