Rarely have we seen a city government go to such lengths to wean its citizens off their cars.
The city of Murcia, in southeastern Spain, has taken a novel approach to getting cars off city streets: the government has launched a campaign, Mejor en Tranvía (Better by Tram) in which it offers its residents a lifetime pass on the city's new tram system - in exchange for giving up their cars.
Murcia, a city with a population of about 437,000, confronts the same problems as any urban center: parking, traffic, and pollution (both environmental and noise-related). The city's campaign is geared towards making the public more aware of the benefits of abandoning those noisy, dirty, expensive vehicles in favor of transportation that would make the city's streets greener, quieter, and less crowded.
To that end, the Mejor en Tranvía campaign has launched a series of short videos highlighting the inconveniences automobiles present.
Cars do unfortunate things like get flat tires:
They produce smog:
And they are just plain noisy!
Last month, the city tried to draw attention to the difficulty of parking in the city, creating situations like this:
Until the end of June, residents were invited to participate in the exchange program, turning over their cars (as long as they were functional and had been fully paid off).
Since then, the city has put all the exchanged cars on display and has been gradually taking them apart, ultimately making them 'disappear.'
The initiative has elicited mixed reactions from Facebook followers, from the supportive to the skeptical. One enterprising Facebook community member went so far as to try and negotiate the reward system: what if the town also gave him a bicycle in exchange, so he could reach places where the trolley didn't?
While similar initiatives might face challenges in larger, sprawling urban centers, we must give credit to Murcia's city planners for using creativity, city funds - and humor - to get its citizens to try to adopt green transportation alternatives.
Photo: Mejor en Tranvía