How realistic is it to have a major city without cars?

Carmen Gloria in the Horten to Moss ferry in Norway

I like my trip from Horten to Oslo. I take the free ferry from Horten to Moss, and then it’s about $16 for the train to Oslo. Not cheap, but I love the ferry.

There has been this discussion of Oslo city tolls to be increased (for cars driving in the city). The Fremskrittspartiet (FRP/party) is trying to give the city billions of Norwegian kroner to help public transportation instead of increasing the tolls. But the environmental party wants to increase the tolls, period. The environmental party wants the city without cars at all. How realistic is that?

I started thinking about it. When have we ever seen a city without cars? Oslo real estate is extremely expensive. Not everyone can afford to have a place smack in the center of the city. Some people have to work in the city, but live just outside the city, due to affordability, having children taken and picked up from school, or other reasons, such as some people just do not want to live in the middle of a city. It’s more convenient to drive children back and forth, get groceries on the way home with a car, than it is taking buses, then the train, etc. You can’t just bike everywhere if you don’t live in the city.

So as “environmental” and magical as it sounds to have a city without cars, is it truly possible?  

I live in Horten, a little over an hour south of Oslo, and most of my work and meetings take place in Oslo. Sometimes I have driven and sometimes I’ve taken the train. There is no parking in the city unless you pay over $50 for the day. We have parked at my in-laws’ house, but it’s not in the center, so you have to pay about another $8 for the bus into the city round-trip per person, again, not cheap. 

I was talking to my friends that were recently visiting me from Los Angeles and they are very much into public transportation, which is rare in that area. They pay only $1.75 for almost the same approximate distance from Horten to Oslo. I was shocked as a former driver and car owner in California. I’m sure it varies from state to state, but I know public transportation is cheaper in the US than in Norway.

I’m no expert, but from what I know, public transportation should be easily accessible and affordable if people should be using it more. Blindly increasing tolls without taking everyone that has to be in Oslo into consideration is not the answer to being ‘environmental.’

Then again, if I lived in the middle of the city in Oslo, I wouldn’t want cars coming in from everywhere. I would probably want to minimize cars to make the city cleaner and more environmental. So I understand both sides. Of course, we chose to live outside of Oslo and are paying for it now. The environmental party method IS working. I don’t go to Oslo often, and when I do, I try to plan all of my meetings and things around it. That is not always possible, but I minimize travel.

Right after I wrote this blog post, I had to take the ferry and the train the next day and the trains were not working after a certain point. It was chaos and there were no Vy (train company) employees to guide us as to where to take busses, which busses, etc. Finally one of the employees who was heading home told us where to take the busses, but he didn’t know which ones were going where. There was only one bus there, but it wasn’t going to Oslo. It was going to another town, and there I would’ve had to take another bus. I would’ve missed my first meeting and been extremely late to my second meeting, so I cancelled. Luckily my first meeting had to cancel too. I didn’t feel like being late to the second one, which was an event that lasted until 10pm, and then have to figure out how to get back home late at night, when transportation is even more limited.

It was an odd day. I had just been posting on social media about how much I liked taking public transportation from Horten to Oslo, and then that happened. I don’t like it so much anymore. It is actually the second time it has happened to me, and I don’t go very often, or I take the car other times. I hope they get a better system and add more tracks for the train routes.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this if you know more about the topic. Thank you for stopping by.

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CARMEN GLORIA PÉREZ was a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, now a veteran, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Politics from George Mason University. She is a member of SCBWI, SAG/AFTRA & The American Legion, and is a writer, artist, award-winning actress, short film producer/writer/director, and even co-wrote 2 songs in the Billboard Dance and UK Pop charts. After moving to Norway in 2017, she has been writing and published her children's book Kid Astronomy series with Uncommon Grammar. Carmen is also recurring as Sofia in the Norwegian TV series "Det Kunne Vært Verre" via TV Norge, currently on its second season.
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