The German city of Hamburg recently laid out an ambitious goal: to eliminate all cars from its roadways over the next 15-20 years. The project aims to replace the need for personal vehicles by creating a “Green Network” comprised of park spaces and pathways for both pedestrians and cyclists, connecting the city for more residents.
Certainly, these efforts are part of a movement to make the city—Germany’s second-largest—a healthier and greener place to live. But there are also some alarming meteorological trends that could be behind this decision. Reports show that the city’s median temperature has increased by 1.2 degrees Celsius (or about 2.2 degrees Farenheit) over the past 60 years, and that sea levels have risen by 20 centimeters. With projections showing an increase another 30 centimeters by the year 2100, the city of Hamburg is attempting preventative measures by reducing the environmental impact caused by cars.
But many questions remain. Is this a feasible goal? Will people be willing to give up their personal vehicles? Will this trend catch on in other places around the world, particularly developing countries and heavily congested Asian cities? Are there alternative measures to reduce the impact made by cars?
Most likely, any given city’s willingness (or ability) to give up its cars will depend on the existing public transportation systems and infrastructures. New York City, for example, currently boasts an affordable, highly connective subway system, while Los Angeles is noted for its traffic and lack of public transit options. It should be little surprise, then, that the percentages of households without cars for these cities are quite different—56% and 12%, respectively.
Other variables to consider in the discussion of eliminating automobiles include the fuel economy of the vehicles themselves. Cars are relatively worse options than trains or airplanes mainly because of the amount of energy—and carbon emissions—they require to transport an individual over a given distance. This figure can be decreased in at least two ways. Automakers (and/or lawmakers) can either ensure that the average MPG rating of cars on the road increases by around 50%, or we as a society can place more emphasis on carpooling and ride sharing. These efforts would cut down on automobiles and make the elimination of personal-use vehicles less necessary.
Would you like to see your city attempt to eliminate cars? Vote on our poll below.
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