Streetfilms: Fixing the Great Mistake of Planning for Cars

FTGMlogo4web"Fixing the Great Mistake" is a new Streetfilms series that
examines what went wrong in the early part of the 20th century, when
our cities began catering to the automobile, and how those decisions
continue to affect our lives today.

this episode, Transportation Alternatives director Paul Steely White
shows how planning for cars drastically altered Park Avenue. Watch and
see what Park Avenue used to look like, how we ceded it to the
automobile, and what we need to do to reclaim the street as a space
where people take precedence over traffic.

  • Kaja

    Excellent work. Shorts like this make me miss video production.

  • Clutch J

    Nice! Every city needs such a video (and a PSW and a JSK).

  • john

    Congratulations, to the point and obvious. Clutch is right, every city that was once vibrant just 50 years ago needs to see what was lost in catering to motorized travel over people and livable streets.

  • This is a great video except next time, I say, just keep the camera on Paul Steely White’s face the whole time, don’t do any b-roll, and have Paul talk for 15 minutes straight. That’d be amazing.

  • Kaja

    Marty comes out of the closet in Streetsblog comment threads… (not that Paul’s not a good looking guy…)

  • flp

    @marty – NO! no need to make this campaign about particular individuals. that would only turn more people off to even considering the goal.

  • Giffen


    That would be amazing. But it would also be selfish, now wouldn’t it?

  • The Dynamic Mumeshantz

    Whoa! I vote for Paul White in Sensoround & Dyna-Scope 3D! I am drinking the P.S.W. Koolaid!

  • We love Paul Steely White.

  • zach

    Great video, great narrative, and Paul is a great speaker and a good looking guy, but I’m on the side of a variety of imagery. If you don’t have b-roll, you need visual aids of some kind. Even lecturing teachers use a chalkboard.

    As for the narrative, which we probably should be discussing, I particularly liked “the tide has turned” and images of Robert Moses. It makes it clear that we’re not calling him evil, just over. Also great is the idea that we feel for the folks who take a half hour bus ride to the subway, and understand how rough that is.

    What is this going to be used for? Seems very accessible for a wider audience than the choir here.

  • Glenn

    I love this type of stuff and it’s a great video. It would be great to have a video like this for Brooklyn, Bronx, Upstate, NJ, LI, CT…like that Hartford picture – what’s the story behind that!

  • Gary

    PSW FTW.

  • Fixing the Great Mistake in the cities will be relatively easy since these areas are naturally conducive to walking, biking and transit as viable transportation options, all of which are energy efficient.

    What will be even more difficult to retrofit will be the far-flung, totally auto-dependent, sprawling suburbs. In a low energy future these places will be abandoned and will become slums (in some parts of the US they already are).

    What to do with these places will surely form the “Greatest Challenge” for urban planners and governments all across this nation.

  • To go radical would be broad implementation of not only an intensely people centric built environment but advanced highly practical mobility solutions with one percent of less the environmental footprint of cars.

  • corretion (#14 gecko) ” one percent or less”

  • #13 Andy B from Jersey, ” difficult to retrofit . . . auto-dependent, sprawling suburbs”

    Near-zero emissions-energy vehicles and small vehicle transit systems would easily retrofit suburban areas; and, even more space for local food production than urban farms.

  • Nice mention of Park Avenue. I never understood why anyone would want to live in a mansion on stilts next to a raging highway masquerading as a street. The street life is so boring and inhospitable there. I’d rather live in Brooklyn any day.

  • The East Side of Manhattan is ripe for an urban transportation and ecosystem renaissance which cannot happen too soon not only for those who live in this area but for the rest of New York City for which this area overwhelmingly provides the first point of entry.

  • Viewer

    I live in New York and I don’t own a car. I enjoyed this, and basically agree with the point of view expressed. I love beautiful, people-oriented cities where individuals can walk. I also realize the film is under four minutes. But in the future you should also address the other side: New York is/was a great commercial city and its growth surely was based in part on easy access by cars and trucks. Should vehicle-accessible parts of the city have been restricted, say to areas like the meat-packing district and the garment center?

    Many major cities have sections that exclude cars. But they usually aren’t the real city, they’re tourist quarters with high-priced restaurants and craft shops.

  • Giffen


    It’s absolutely unnecessary to implement that kind of restrictions. Enforcement of existing traffic laws, congestion pricing, several closed streets (Broadway, for example), and lower speed limits would take us 99.99% of the way. (As far as restricting cars goes, pedestrian and transit specific improvements are a different matter.)

  • @Viewer

    Many European cities do truck deliveries in pedestrian shopping streets at night from say 2-6am. The streets are empty then. I know this is the case in many German and Austrian cities, maybe others. Congestion pricing could address this. Just charge less for driving trucks into Manhattan at off-peak hours. I don’t think anyone is in favor of pre-auto nostalgia. It’s just much nicer if we take turns using the streets instead of fighting like 3 year olds.

  • #21 “I don’t think anyone is in favor of pre-auto nostalgia”

    Not pre-auto nostalgia but car-free commonsense, practicality, innovation.

    Various schemes can deliver most if not all freight by much more practical, cost-effective, environmental and people-friendly means.

  • AJ Knee

    What’s with the shot of Cleveland at 1:07?


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