In reading the article, “Across Europe, Irking Drivers Is Urban Policy” by the New York Times and the associated bike Portland blog, the real problem that poses the USA in achieving a less congested, partially car free environment is the will power. People need to understand that the car is not the most efficient mode of transportation, that the car is the number one cause of death for 0-24 year olds in the US which deteriorates the sense of safety.
The New York Times article focuses on the city of Zurich, where the Trams have signal priority, many roads have been closed to make way for pedestrians and cyclists, and parking spaces are far and few between. US cities such as Houston and Portland already have signal priority with their trams, but the concept of removing cars from a street or plaza is unthinkable. The bike portland blog uses the example of NE Holladay street to prove their point that businesses and drivers alike baulk at the idea of a car-free street. Meanwhile cities around the world enjoy the many benefits associated with pedestrian zones.
In Curitiba, Brazil during the early 1970's, the city was faced with a growing problem of congestion and a lose of air quality. The Mayor, Jamie Lerner and city planners came together and decided to implement the world's first bus rapid transit system along while pedestrianizing one of the major shopping streets over one holiday weekend. They also created a series of city parks which serve as emergency flood storage. The US needs to implement such projects that promote alternative modes of transport by grabbing “the bull's horns and wrestle it to the ground” (bike portland blog).
The US has the problem that many of our cities were built around the automobile, thus making it extremely difficult to consider life without the car. In order to get more americans out of their cars, one must first provide quick, convenient alternative modes of transportation. Good multimodal connections between the bus, light rail, and Amtrak are an essential step to providing people with alternatives. Only then can the US start policies that dissuade the use of cars within cities similar to those brought up in the New York Times article.