Urban Transportation The development of urban transportation has not changed with the cities; cities have changed with transportation. In the early years of transportation it was the mass transit of horse and buggies or electric rail cars that shaped cities. Then as the automobile became affordable to the public, personal transportation redefined the city as it was known. It is the automobile and the movement to the suburbs that has public transportation struggling to make money today. The very first transportation was with the horse. Then someone came up with the idea to pair a horse up with a buggy. Now four to six people could be carried at one time. These horse and buggies began to be common sight in cities and public transportation was born. Before the horse and buggy people were confined to the distance they could walk, so cities could not grow much. People lived in the central business district because that is where they worked. Now with the simple horse and buggy, people that can afford the transportation can move a mile or two out of the central city (Guathier 174). The big explosion of growth and increased ridership came at the turn of the century. The cause of this explosion was the electric streetcars that were installed in many cities. Whichever direction the rail lines were laid down and the streetcar moved, people began building their homes in that direction. The automobile was just getting its beginning and people were depending on public transportation to get them to work. As the streetcar’s tracks expanded east and west, the city’s population shifted that way as well. People did not need to be in walking distance of their workplace anymore, but in walking distance of the nearest pickup point of the streetcars (Guathier 175). As streetcars increased their length of lines and service, the public increased their choices of residential locations. People with higher incomes were able to move out of the central part of cities and into outer areas (Guathier 174). This also fostered the concentration of different ethnic groups within separate neighborhoods (Guathier 175). This separation reversed the intermingling that had been taking place during the late 1800’s between various economic groups and the different ethnic groups in the cities. Social stratification and sorting of different groups throughout the city was rapidly increased thanks to the streetcar spreading out the cities (Guathier 175). As cities spread out in the early 1900’s, railroads developed interurban and suburban railroad to connect the outlying areas of the city. As the electric streetcars continued to move the people around the cities, the railroads opened up the first suburbs on the outlying areas. Large industrial industries were the first businesses to relocate around the peripheral area of the old city thanks to rail easing the transport of goods (Gauthier 175). Suburbs that were railroad dependent created a beads-on-a-string look. People still had to be close to the train station and small communities began developing around each station (Guathier 175). The Automobile After the Great Depression the automobile began to be more affordable to the public. Just as the middle-class seemed to go car crazy, the United States found themselves in World War II. The American love for the automobile was put on hold until the 1950’s. After the war people were ready for the changes that were to come, however public transportation was not ready for the changes. During the 50’s the automobile became common sight in everyone’s driveway. Even the television explosion had an impact on public transportation. The thing that finally put public transportation in the back of everyone’s mind was the development of the expressway and the interstate system. The big wigs in Detroit looked to be poised to deliver an affordable product to the U.S. citizens and make automobiles common sight to even middle class driveways, but the Great Depression and then World War II delayed the idea two decades. Throughout the 90’s public transportation has continued to build. A couple of projects that were supposed to be newer and better however turned out to be worse than older transit designs. The project in Los Angeles for example has been an eye sore to public transportation. There were budget delays, then construction delays. Part of the subway section collapsed during construction, leaving a large whole in a downtown street. Once the transit opened it was filled with delays and rider complaints. The Los Angeles transit system did nothing to help the image of public transportation. Public transportation shaped the way we lived during the beginning of the century. Transit made suburbs the place to be. Then as automobiles grabbed the hearts of Americans, public transportation fell out of the public light. Government killed public transportation with the aid toward the federal highways. Then government never helped out public transportation in the way it pushed along highways. Public transportation will continue but it needs the help of federal aid to improve and expand.
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