Rebuilding our Cities

by Handsome Matt

My good friend Joe, likes to keep me informed. Which is good, the more information a person has, the better. And when information is sent to me, I don’t have to work as hard.

It’s a win win situation.

Cities as Environmentally Sustainable (part 1)

The article in question can be found here. It is an interesting point to consider, for all our talk about freedom; we’re slaves to our cars. In my hometown of Columbus our mayor came out and said people don’t want to use public transit because they’re elitists. My dad’s response “It takes me two hours by bus to travel 20 minutes by car.”

We talk about being environmentally sustainable, and yet we ignore the whole reason we aren’t environmentally friendly in the first place. Cars. Seriously.


General Motors Co,  is no stranger to controversy. But it extends back from todays current debacle through history.

The one I would like to highlight is the Great American Streetcar Scandal. The gist being that GM deliberately sought to dismantle the trolley system in the US. At the time, circa 1920, 90% of the US used rails as the primary mode of transportation. So GM bought trolley companies and replaced them with bus lines.

Whereas you had cars moving around the transit lines with trolleys having the right of way, we now had buses.  Buses who get stuck in traffic jams, bounce over potholes, are frightening to the middle class, and reprehensible to the upper class. I like mass transit, but I don’t ride buses very often.

Call me what you will, but I do have a moment of pause when I ride the bus. Maybe it’s the crazed man facing the wall talking to himself, or the woman coughing up blood beside me. I don’t know why I get an uneasy feeling on the bus.

With trolleys out of the way though, mass transit quickly fell by the wayside. It was no longer the best way to get around town. And because of that, mass transit today is still second chair.

Urban Sprawl

With the leashing effect of trolleys removed, cities could grow ever larger and more spread out. Compare the development of cities like Columbus, Chicago and elsewhere to their development before they eliminated trolley lines. We can only do so much comparison due to huge advances in technology and society, but personally I believe had cities stayed more compact then the keystone movements in American society would have happened much faster. You can ignore what you can’t see (such as pollution, racism, inequality, injustice etc) and if you can’t run away to a suburb you have to address the problem.

Right now it’s easy to walk over the homeless because the 30 minute drive removes you from that. It’s easy to ignore the effects of pollution because industries are located so far from our homes. Unless you’re poor. Effectively then, urban sprawl has developed a neo-caste system in America. If you don’t believe me, look at a map. Find the highest residential property values, the best schools, and the lowest crime rates. Then find the inverses.

Notice a trend?

(side note, compare the pedestrian deaths per 100,000 in a city like New York to that of Dallas.

Check it yourself:

Streetcar conspiracy – An article written by Bradford Snell on GM’s role in the streetcar demise

Cities Can Save The Earth – the article that started this post.