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the priority for sustainable cities

I was recently asked what could be done to advance the concept of a sustanable city. I replied that as much as I like cars as interesting mechanical devices, ultimately, and at almost every scale, demography and  geography a city that can reduce its reliance on private automobiles will be a more livable place – with a better chance at sustainability.  Short of concerted measures to the contrary, in the future most cities of any size will ultimately face grid lock due to private automobile use if they have not arrived at that troublesome destination already.

It’s an unavoidable fact that cars facilitate personal mobility up to a point, and are an aspiration for millions – now billions of the world’s inhabitants. This said, over and above their energy and climate ramifications, the infrastructure to accommodate cars simply takes up too much space, money and ultimately results in too much valuable time lost in traffic congestion.  

Therefore, if I had a few billion dollars to distribute to cities around the world for sustainability I would put them into schemes to reduce reliance on cars. I would distribute funds to commuter rail and trolley systems, better transit plans and bicycle infrastructure. I would also encourage land use schemes that integrate working and housing and promote congestion pricing and subsidies for public transportation.  Fewer cars would also deliver ancillary benefits, including cleaner air, safer streets, not to mention a quieter environment.

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We develop and market energy efficiency strategies and technologies. We focus on the building and transportation sectors, which account for more than two thirds of the energy budget.