Mass Transit vs. Private Cars

April 24, 1963

Report Outline
Federal Aid to Mass Transit Systems
Debate Over Role of the Automobile
Existing and Planned Transit Systems
Special Focus

Federal Aid to Mass Transit Systems

Traffic Congestion in urban areas keeps getting worse despite costly efforts to do something about it. The 1960 census showed that 64 per cent of American workers traveled to and from their jobs by private automobile; only 12 per cent patronized public transit facilities. More than 85 per cent of trips of all kinds in urban areas are taken by private car. Dominance of the automobile has been a boon to Detroit and the highway construction industry, but it has meant loss of passengers and profits for urban mass transportation companies. Lacking funds for modernization, they have been forced in many cases to curtail service or go out of business.

A number of state and local governments, aware of the need for a diversified transportation system in sizable cities, have offered tax concessions and other forms of financial aid to the beset transit companies. Now the White House is seeking the approval of Congress for a program of federal assistance. An administration bill to that end, authorizing $750 million in grants and loan guarantees over a three-year period, passed the Senate by a 52–41 vote on April 4. A companion bill was reported by the House Banking and Currency Committee, March 28, but the chances that it will be acted on by the House itself are considered no better than even. The measure now awaits Rules Committee clearance for floor debate; the committee refused last year to grant a rule for consideration of a transit bill reported then by the House Banking Committee.

Mounting Transportation Problems of Cities

Pleas for relief from traffic congestion will not be silenced by failure of Congress to act on the question. The problem has plagued American cities for years. Until recently, city governments sought to alleviate the situation mainly by building additional highways and parking facilities. But growth of motor traffic has more than kept pace with new road construction. It was asserted a year ago that “We have about 270,000 miles of registered vehicles in the country and about 380,000 miles of city streets” and that “The automobiles are increasing five times faster than the streets.” Lewis Mumford, an outspoken critic of the automobile, has ridiculed the “innocent notion that the [traffic] problem can be solved by increasing the capacity of … existing traffic routes, multiplying the number of ways of getting into and out of town, or providing more parking space for cars that should not have been lured into the city in the first place.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Mass Transit
Dec. 09, 2016  Mass Transit
Jan. 18, 2008  Mass Transit Boom
Jun. 21, 1985  Mass Transit's Uncertain Future
Oct. 05, 1979  Mass Transit Revival
Oct. 17, 1975  Urban Mass Transit
Dec. 06, 1972  Free Mass Transit
Jul. 08, 1970  Urban Transit Crush
Apr. 24, 1963  Mass Transit vs. Private Cars
Mar. 11, 1959  Urban Transportation
Dec. 10, 1952  Sickness of Urban Transit
May 15, 1942  Local Transportation
Jun. 26, 1931  The Motor Bus in Local Transportation
Dec. 20, 1928  Regulation of Motor Bus Transportation
Motor Vehicles
Public Transportation