Urban designers have published shelves of books and piles of reports about negative effects of cars on our cities. Some point to the pollution cars spew, some on the needless deaths they cause, but most point out the kinds of expensive and ultimately self-defeating demands auto-centric transportation plans place on cities.
Having decided that cars will be the primary means for getting around, cities and states (or provinces) must spend huge sums of money to build (and expand) freeways, widen streets, provide parking, and so on. Inevitably, and no matter how much they spend, these cities end up swallowed in a sea of urban sprawl and mired in terrible traffic jams.
But the alternative, "car-free" cities, has been anathema in North American political debate. But that may be changing. A number of recent books on de-emphasizing (or banning altogether) cars in central cities have been well-received. Some cities, like Vancouver BC, Portland OR and Boston MA, are actively encouraging residents to live without cars.
A new site, Carfree Cities, is the best portal out there for news and analysis of this trend. If you're interested in imagining your city without honks and traffic jams, start here.