A Swiss Lesson In Enlightened Street Design

Above is a picture of a pretty typical city street in Zürich, Switzerland. Having lost local retailers like the neighborhood grocery, city residents would now have to drive to get food, adding even more cars to the mix. To give just one example, a few years ago a former student of mine, Kristin Floberg, studied old fire-insurance maps to inventory every structure in the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut, then built a 3-D map showing what the city looked like in 1913, before it was “Engineered” to address traffic congestion. Bridgeport is not unique or even particularly extreme: Cities all over the world have been hobbled because avoiding traffic congestion became the primary consideration in transportation planning. Starting around 1970, the city began a far-sighted effort to strengthen transit and discourage car travel, including by taking the radical step of reducing parking in the city center. The city we see today is a result of numerous incremental changes over decades that all had the same goal of making the city transit friendly. Today, Zürich, a city of 400,000, keeps extending its already extensive streetcar system.


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