Following decades of car-dominated sprawl across North America, key cities in the region are showcasing innovative and dramatic urban transformations, providing hope for sustainable new models of living. Nowhere is this more clear than in Mexico City, which has experienced some of the most innovative and dramatic urban transformations of the 21st century so far.

Mexico City started changing course in 2012 by completing a major street redesign in the historic city center, opening 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 advanced.

The United States created the well-known model of highways, and sprawl that define much of the land use policies of the region, as well as have been exported to just about every part of the world. Canadian and Mexican cities developed in similar ways increasing space for car use, urban highways, and made the urban streetscape hostile to pedestrians and cyclists.

Canadian and American cities also offer some compelling best practices. The cities of Montreal, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver all enjoy 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.

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