Urban Transit Crush

July 8, 1970

Report Outline
Transportation Problems in Big Cities
Rise of Urban Mass Transit Networks
Plans for Improving Urban Transport
Special Focus

Transportation Problems in Big Cities

Growing Need to Relieve Automobile Congestion

Urban mass transit in the United States, decaying and neglected for more than a generation, may at last he entering a period of renaissance. Since World War II, spending on passenger transportation in the nation's cities has overwhelmingly favored the automobile at the expense of subways, bus lines and commuter railroads. One result is that city streets are now choked with motor vehicles whose exhaust fumes pollute the atmosphere. At the same time, mass transit systems have been losing money because of rising costs and declining patronage.

But the days of unquestioning deference to the automobile appear numbered. Citizens of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and other cities have protested against construction of freeways that would slice through downtown areas and residential neighborhoods. And there is growing determination among local, state and federal officials to raise the money needed to improve existing mass transit systems or to build new ones.

Mass transit backers formed a “surprisingly successful” lobby in Congress this year. The Senate on Feb. 3 approved, by the overwhelming vote of 83 to 4, a bill authorizing up to $10 billion in federal aid for mass transit development over the next 12 years. The House has been harder to persuade hut it too is expected to act on the bill, probably by late summer. The $10 billion would be matched by $5 billion from local communities—for a total amount far beyond the dreams of city planners only a few months ago but still far short of what they say is actually needed to do the job. They point out that more money ($16 billion) has been disbursed from the Highway Trust Fund for highways in urban areas. In contrast, virtually no federal money was spent on mass transit before 1964, and only $548 million from 1964 through fiscal 1969. Or as Secretary of Transportation John A. Volpe has put it, “We spend approximately as much in six weeks on highway[s]…as we have spent in the last six years for public transportation.” William J. Ronan, chairman of the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority, asserts that $20 billion should he spent on public transportation in the next decade by local, state and federal governments.

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
Public Transportation