How will the EU eliminate cars from cities?

The European Union has an ambitious goal of eliminating cars from city center's by 2050. How will they pull it off?
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor

The European Union announced today that it's aiming to phase out petrol and diesel cars from its city centers by 2050. It's an ambitious goal, but how will they pull it off?

It would be, after all, a logistical nightmare to filter through cars that are petrol and diesel-based versus electric or hybrid. So clearly the EU is banking on alternative-energy cars to be the cars of the future.

But while electric vehicles will clean up the air in cities, they won't ease the fact that in dense cities, where space is at a premium, individual cars aren't the most efficient transportation option. Here's how cities in the EU can eliminate all cars, not just petrol and diesel-based cars.

Road pricing. It's a fascinating concept. Road space in cities is precious, especially as other modes of transportation are competing for that space, so why should individual cars get to drive through city centers for free? Cities that have already implemented the system have set up cameras along the boundaries of city centers and charge cars that enter during peak hours.

In London, the system has already reduced traffic by 20 percent. And many who used to drive now use a different form of transportation. It's an option that fits well with the EU's goals, because they're not necessarily trying to get rid of cars completely.

"The use of smaller, lighter and more specialised road passenger vehicles must be encouraged," the report said. "Large fleets of urban buses, taxis and delivery vans are particularly suitable for the introduction of alternative propulsion systems and fuels. These could make a substantial contribution in reducing the carbon intensity of urban transport. ... Road pricing and the removal of distortions in taxation can also assist in encouraging the use of public transport and the gradual introduction of alternative propulsion."

The other option for reducing or eliminating cars is urban planning and design for non-car transportation. This option doesn't come with the revenue stream that cities get with road pricing, but the results can be just as effective. The idea is that instead of building cities with traditional, car-friendly grids, cities reduce arterial streets and create more intersecting streets with irregular and discontinuous designs. It's this type of design that drives cars away from the city center without the need to regulate, and police streets to keep out cars. See how it works in Strasbourg, France where less than half of their residents drive.

An obvious, but not to be overlooked, way to transition away from cars in cities is by creating efficient public transportation networks that people want to use because they're more convenient than cars.

And while European cities are already implementing these strategies to reduce the number of cars in cities, the European Commission's report isn't clear exactly how they'll enforce and encourage measures that lead to car-free cities.

They're giving themselves plenty of time to figure it out though. Maybe by 2050, there will be an app for that.

Photo: AtilaTheHun/Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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