The Effects Of Highways And Automobiles On Urban American Character

1304 words - 5 pages

The development of the United States Highway System has had negative impacts on the urban character of our country’s cities. One of the main catalysts, if not the main catalyst, of urban sprawl has been the development of transportation. It has made it extremely convenient and easy for people to move farther out of the inner city and develop rural America. As a result many prominent cities across our country have felt the effects of sprawl through diminished downtown economies. Highways have also played a key role in the standardization of American urban environments. Many urban areas around the country have lost their character and senses of place that they once used to embrace. More effective strategies to halt these issues should be implemented by the government. Different strategies in locating highways and strategies to help discourage the use of automobiles would assist in revitalizing urban centers, decreasing traffic congestion, and dependency on the automobile.
The original intent of street development in our country appeared to be for the legitimate reasons of postal service and agricultural shipping routes. Not until the automobile industry and economic opportunists got involved did the transportation system in America start to change. The system of buses and streetcars in the cities appeared to be functioning reasonably well. The theory of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” was not applied here. The auto industry convinced numerous cities to rid their streets of the streetcars and cut back on bus transportation. Overall results were good, for the auto industry. Urban centers started to lose large portions of their downtown populations to urban flight out of the city. The stereotypical suburban style living became the idealized lifestyle in America. Many city leaders including: mayors, civil engineers, urban planners, public-works officials, and downtown business and real estate interests actually believed that the passing of the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1965 would help to refuel the decaying city centers of the time, and save them, as described by Mohl in his writing Stop the Road: Freeway Revolts in American Cities. This hope of revitalization never occurred and more people were driven farther and farther out of the city. Everything was initiated once the Federal government started to provide for the State and Local governments so that these highways could be developed. Citizens of these cities also had skewed and absurd views on the need for roadways. In the movie Taken for a ride, an advertisement was shown about how new roadways would be good for the children. In the chapter Highway Federalism out of the book Twentieth-Century Sprawl, another absurd event is described where the education board sponsored essay contests with topics such as “How Good Roads Help the Religious Life of My Community.” These events are evidence that the use and motivation of the highway system in American soon expanded past postal routes and...

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