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(Extract from Pages 19 – 21 of ‘Tomorrow’s Transportation’ 1968)

URBANAMERICA will double in the next 40 years, growing as much in that time as all of American urban growth since the landing of the Pilgrims. In that short period, the needs of older cities must be met at the same time that more than 100 million additional persons will be living in the Nation’s metropolitan areas. The question facing governments at every level, private industry, and the public, is not whether provisions can be made for this massive and complex growth. Houses will be built as will schools, hospitals, libraries, airports, water and sewer systems, roads, shopping centres, and office buildings. Of this there can be no doubt. What is in doubt is the shape and substance of cities and their opportunities; i.e., the quality of urban life. The form and quality of future cities is affected by many factors: Local administration, intergovernmental relations,municipal finance, private investment, water and sewer and other public facilities, and basically by urban transportation. The life of a city depends upon its transportation system. Inefficient transportation services increase the costs of local industry and commerce. They rob citizens of their time and comfort. They penalize especially the poor and the handicapped.

An 18-month study, the first truly comprehensive official look at urban transportation in the light of modern technological capabilities to deal with modern urban problems was authorized by Section 6(b) of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964, as amended in 1966. This report summarizes the findings of that “new systems” study, a systematic investigation of the possibilities for technological “breakthroughs” in urban transportation research comparable to those accomplished in the fields of medicine, atomic energy, and aerospace technology.

The study brought some of the finest research skills available (in government, industry, universities, research centres, and the foundations) together with experts possessing years of experience in dealing with urban transportation problems. Thus, traditional approaches were combined with new methods of research and systems analysis used successfully in the aerospace and defence industries. Working together, this unique team was able to explore urban transportation possibilities as never before, and to winnow fact from popular fiction. The improvements and new systems presented in this report also show the great potential benefits possible through combining technical advances with social service.

To help future urban transportation systems play a more active part in changing the city and the quality of urban life, eight general problems endemic to cities today were identified, against which total benefits anticipated from new transportation systems and subsystems could be measured as a guide to recommending an optimal research and development program.
These eight problem areas are:

  • Equality of Access to Urban Opportunity: Present urban transportation tends to immobilize and isolate non-drivers: The poor, secondary workers in one car families, the young, the old, and the handicapped.
  • Quality of Service: Public transit service too often is characterized by excessive walking distances to and from stations, poor connections and transfers, infrequent service, unreliability, slow speed and delays, crowding, noise, lack of comfort, and a lack of information for the rider’s use. Moreover, passengers too often are exposed to dangers to personal safety while awaiting service. These deficiencies lead to a loss of patronage and a further decline in service for the remaining passengers.
  • Congestion: Congestion results in daily loss of time to the traveller. Too often “solutions” are expensive in dollars and land taking, destroying the urban environment in the process.
  • Efficient Use of Equipment and Facilities: Increased efficiency and greater economy through better management and organizational techniques (including cost control, scheduling and routing, experimentation in marketing and new routes) is necessary to satisfy urban transportation requirements at minimum cost.
  • Efficient Use of Land: Transportation functions and rights of-way require extensive amounts of urban land, and compete with other important uses of the urban land resource. More rational urban land use made possible by new forms of transportation might help reduce travel demands, aid in substituting communications for urban transportation, and achieve greater total transportation services for the amounts of land required.
  • Urban Pollution: Air, noise, and aesthetic pollution from all current modes of urban transportation are far too high, degrading unnecessarily the quality of the urban environment.
  • Urban Development Options: Transportation investments can be used creatively in the orderly development of urban areas. Present urban transportation is often not appropriate for the modern city: Service is generally inadequate or unavailable for low and medium density areas, for cross haul trips and reverse commuting, and for circulation within activity centres and satellite cities. Urban transportation service should provide for choice in living styles and in locations as well as choice among modes of transportation. New town settlements, as well as other concentrations of urban growth, could be feasible options for land development patterns with improved interurban transportation services.
  • Institutional Framework and Implementation: An improved institutional framework (legal, financial, governmental and intergovernmental)is needed to eliminate rigidities and anachronisms which prevent the adoption of new technologies and methods. A framework which would assist metropolitan planning agencies and would enhance the effective cooperation of local governments in solving joint transportation problems is necessary.

Since the new systems study considered urban transportation to be not an independent function but a basic component of the entire urban complex, the changing urban context of transportation was examined. As cities grow in population and geographic size, their internal structure also changes, creating new and shifting patterns of urban travel demand. To keep pace with these changes, a service such as urban transportation must change also.

Major failings of the entire urban transportation system today are lack of both change and the capacity for change, resulting in a restricted choice of ways for people to get around the city and the metropolitan area. The common characterization of urban transportation modes as a blunt dichotomy between public rail transit and the private automobile is far too simple. Cities are the most pluralistic places in modern society; their citizens need a wide range of travel service, a mix of transportation services carefully designed to meet their varying travel needs.

The profiles of urban change, and some of the shortcomings of present urban transportation, are delineated in the following pages as an introduction to what must be done to develop new” transportation components and systems for the future. While new “breakthroughs” in transportation systems and services are the ultimate aim, a sound research and development program must begin with present problems, available resources, and current behaviour. Hence, a part of this report examines the promise of existing technologies to improve present transportation systems.