The United States, famously car-dominated, created the well-known model of suburbs, highways, and sprawl that define much of the land use policies of the continent, as well as have a major impact in just about every part of the world.

No where is this more clear than the cities of the USA’s closest neighbors, with Canadian and Mexican cities developing in similar ways, increasing car ownership, building highways, and making the urban streetscape hostile to pedestrians and cyclists.

Fortunately, this region also gives us some of the most innovative and dramatic urban transformations. In 2012, Mexico City completed a major street redesign in the historic city center, opened line four of the successful Metrobùs BRT, a major extension that connects the center to the airport. It also piloted a comprehensive on-street parking reform program (ecoParq), expanded its successful public bike system (Ecobici) and revitalized public spaces such as Alameda Central and Plaza Tlaxcoaque. In the following years, Mexico City has continued this progress, opening more lines of Metrobus on complete street networks, reclaiming more public spaces for pedestrians, and passing a groundbreaking parking reform policy, North America’s most progressive.

Canadian and American cities also offer some compelling best practices, the coastal cities of Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Montreal, and New York are all well known vibrant, walkable downtowns and high quality public transport systems. Yet, the majority of Americans and Canadians do not have access to quality, frequent transit service where they live and work, and even fewer have solutions for the “last mile”. For most, getting where they need to go still requires a car. As traffic congestion increases in cities all over the region, road fatalities worsen, housing markets tighten, and the effects of climate change become more pronounced, there are increasing calls for Americans in particular to rethink how much space they have given over to cars.

Through our offices in Mexico and the US, ITDP is working with cities to push for bold changes, reclaiming North American cities for people.


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