Do you think accomodating cars causes traffic or relieves it?

In a number of cities, there is a feeling in the city hall that the way to ease traffic and lack of parking is make things harder on drivers.
Reduce the number of legal parking spots, restrict new garages even on new apartment buildings, add parking meters with sliding fees, so that the busiest areas will be so expensive there will always be 20% of the spots vacant.

The official premise: When the traffic and parking are intolerable, people will finally have to use public transit.

I can’t believe this. Experience has shown that traffic and parking congestion have gotten worse every year for decades already. This will just accelerate that trend.
If a new apartment building is constructed with fewer parking spots than apartments, despite a history of most new tenants owning on average 1.5- 2 cars, that seems to be deep denial. (There is apparently no way to say these new tenants must not have more than one car per apartment - something about not in the city’s, or even the landlord’s legal power)

My personal premise: People will use public transit only when it gets them where they want to go, when they want to go. Improve that and more people will use it.

But then I might be wrong.
What do you think? Carrot or stick?

Modern cities are designed to accommodate the automobile. Minor changes like reducing the number of parking spaces will not keep people from driving cars. Compact urban design utilizing multi-use development and pedestrian-friendly streets can discourage traffic but will never eliminate it.

City Hall’s resources would be better spent by encouraging residential development closer to urban centers. Making it difficult for commuters to find a parking space will only frustrate them, not convince them to use mass transit.

What urban area are you thinking of, out of curiousity?

While Auckland only has just over a million in poulation regionwide, we have the same problems with regard to town planners thinking that simply intensifying an urban environment will equate to less cars. As has already been said here – a proper and efficient public transport system, which gets people where they need to go with the minimum of hassle, is the only way such intensification schemes will reduce car ownership and traffic congestion.

We here have felt that the more motorways that are built, the more cars will fill them sooner than later. And why not? Making it easier to get around by private transport, yet run the public transport system into the ground, that’s exactly what will happen.

Human beings like to take the path of least resistance. Here in the US, that means using one’s own car. It’s easier to climb into your own car right in front of your own house than to wait outside for a bus to pick you up. And the bus isn’t going to take you exactly where you want to go. We in the US have designed our cities and towns to accomodate this urge to the point where many places forces you to have a car to get your chores done. The ONLY way that we will ever get people to not use their cars is by making it the less convienant option. That’s why it’s not just desirable, but necessary if we want to salvage our urban areas. The OP states that traffic has gotten worse over time anyway. **Ice Wolf ** answers that perfectly. If you expand a roads level of service (LOS) from C to A, more people will start to use that road until it gets back down to LOS C. It’s an unwinnable battle. With population increasing and more cars per capita, there’s no way to outbuild the demand. I grew up in the DC area. I have since then lived in Greensboro NC which is the model of a post-war car-oriented city pattern. And I now live in Fort Myers FL, which is currently one of the fastest growing areas of the country. I’ve seen the results of car-oriented sprawl from my childhood and I’m watching it happen down here now. As an urban planner, I have a front row seat as each new road improvement is planned and projected. After eight years I’ve watched the traffic get worse and worse despite all the improvements. Trust me when I say that discourging car use through regulated inconvienance is the way to go.

I live in Chicago, about half a block away from a bus stop and about 1 mile away from the Metra (“suburban train system”) in one direction and the CTA (“city train system” aka - the El) in the other. I take public transportation about half a dozen times a year - when I plan on drinking, and during the Fourth of July fireworks every July 3rd. (Yes, you read that right.)

Drinking, obviously, doesn’t mix with driving. I’ve gotten that message, loud and clear. And the train is cheaper than a cab (although really late, I’ve been known to take a cab home from the train station, as it’s in a really crappy neighborhood) so I’ll take public transportation to stay alive.

But for the parking to be so outrageously expensive ($20, I think?) and so inconvenient due to the numbers of people vs. the numbers of spots, apparently for me takes several hundreds of thousands of people in a three block area before I’m unwilling to drive. And that’s not really due to the expense of parking, but to the congestion and traffic jams present when 4 gazillion people are trying to leave the Grant Park area in 10 minutes.

So, I guess they’re right, but it’s going to have to get a LOT worse before I’ll be swayed to take public transportation more often. Mostly, I just decide to avoid those areas. I’d rather drive 20 minutes to the 'burbs than drive downtown.

Although since gas got over $3 a gallon, I’ve chosen to take the train probably twice as much - that means 5 or 6 times a year instead of 2 or 3. So that’s another factor.

what Hypno-Toad said makes sense… Not only are cities built to accommodate cars, but our lifestyles have been influenced by the love of out autos as well. Personal transportation has become a necessity of modern life.

I don’t have a cite for this, but I heard that traffic behaves like a fluid: it will expand to fill all available space. Designing to accommodate more traffic will encourage more traffic.

I think efforts to force people onto public transport by making road transport more difficult are fundamentally flawed.

Our elected officials are paid to make our lives easier, not harder. If they want more people to take the train or the bus, they should make those services better rather than making private car transport worse. Of course, it’s easier to throw up a few “no parking” signs and to close off a street or two than it is to invest in bus and rail infrastructure. It’s very much a cop out.

Tom Cruise in MI:III. :wink:

I’m convinced that it’s because the folks who’re in charge of highway planning and zoning are simply stoooopid! I heard an interview with a city official who said something like, “We’re deliberately designing the streets as to be obstructive as possible, which will encourage people to take mass transit.” 'Kay, Sparky, you explain that to someone who’s in an ambulance on their way to the hospital and stuck in traffic because the cars in front of them don’t have any way to make room for the ambulance to get through.

More years ago than I care to think about, I lived in a town (Murfreesboro) that was ~30 miles south of Nashville, and unlike 90% of the population in that town, I didn’t work in Nashville, but in one (LaVergne) that was halfway between where I lived and Nashville. The state realized that they needed to widen the highway because of all the people coming in to work in Nashville from the south. Did they widen the highway down to Murfreesboro, since that was where the bulk of people who lived south of Nashville, but commuted to Nashville lived? No. They widened the highway from Nashville to LaVergne (and took an ungodly number of years to do it). This widening came with all the lane closures and traffic snarlings endemic to most road construction. When it was done, we had a year of construction free driving (but not congestion free), then the state realized, “Hey! We’d better widen the road all the way to Murfreesboro!” which is what folks who’d been driving the road had been screaming from the beginning.

Walkable communities are a start at a solution, I think.