What is transportation for?

I came across this in a reading for my class Case Studies in Sustainable Transportation. The question, “What is transportation for?”, was asked by urban theorist Lewis Mumford in 1958 after Congress passed and President Eisenhower signed the Federal Highway Act, which lead to the construction of the Interstate Highway System. I love Mumford’s response to his own question:

“The purpose of transportation is to bring people and goods to places where they are needed, and to concentrate the greatest variety of goods and people within a limited area, in order to widen the possibility of choice without making it necessary to travel. A good transportation system minimizes unnecessary transportation; and in any event, it offers change of speed and mode to fit a diversity of human purposes.

Lewis Mumford, The Highway and the City, quoted in How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken, by Alex Marshall (emphasis mine)
What would our cities be like today if this paradigm had been headed, and our cities hadn’t been ripped apart to make room for the interstates and the cars they would bring? I’ll explore this in a future post.
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2 Comments on “What is transportation for?”

  1. kb Says:

    have u read david byrne’s book “bicycle diaries ” ? if only we had heeded a lot of the advice of smart folks…but now i feel like people only want to think about “now”…. the future doesn’t appear to exist for these people.


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