Traffic jams now dominate life in the world's great cities. In Los Angeles drivers inch along 12-lane expressways. In Mexico City children start school late to avoid the morning smog. Bangkok's office-workers suffocate on packed buses for an average of 2 1/2 hours a day. All of this is caused by more people crowding into big cities but more importantly because people are moving more. Most of the extra moving is done in cars. Places like New York and London have nearly one-quarter of their land area devoted to roads and have vast metro systems under them and are near their capacity to do more for the driver.
In the UK in 1994 it was estimated that the cost of traffic jams was £15 billion a year, not to mention the number of deaths associated with automobile accidents during traffic jams. The cost of traffic jams in Belgium is $375,000,000 and 25 million hours a year. Vehicles wear out faster, petrol is consumed faster and accidents increase because of traffic jams. In Los Angeles, motorists who battle congestion are exposed to between two and four times the levels of cancer-causing toxic chemicals found elsewhere outdoors.
Cities can no longer accommodate the number of passenger cars and commercial vehicles that daily congest the main roads, city centres, side-streets, alleys and lots. Congestion, despite all ingenuities of traffic engineering, slows automobile speeds to pedestrian rates and fills the air with unhealthy exhausts (which also deface buildings and monuments with their sooty deposits and kill trees and plants). Vehicular traffic congestion is responsible for accidents that take lives and destroy property, is a factor in 'downtown decay', drives shoppers to suburbia where they can park, and probably contributes to city budget deficits because of the public services consumed. The passenger car itself has done more to destroy the quality of urban life than anything else. The influence of the automobile industry, retail stores, restaurants and theatres are among those whose interests are threatened by vehicle limitation proposals.