First “Smart” Car Arrives in New York

The eight-and-a-half foot long, 1,800 pound smart fortwo has arrived in the US, with the first American owner taking delivery here in New York. As it happens, he’s a friend of the folks at car blog Jalopnik, who took it for a drive. Here’s some of what they had to say.

We do need to change the way we think about the Smart. It is safe. Bookended by crumple zones, a steel roll cage surrounds the occupants.

It feels safe, too. The size defines the driving experience, but not in the way you might expect. Rather than feeling intimidated in traffic, you feel empowered. Gone is the need to take responsibility for an acre of SUV on a crowded road. Present is the freedom to move down that crowded road as you see fit. Congested urban streets and crowded highways stop feeling claustrophobic and start feeling easy.

It’s not Green. The problem is, the Smart isn’t that smart. The 1-liter, 70bhp engine has to work hard, so it only averages about 38mpg. Less if you drive fast.

So the Smart is a more complete, practical car than most people assume it to be – but that’s also its biggest problem. It’ll still get caught in traffic jams. Look at the Smart as a practical car that’s easier to use in an urban environment than anything else, and you’ll be happy. Look at it as fundamentally altering the way Americans think about transportation though, and you’ll be disappointed. 

Photo: Jalopnik

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Q&A With Sam Hoyt: Why New York State Needs a Smart Growth Law

|
State spending on infrastructure to support exurban McMansions drains people and resources from urban centers — and costs taxpayers a bundle. Photo: highflyingknight12/Flickr With Albany’s legislative session drawing to a close, the state legislature is considering several initiatives to promote sustainable transportation and livable communities in New York state. One of those initiatives is the […]

Peer-to-Peer Mass Transit: How to Make it Work

|
Here is the second installment of Streetsblog publisher and LimeWire founder Mark Gorton’s essay, "Smart Para-Transit: A New Vision for Urban Transportation." Part 1 is here and you can also download the complete pamphlet. Advances in information and communications technology offer the possibility of optimizing the performance of our existing road network in ways that […]

The Real Reason Uber Traffic Matters in NYC

|
For a moment yesterday, it seemed like the big clash between the taxi medallion industry and app-based car services, framed in terms of Uber’s effect on snarled Manhattan traffic, might veer into unexpectedly brilliant territory. There was Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris in the Daily News, telling the MTA that City Hall would consider the Move NY traffic […]

Smart Para-Transit: A New Vision for Urban Transportation

|
This is the first article in a five-part series by Streetsblog publisher and LimeWire founder Mark Gorton: Traffic is a crushing problem that oppresses our city, yet many people who drive into New York each day do not have a good alternative. I’m an engineer by training and the traffic flow problems facing large cities […]

Be a Streetsblog Superhero and Give to Our Spring Pledge Drive

|
We’ve all seen the graphs: Driving and car ownership have passed their peak in America, while transit ridership and biking are on the rise. On the ground, however, city buses still move at a crawl, bogged down in traffic. Most streets remain too dangerous for most people to feel comfortable biking on them. And the […]