National Geographic : 1972 Jul
congestion develops, coordinators speed traffic police to trouble spots. Some two million cars are registered in Greater Paris, yet the city's streets are deemed capable of handling only 200,000 moving vehicles at a time. The result: massive traffic jams. Despite new freeways and express subways, movement on the broad Place de la Concorde (left) slows to a crawl. Monsieur Lenoir sat at a desk flanked by banks of switches and buttons. Television monitors showed us how traffic was doing at any of 28 different locations. At Place de l'Opera, Place de la Concorde, Place de 1'Etoile-recently renamed Place Charles de Gaulle-and approaches to bridges over the Seine, the TV reflected familiar views of Paris's problem No. 1. "A very important thing to do," said the prefect, "is to provide adequate parking areas at key points on the city's perimeter. That way commuters can leave their cars on the fringe of Paris and take the Metro or bus into the center." The move to the suburbs is only the latest in a long series of interurban shake-ups dat ing back hundreds of years. Take the district of Le Marais, "the marsh," so called because it used to get swamped each time the Seine rose above normal. Eventually drained and protected against further flood ing, Le Marais became in the 16th century the best address in Paris. But then, in the mid 18th century, high society moved west to the faubourgs, or suburbs, of St. Honored and St.