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Less Cars, More Public Spaces

San Francisco's Golden Gate Park goes car free on weekends.

America’s “love affair” with the car may be souring, says a new analysis from the Earth Policy Institute. The country’s vehicle fleet shrunk by 4 million vehicles, or nearly 2 percent, and could deplete 10 percent between now and 2020 from the all-time high of 250 million in 2008 to 225 million.

While the decrease in cars could mean more people taking transit, biking, walking and sharing automobiles, there may also be implications for public spaces.

Many of us have relied on vehicles to get around and enjoy them very much, yet they have severely impaired (or even destroyed) many spaces. Freeways have cut off signature parks, parking lots have taken large portions of green space, park roads have been converted to expressways and commuter routes and the general land use patterns generated by car dependence have caused many parks to decay with their surrounding neighborhoods.

But there are signs of change that mirror the decrease in our collective car inventory. Park roads are being closed to motorists, as seen in New York’s Prospect and Central Parks as well as many others around the country. Parking lots are being converted into vibrant spaces, such as Pittsburgh’s Schenley Plaza. Cities are connecting mass transit to their most popular parks, evident in Houston’s Hermann Park. And a trend towards walkable urban living has revived a movement for nearby public places for recreation, socializing and contact with nature.

Of course this all is happening at a time when China’s own vehicle sales have surpassed that of the United States. Given that fact, there may be many examples of parks and public spaces in the developing world now bearing the brunt of the automobile.

One Response

  1. […] the many under-utilized lots in the downtown area. Alternate locations for parking would not only free up gateway greenspace in the park, but would also funnel foot traffic through the downtown merchant corridor boosting […]

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