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This article is from the In-Depth Report Urban Visions: The Future of Cities
60-Second Earth

Are Modern Cities for People or Cars?

The cities of the future might be greener, cleaner and more vibrant if people are put before automobiles. David Biello reports

The stink of exhaust, the mind-numbing tedium of traffic, parking lots blighting central city real estate. The urban sins of the automobile are numerous indeed. 

As more people move to cities and gain the economic wherewithal to purchase an automobile, will we be increasingly dependent on cars for our transportation and status symbols?

A new thought experiment on display at the Center for Architecture in New York City offers an alternative vision for the cities of 2030. By that time, more than 60 percent of humanity—five billion people—may live in cities.

The architects recommend careful use of express bus rapid transit—the cheapest public transportation option—and increased capacity for bicyclists and pedestrians. That may help alleviate problems like highways blocking access to waterfront in cityscapes from Ahmedabad to Rio de Janeiro.

For example, in China simply expanding the city of Guangzhou's bus rapid transit system, which already carries 800,000 passengers a day, could help re-create what used to be a vibrant shopping district before an elevated highway shrouded it in gloom.

Some form of the automobile will likely be around in 2030, but that doesn't mean we have to build our cities for its comfort instead of ours.

—David Biello

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