Urban Confrontation; 52; Man and the Motorcar: The Transportation Question
From Northeastern University the National Information Network presents urban confrontation. Do human beings really have to live in a configuration in which they go from the suburbs to downtown and go up in an elevator to the fifty seventh floor in order to work all day. You know why is it that we have to have such fantastic densities in our downtown areas. You don't have to have that in a completely abstract sense. I demolish about half of Manhattan and move it to Wichita Kansas. This sounds not A but I that's exactly what the kind of policies that we ought to be aiming towards. This week on urban confrontation Lowell came Bridwell federal highway administrator during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and Henry W. for director urban transportation. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These programs ma'am and the motor car the transportation Quest. Here's your host
Joseph Darby in. The American automobile. That great symbol of status independence and success may very well be the execution instrument for the American city. Now that's a pretty dismal way to begin a radio program but it is a dismal fact that today there are ninety nine million seven hundred ten thousand five hundred motor vehicles on our highways. Nearly three quarters of these cars are garage near our cities. By 1975 there will be another 20 million cars. They are poisoning our air causing massive traffic jams and killing some 53 thousand people a year. Our first question for our two transportation experts an obvious one. Can the American cities survive. The American automobile. And there's no reason to assume that the automobile is doing anything by itself. The other mobility operates today in the
way in which it does because urban planners have been channeling it that way. It is operated. It does not kill people. People who drive it tend to be responsible for accidents. The virtue or vice. If any device such as the automobile is pretty much in how it is used in the conditions under which this used. There is a fundamental point here that ought to be remembered and that is that it is very unlikely that people will ever abandon a form of transportation which comes close to being highly personalized highly flexible reasonably continuous in the sense that one can get into one's car and get going and go some more. Now these characteristics define personal transportation far more precisely and far more adequately and permit a pointing to the problem
than saying that here is this machine with an internal combustion engine which happens to be the way it is built today. Well you're being very realistic about the attachment of the American people for the automobile the personalized private individualized nature of the automobile. I wonder if we can also be realistic along other lines and I'll present an alternative solution that of mass transit systems would you agree that these would be a very good means of alleviating our transportation snarls if we continue to build American cities like we're building them today. You know we try to create 50 60 70 Manhattans all over the United States than anybody's an idiot to think that we can solve our problem with automobiles by the same token merely saying that you know automobiles cause congestion just simply ignores the whole problem of how we utilize our land and how we utilize the space adjacent to that land. There are a few fundamental points concerning the logic of mass
transit operation the very often forgotten. And if you can visualize the city as a series of concentric circles clearly at the center and the smallest circle there's a great deal of congestion. Clearly also everyone who is located in that circle can get to a mass transit line fairly quickly and easily. But as one goes out from the center on along a single line one has to cover with that the line in terms of the service that's provided a larger and larger sector. And this type of service becomes less and less accessible. And consequently to simply sit and say that subways are going to save the world. Again defining the problem and adequately Could it be said that how we do in fact utilize our space and develop our land depends in great part on how we develop our transportation system.
Now let's just simply face the facts the facts are that where congestion occurs as Henry has just said is in the inner city the central business district. The immediate downtown area of a city that city by and large was built 50 60 70 80 years ago and we're trying to take a transpersonal Tayshaun system that was subsequently developed and impose it on that land use configuration. Now this is nonsense. You have to remember that there is a historical trend that hasn't changed very much in the Rome of the Caesars. There was traffic congestion and the principal means of transportation at that point where sedan chairs and chariots and one of the Caesars I forget which one but I think it was in the first century A.D. banned all chariots from the streets of Rome during the daylight hours as a way of solving the congestion problem. There is clearly a possibility of changing the
physical arrangement of the city. And to say that transportation has a part in this is certainly true. But in the meanwhile one should also recognize that transportation is a means to an end. It is not the end itself and consequently somebody ought to be thinking about what our cities ought to look like. Well let's take a look at how our city should look. We've had proposals from time to time of the downtown pedestrian mall you are alluding to and closing off our central business district to transportation is not a viable alternative. This is certainly a possibility one can do many things in areas of high density. For example one can have better provision for pedestrian movement. One can have fully automated systems such as the many rail systems that were shown at the expo in Montreal a few years ago and so forth. But
these are unique solutions for high density areas. They are not universal transportation solutions and they have their role in the total urban transportation pattern. A little bird Well what do you think of this approach of screening off certain sections of the city to cars. I guess my reaction is that if you have a high density inner city that is high density in the sense of daytime population of lots and lots of workers coming into a central city in during the daylight hours then it's perfectly obvious that one has to have an exceptionally good public or mass transportation system. So. Do you cut off cars into this private automobiles into this section. Surely at some point some American city is going to be smart enough to say within a certain number of square blocks of our downtown area we're just simply going to ban the private automobile.
Well how would people get around in those areas during those hours. Then a personalized transportation system has to be developed it can be you know all kinds of different kinds concepts such as the many rail that Henry mentioned it can be a conveyor belt. There are all kinds of conceptual approaches to people movers. Let's get into some more specific discussion of some of these kinds of personalized transportation systems in the inner core city. You're a planner What do your people have in mind. Well there's been a lot of discussion of conveyor belts but actually it does not look as if. Such devices will be very useful. The main problem there is one of transferring people from walking to the conveyor belt and there seems to be a limit on how fast you can have the conveyor belt move in order to effect this transfer. However systems like the many rail system or some other form of automated guide that transport that would go along at street
level would be very useful. One example we have the technology for those now and yes it exists on the shelf as a matter of fact. The Houston airport has a small train that brings people from the parking area to the main part of the airport in which the guidance system is sunk in the concrete. That thing is operational now and can be used. But Houston is a rather atypical city I gather. There's a gap between the technology we have on the shelf and the technology we have in action. There is that gap but it's a matter of making the decision to implement. That is critical and whether a city does or does not do so really depends on the kind of political and legal questions that have to be dealt with there. Joe I've got to ask the question of you and him Marie and myself. Do human beings really have to live in a configuration in which they go from the suburbs to downtown and go up in an elevator to the fifty seventh
floor in order to work all day. You know why is it that we have to have such fantastic densities in our downtown areas. We always wind up talking about how you get people to and from the inner city and it always seems to be assumed that the inner city has to be a place in which there are fabulous concentrations of people. You don't have to have that. Well what would you propose as an alternative UI of this mold out the window. Bet I surely would I would throw it out and I would go to a deliberate policy of population and economic dispersal. You know if you want to go to him or especially of long range planning. Let's just back off and look quite the what this whole country is going to be like in 2000 the year 2000 if we continue to pursue the policies that we the we are now. What would your vision of an improved city look like. What kind of a configuration of population and buildings and kinds of buildings and a completely abstract sense of all the picture. I demolish about half of Manhattan and move it to Wichita Kansas. This sounds not A but
I that's exactly the kind of policies that we ought to be aiming toward some speculators invision the day when that could be done in fact that there would be little pockets of new cities all over our city can be done right now if all of the incentives are there for private and public investment to do it. Well how would people who lived out in the Midwest and the Southwest in the less densely populated areas where perhaps these new cities that in a sense you're alluding to would spring up how would they communicate with the older cities where most of the work was being Or perhaps the key word is a communication occasion is probably the least of our problems. Any any society that can send people to the moon and a guy walks out 30 feet from the capsule and puts down a television camera and records for the whole world every movement that takes place all in a matter of two hours. Boy you know communicating from the Midwest to the old established cities as probably the least of our concerns. You know this.
This is literally done routinely right today when I call up for example from my war office in Washington to make an airline reservation. Depending on which airline it is I don't talk to an office in Washington. I talk to a centralized computerized system that may be located anyplace in the whole country so this communication thing is not nearly as difficult as one might imagine. We should pause at this point in the program LOL Bridwell to let those who might have just tuned into this discussion know what they're listening to we're talking with LOL Bridwell former United States highway administrator and Henry Brook from the MIT urban systems lobby talking about the problems that our American cities faced in this last third of the 20th century in point of transportation and talking about some of the alternative solutions to these problems. We've had a somewhat futuristic train of thought in the past three or four minutes I wonder if we could take a look less at the future and more at the problem as it exists in the present. Henry Brooke you talked about the concentric circle concept describing our cities as
the inner core the middle belt and then the suburb an area as well. We have a problem and that according to the statisticians the high density area has formally been the inner core. But perhaps it is going to be less and less the inner core much of our industry is fleeing from the inner core cities along with our middle class 53 percent of the Metropolitan workers live in several cities in 1908. Only 32 percent will reside there and one thousand eighty five. And where is 65 percent of the workers labor in the inner city at the start of the 60s only 44 percent will work downtown in 1985 so perhaps a description of the city as being high density downtown is no longer an accurate description. It is a reasonably inaccurate statement to say that this city continues to be centered on the downtown area and the trends which have changed the distribution of population in which are increasingly changing the pattern
of employment from being centrally located to the outskirts have been with us now for nearly 30 years. They are a function of a number of factors. Lack of space in the central areas. Rising taxes. The desire to be closer to the residential locations of the labor force and so forth. Isn't this an argument for the mass transportation system which you were in a sense shooting down earlier aren't we having so many more people out of third concentric circle that it would make it worthwhile to have those points serviced by a mass transit system. Certainly it would be desirable to have these areas serviced but the question is what kind of a mass transportation system. I think the point that I would make here is that the characteristics of a desirable transportation system whether you talk about
it in terms of the love affair of the American public with the automobile and some other terms are reasonably well established. I don't as a matter of fact consider these as so much a uniquely American characteristic. And these are a continuous system that is something that you can get on to and go a highly flexible system a system that will get you to the places that you want to go to with the minimum of inconvenience. All of the mass transit systems in the United States and that literally means Boston New York Chicago Philadelphia Cleveland. Those are the ones that exist. But once it goes just one is that are under construction or in San Francisco and presumably in Washington D.C. Now we're talking about literally a handful of cities in this whole United States and only a very small handful of cities each and every one of those the systems that are old in the
stablish like the Bostons and the New Yorks in the Philadelphia. As well as the new systems in Washington and in San Francisco are clearly oriented to serve the suburban commuter into the central business district. They are absolutely not designed to serve the so called gray area inner city or to move workers about from suburb to suburb into the factory and associated industrial areas that are springing up on the outskirts of our cities. Well can we develop a system that can service the population once it gets down to the inner core city at a reasonable cost I got the impression from some things you said earlier Henry that you were not quite as optimistic about this possibility as a wall. I think it's possible to develop systems. I think that they main argument I have with those who are advocating subways and more subways is that first of all they are taking a technology that's 40 or 50 years old and putting it into the third third of the 20th
century. Which seems sort of an unreasonable thing to do in view of the kind of technological change that's taken place elsewhere. But my other and this is really my strongest argument is that such systems involve an enormous investment. Now once an area such as the San Francisco region has put a billion dollars into a single transportation system it becomes virtually impossible for them for a period of perhaps 20 or 30 years to think of any other really large scale investment in public transportation. And in a sense they have just locked themselves into one system one corner and it is not at all clear whether that system will be the best one for the purposes of that particular region.
But how long can we postpone the decision as to what system to lock ourselves into. I think the basic point here is that this is not an all or nothing decision. We have transportation facilities in the cities. We have streets we have railroad rights of way. We have abandoned rights of way in other words we have a basic transportation configuration. We are using it considerably less than optimally and there are incremental steps that can be taken in the very near term that would I think substantially help. The mobility problem as it is now and we can continue incrementally to develop the system toward something which will ultimately serve the kind of urban configuration that might emerge by the year 2000. And to be more specific the kinds of things that I am talking about here to begin with
making the bus system operationally effective through such things as priority signaling systems that would give busses priority is over automobiles and letting them through signals trying out bus streets that is streets which particularly at the peak hour are used exclusively by busses to move very large numbers of people quickly and effectively automating the signal ization systems all of the central cities far more than they have been. So that elements of directionality can be introduced so that you can get a lot of vehicles in in the morning and a lot of vehicles out in the afternoon fairly quickly and efficiently. So you see if you can make relatively small improvements. These would have a significant effect not only on free flow in the cities but also would have help a very large number
of people very substantially. Because if you save someone who has a work trip say 30 minutes in length about 10 minutes which may not seem like very much. You have cut a third of the time of his work trip here at the end of the program Henry and LOL. I wonder if we could get into a brief discussion of some of the lesser expensive alternatives. Henry you have proposed this car's a computer aided routing system. In Tokyo they have the eight point two miles system outside Tokyo that only cost 55 million dollars. These systems didn't cost as much money at least if I had done my homework correctly they did. Are there not lower cost alternatives. Well yes of course there are lower cost systems it really depends on what kind of quality of service and capacity of service that you want out of them. Well I think you had a minimal quality and quantity for a reasonable amount of money and the increasingly tight money economy the answer is clearly yes and I think Henry has mentioned
one of them and one of them is for example. Has to literally close off an arterial street all private vehicles and use that as an exclusive bus way for whatever periods of time are necessary during the morning and evening rush hours in order to move vast numbers of people are that anyone be done in terms of dollar outlay can be Durant done very quickly now a little while ago you referred to me as being wise in the ways the political world. It would be a tremendous chore for a politician for a pull public policy decision makers to make that kind of a decision because there would be fantastic howls of protest to close off a major arterial street use it exclusively for busses when conditions get sufficiently bad public policy makers meaning politicians will make whatever is the most expedient decision at that given point in time and if they have the money to build a one point two billion transport system and not disturb anybody in the process that's exactly what they'll do.
By the same token if they don't have the money and they still have to produce a solution. Then they'll just plain bite the bullet and make the decision and not get the impression from hearing you talk that they're they the idea of long range planning is not something that we're capable of here in America it's only the squeaky wheel gets the grease Yeah the moment. Absolutely not we are completely capable of long range planning and we're completely capable of long range policy orientation. I think the space program is a dramatic example to prove the point. By the same token in that intermediate time what can be done today. What kinds of things can we have dop today to overcome the problem that we have today. Certainly there are expedient decisions to be made. All right here at the very end of the program the question becomes what kinds of plans do we have and I'll kick this one to you first LOL Birdwell and finish up with Henry brook. Lol you worked for LBJ worked for JFK and you have been again wise in the ways of the politics of the
transportation problem. Does the Nixon administration have a plan to solve these problems or will we wait until it's too late. The Nixon administration does not have a plan to solve the transportation problem as we're talking about in terms of urban congestion urban environment nor did LBJ nor did JFK. Do we have answers. Of course we have answers and it takes a lot of political guts to implement them but they are available they can be done today. But don't we need sort of a systems engineering approach to see the total picture. Yes providing it isn't used as an excuse to delay for another 10 or 20 years. All right we don't need any more feasibility study. Exactly. Well then we need some practical plans which are on a rather broad scale not a hand to mouth existence. I think as you go I sense that that is what we need Henry Bruno right. We need to do several things that will tenuously. One certainly is that we need to put together something that looks like a
long range plan which will give us some direction and will allow us to make decisions within the framework that makes some degree of sense. And that means that we have to have some image of what we would like our cities to look like say in the year 2000. But in the meanwhile we also need to shift over much more to implementation. Now let me pick up here a theme that Lowell put forward and that is that if things get bad enough something is done. Well maybe we ought to let things get a little worse. And for example Manhattan come to a complete standstill. And that may then lead to a reconsideration of the lack of mobility and the question of whether one should in the heat try to maintain the kinds of densities that the
Manhattan planners would like to have. Well I certainly echo that joy as far as I'm concerned. I don't think there is a chance of a snowball in Hades of solving our transportation problem until we start seriously addressing ourselves to the problem of population and economic dispersal as a matter of national policy. You gentlemen have provided our audience with some rather optimistic points throughout the beginning of the program and some rather pessimistic outlooks here at the end of the program with regard to the future of American transportation. We won't attempt to sum up the program we'll let it speak for itself. Lol Broadwell Henry Brooke. Thank you very much for being with us. Northeastern University has. Rocky is located Bridwell federal highway administrator during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and Henry W. Brock rector urban
transportation Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His program man and the motor car the transportation questions. The views and opinions expressed on the preceding program. Not necessarily those of Northeastern University or of this nation. Questions I asked with a moderators method of presenting many sides of today's topic. Your host has been Joseph R. Brainerd Director Department of radio production this week programme was produced by Peter light directed by Jeffrey feld. Technical supervision by Mike Riccio. Executive producer for urban confrontation his beater life. In confrontation has produced for the division of an bucko communication. At the nation's largest private university and Northeastern University. Request for a tape recorder copy of any program. Maybe of residue urban confrontation. Northeastern University in Boston Massachusetts 0 2 1 0 5. Your announcer Dave.
- Urban Confrontation
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- Urban Confrontation is an analysis of the continuing crises facing 20th century man in the American city, covering issues such as campus riots, assassinations, the internal disintegration of cities, and the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation. Produced for the Office of Educational Resources at the Communications Center of the nations largest private university, Northeastern University.
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Producing Organization: Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.)
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