Spring 2003, p.21

Auto-Free World

Seoul to Raze Elevated Highway and Restore Riverfront 

Seoul is tearing down a central highway (top) to restore the riverfront and install a bus rapid transit system (bottom).

Fulfilling a central campaign promise, new Seoul Mayor Lee Mung-Bak is moving forward with the restoration of a riverfront in downtown Seoul tearing down an elevated highway and building a Bus Rapid Transit corridor. Seoul is also testing articulated buses and expects to replace all of the city's diesel buses with CNG models by 2006. The city has lofty modal shift targets, including a 50% reduction in private vehicle use by 2005. The cornerstone of this dramatic new vision is the restoration of the Cheonggyecheon, an 84-meter wide river running through central Seoul's Dongdaemun district. Once the center of a diverse urban landscape, the river was gradually polluted with a toxic mix of chemicals including lead, methane, chromium and nitrogen monoxide. Then, between 1958 and 1978, it was covered with concrete and the city built the Cheonggyechen elevated highway over it. The highway cuts through the center of Seoul and has long diminished the quality of life for residents of South Korea's capital city. Mayor Lee will take down the six-lane highway, decontaminate the Cheonggyecheon and create a park and wide pedestrian corridor on the shores of the river in its place. The destruction of the Cheongguecheon highway is part of Mr. Lee's redevelopment strategy for the entire area north of the Han River, which he hopes will become Seoul's economic, cultural and environmental center.

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Sports Utility Vehicles, Pickups and Minivans Now 50% of US Vehicle Sales

At the new york international auto Show, it was announced that sports utility vehicles, pickups and minivans now make up 50% of US vehicle sales. The vehicles on sale in the US this year are the heaviest vehicles on record since World War II. More vehicles were sold in the US in the last two years than at any other time in history, over 17.2 million per year.

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Car Fuel Efficiency Plummets

The average fuel economy of cars and trucks in the United States fell to its lowest level in 22 years in the 2002 model year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The technological and engineering leaps of the past two decades have been poured into everything but fuel economy, the agency's statistics made clear. In the 2002 model year, U.S. vehicles went an average of 20.4 miles on a gallon of gasoline, the lowest figure since 1980, when it was 19.2 miles a gallon. Efficiency has been declining steadily since the 1988 peak of 22.1 miles a gallon.
-NY Times

Surge in Consumer Dissatisfaction With Car Fuel Efficiency

According to a closely watched survey of initial quality by J. D. Power and Associates released in May, fuel consumption was the second most common driver complaint industry wide, the highest ranking for fuel consumption in the 17 years of the annual survey; it had never before cracked the top five.
-NY Times

Walking Here? Americans Want To

A national poll released last week by the Surface Transportation Policy Project found support among Americans for measures to make walking more possible, safer and pleasant. 68% favor devoting more federal dollars to improve the pedestrian environment, even within a constrained budget. 55% chose walking, given a choice between walking more and driving more. Policies that would make streets friendlier for walkers found strong support in the poll:

84%: Design Streets for Slower Traffic Speeds
74%: Fund Safe Routes to School

Less than one percent of federal transportation dollars are spent to protect pedestrians, but 12 percent of U.S. traffic deaths are people killed while walking.
-Surface Transportation Policy Project

Dogs Bust Cars In Munich

A pack of frenzied dogs attacked six parked cars in Munich in March, causing panic among residents woken by the disturbance, the police said. Fenders, mud flaps and license plates were torn off. "It sounded like the cars were being broken into," said GŁnther Sailler, 63, a local goldsmith. "It was incredible. One of them leaped again and again with unbelievable force into the side of a car and bit into it like a lunatic."