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Have you ever thought about going car-less? How would this affect your daily schedule? How would you get around? Several large cities in Europe have set goals to go car-free in their urban centers.
Urban living is a trend that is catching on in more communities, even in Birmingham. Going car-less is often a component of urban living. The percentage of Americans holding a driver’s license has fallen drastically over the years, especially among millennials. In fact, according to a new study by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the percentage of people with a driver’s license decreased between 2011 and 2014 across all age groups. For people aged 16 to 44, that percentage has been decreasing steadily since 1983.
A decade ago, most Alabamians would have said they could never imagine life without a car. But those attitudes may be gradually shifting with more emphasis on providing infrastructure for non-motorized and transit travel for short distance trips. With car sharing and ride services like Zipcar and Uber for long and medium-distance travel, the idea of not owning a personal vehicle starts to become a conceivable possibility.
Many cities are catching on to the urban living trend and making strides to implement and improve alternate transportation for their citizens, such as transit, ridesharing options, bike sharing, bike accommodations, sidewalks, etc. Birmingham has received lots of media attention for its very successful implementation of Zyp Bike Share and the recent award of a $20 million TIGER grant for a Bus Rapid Transit system.
Even suburban communities are working to improve alternate modes of travel. The City of Mountain Brook has made a significant investment in a system of sidewalks for improved pedestrian connectivity throughout the city. In the City of Auburn we’re working with local planners who hope to change the commuting choices of both students and faculty to shift from vehicular trips to bicycle, pedestrian, or transit trips through a Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan for Auburn and Opelika.
We are still a long way from being able to declare any Alabama city car-free, but we need to take heed that private auto travel no longer rules the road. We could all benefit from thinking more broadly about transportation choices.