Article

"The Bus Is Young and Honest": Transportation Politics, Technical Choice, and the Motorization of Manhattan Surface Transit, 1919-1936

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.

Abstract

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Technology and Culture 41.1 (2000) 51-79 Figures In 1979, the New York City Planning Commission proposed a new vision for mass transit on the streets of Manhattan. The commission proposed to replace sixty-eight crosstown buses on Forty-second Street with twelve electric streetcars, which, asserted the commission, would run twice as fast with lower operating costs, and without noxious exhaust fumes. Ironically, streetcars had in fact rolled along Forty-second Street until 1946, and city officials had hailed as progress the replacement of Manhattan's trolleys with diesel or gasoline buses. Moreover, the 1979 commission proposed to replace the buses of the New York City Transit Authority with a light rail system operated by a private company, whereas several New York City administrations in the 1920s and 1930s had worked to substitute municipally operated for privately owned transit. It is no coincidence that vehicle type and operating authority were debated simultaneously in both cases. A fight over vehicle type often represents just the top layer of a deep conflict over who is to provide urban transit under what terms. Though transit executives, politicians, and other players boasted of the technical advantages of bus or streetcar, many cared more about regulation, taxation, and ownership than the merits of rubber tires or steel rails. Their decisions to abandon streetcars, in New York and in other cities throughout the United States, cannot be explained either by inherent technical advantages of buses or the conspiracies of bus manufacturers. Rather, the bitter antagonism between transit companies and local politicians moved both the companies and the politicians toward support of the bus as a means to rewrite old rules. They understood that the eight decades of tradition, custom, and regulation fettering the street railway had not yet gripped the new machine. As one upstart bus company put it, "the bus is young and honest." The current historical debate over the motorization of mass transit in the United States began in earnest in 1974 with the publication and presentation to the United States Senate of American Ground Transport by Bradford Snell. Snell charged that General Motors had destroyed mass transit in the United States by purchasing controlling shares of electric railways and converting them to diesel bus operation, not only to sell more GM buses but to weaken mass transit, forcing Americans into GM cars. In his report, Snell disparages the bus. "Due to their high cost of operation and slow speed on congested streets . . . these buses ultimately contributed to the collapse of several hundred public transit systems and to the diversion of hundreds of thousands of patrons to automobiles." Snell's thesis remains alive both in scholarly literature and in popular culture. Many books and journal articles uncritically cite American Ground Transport. David St. Clair's Motorization of American Cities fills in Snell's sketchy arguments with additional evidence. Using aggregated data for the years 1935-50, St. Clair compares streetcars, trolley coaches (rubber-tired buses powered by electricity drawn from overhead wires), and motor buses and finds "the streetcar was more economical than the motor bus, at least on the more heavily patronized lines," and that only an intent to weaken public transit can explain motorization. Snell has his critics. General Motors defended itself in 1974 by noting that the decision to abandon streetcars preceded GM's investment in transit companies and citing early movement toward buses in both Los Angeles and New York. Historian Sy Adler bluntly complains that "everything Bradford Snell wrote in American Ground Transport about transit in Los Angeles is wrong," attributing the abandonment of passenger interurbans there to a desire to use their rails for freight service. In their studies of Los Angeles and Chicago, respectively, Scott Bottles and Paul Barrett blame a transit industry characterized in 1900 by monopolistic practices, unsavory "traction barons," and crowded, decrepit streetcars. They argue that buses slowed, rather than hastened, the decline of mass transit. Donald F. Davis adds that many riders preferred buses to streetcars, and the short life span of individual buses may actually have been an advantage since it gave passengers more chances to ride new vehicles. Martha Bianco's study of Portland, Oregon, takes a middle ground...

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

... This is an important phenomenon, but it is not the whole story. Historical studies reveal that changing discourses attached to old technologies, such as the New York Streetcar system or the British coal regime, can play an important role in undermining them [30,31]. In both of these cases, these discourses had a clear policy effect, acting as a negative policy feedback [32,33] by which policies that were initially supportive of the regime contributed political developments that ultimately undermined it. ...
... • Finally, actor credibility can be undermined by scandals involving regime actors, which are particularly likely to occur in an incumbent regime that has been amalgamated into a small number of very dominant firms, as was the case with streetcar companies in New York City [30]. ...
... Roosevelt, who would later win a landslide victory, argued that the railroads should solve their own problems through innovation and better management. 30 This, like the opinion articles cited above, supports the idea that the railroads had an obvious way out of their predicament which was not being pursued due to their obstinate managements, and that the railroads therefore should not expect any help from the government. ...
Article
Full-text available
Incumbent socio-technical regimes based on fossil fuels probably cannot be destabilised to the extent necessary to achieve major reductions in carbon emissions without significant policy action. Policy actors, however, remain loyal to fossil fuels. Effective transitions to sustainability will therefore require the identification of political vulnerabilities in fossil fuel regimes. This article identifies one such vulnerability in the form of negative storylines. It describes the development of these storylines using the multi-level perspective on socio-technical transitions, as well as four dimensions of frame resonance developed in social movement theory. It then illustrates this phenomenon using an historical case study describing the development of negative storylines portraying the American railways as abusive monopolists during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. These storylines played an important role in destabilising the railways, particularly when they also faced pressures from road transport, as policymakers were unwilling to relax regulations on a regime whose key actors they believed could not be trusted. This article argues that this pattern is unlikely to be unique to this case, but is rather a common development in incumbent socio-technical regimes. This article concludes by considering some implications of these findings for the destabilisation of existing fossil fuel regimes.
... These early transit technologies lead to some land speculation and development on the island all the way north through Harlem, but business interests and politicians were adamant that the city needed faster service in order to shift the patterns of development (Cheape 1980). By the late 1910s, it was clear that public transit was competing with automobiles for speedy travel (Schrag 2000). The streetcar lines and other remaining transit technologies were losing ridership to subways and to automobiles. ...
... The streetcar lines and other remaining transit technologies were losing ridership to subways and to automobiles. Auto registrations in New York City jumped from just over 39,000 in 1915 to over 610,000 in 1927 (Schrag 2000). This was during a period when the subway system was expanding quickly, but the even faster rise in auto registrations suggests that a transit-oriented New York was not destined and that there was potential for the outer boroughs of the city to grow around the automobile. ...
Article
Full-text available
In the early 20th Century New York City grew rapidly in population and developed area. The subway system grew rapidly to accommodate this new growth, but also as a concerted effort to decentralize the city away from lower Manhattan. This paper explores the co-development of the subway system and residential and commercial land uses using Granger causality models in order to determine if transit growth led residential and commercial development or if subway expansion occurred as a reaction to residential and commercial densities. The results suggest that the subway network developed in an orderly fashion and grew densest in areas where development had already occurred while lagged station densities were a weak predictor of residential and commercial densities. The implications of land use regulations and transit network density on residential and commercial land uses are discussed as are applications to contemporary planning debates.
... A further contribution of this paper is its description of the tensions that may inhere between a subordinate regime, such as that of cycling in the Netherlands, and a niche, such as dockless bikeshare, where the regime is itself under pressure from and in competition with the dominant regime of automobility, for resources such as road space, public funds and priority in urban planning. These tensions are mediated through the framing of the bicycle itself as an "old" technology in contrast with automobility as "modern"; the political power that flows from this opposition is complicated by the technological novelty of dockless bikeshare (Schrag 2000;Turnheim and Geels 2012). ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper conceptually integrates socio-technical transitions with a mobility justice framework through the method of discourse analysis. A sample of media articles and secondary sources relating to the contested introduction of dockless bikeshare in the mature cycling city of Amsterdam was analysed using a multi-dimensional discursive interaction framework, which emphasises actors’ ability to succeed in framing struggles by persuasively combining content-related claims with relevant aspects of their context. Mobility justice tenets were then applied to this framework, yielding a number of novel framings that correspond to a prescriptive logic rather than the descriptive, strategic focus of discursive transitions. These novel framings represent not only a new rhetorical resource for actors seeking to legitimate their innovations, but also enable transitions researchers to pay more explicit attention to groups and sets of interests who are affected by but excluded from innovation debates. This degree of attention may also bring to light inequalities, barriers and immobilities that as yet lie outside of the frames through which transitions research seeks to analyse innovation journeys. Mobility justice in its turn stands to benefit from closer engagement with the micro-dynamics of innovation journeys, which may yield more detailed insights into how normative frameworks can be embedded into specific contests.
... Streetcar companies in the United States, for example, had a widespread reputation as abusive monopolists. This meant that buses had a unique appeal as a political weapon to progressive politicians in the 1920s and 1930s [309], with a similar phenomenon affecting the intercity railways [144,310]. These oppositional techno-tales gave road transport an early edge and began to associate it with freedom, independence from monopoly, and progressivism while positioning both cars and car-centric infrastructure as a progressive, modern technology [51,177,267,268,311]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Research on car dependence exposes the difficulty of moving away from a car-dominated, high-carbon transport system, but neglects the political-economic factors underpinning car-dependent societies. Yet these factors are key constraints to attempts to ‘decouple' human well-being from energy use and climate change emissions. In this critical review paper, we identify some of the main political-economic factors behind car dependence, drawing together research from several fields. Five key constituent elements of what we call the ‘car-dependent transport system’ are identified: i) the automotive industry; ii) the provision of car infrastructure; iii) the political economy of urban sprawl; iv) the provision of public transport; v) cultures of car consumption. Using the ‘systems of provision’ approach within political economy, we locate the part played by each element within the key dynamic processes of the system as a whole. Such processes encompass industrial structure, political-economic relations, the built environment, and cultural feedback loops. We argue that linkages between these processes are crucial to maintaining car dependence and thus create carbon lock-in. In developing our argument we discuss several important characteristics of car-dependent transport systems: the role of integrated socio-technical aspects of provision, the opportunistic use of contradictory economic arguments serving industrial agendas, the creation of an apolitical façade around pro-car decision-making, and the ‘capture’ of the state within the car-dependent transport system. Through uncovering the constituents, processes and characteristics of car-dependent transport systems, we show that moving past the automobile age will require an overt and historically aware political program of research and action.
... These Subway lines were planned and developed in densely populated areas and the private operators of these lines were solely dependent on fare box revenues, as they had no real estate stakes (King D. , 2010). By the late 1910's, it was clear that public transit was competing with automobiles for personal travel (Schrag, 2000). Subway ridership nevertheless grew rapidly along with the population of the city for the next four decades. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This paper provides an overview of development of urban rail systems in Indian cities and their noteworthy characteristics such as project structuring and financing. It discusses and compares the financing of existing urban rail transit systems in India, by studying the case of Delhi Metro (Public-Owned) and Rapid Metro Gurgaon (Privately-Owned). The impact of Delhi Metro on improved accessibility, exchequer savings, carbon-credits, use of solar energy and safety are also briefly discussed. The paper uses three best-known practices in urban rail, the Hong Kong Metro, New York Subway and London Underground, to highlight their evolution, project structuring and financing, as a basis of learning for newly developing urban rail projects in India and also in the developing world. The potential of land value capture, which is now seen as an essential component, to finance, sustain and expand urban rail projects provides the main focus of the paper and the biggest opportunity yet to be fully taken by urban rail in India.
... Three separate companies-two owned privately and third by the City-expanded the subway throughout four of New York's five boroughs. These lines were planned and developed in densely populated areas (King, 2011) which ensured that towards the end of the decade public transit usage and automobiles for personal travel were competing at par (Schrag, 2000). Rising demand for transit was supplied through private investment allowing for ridership to boom for four decades and peak in 1947 (King, 2011; Metropolitan Transport Authority [MTA], 2016). ...
... An excessive focus on short-term actions and microlevel strategies may thus lead scholars to ignore meso-and macro-level developments. Pierson [75] warns that this may lead to flawed 3 American local authorities, for instance, adopted busses as part of a long-standing conflict with electric tram companies, who were monopolists in urban transit [78]. Dutch traders, shipping agents and stevedore firms adopted pneumatic grain unloaders in the Rotterdam port to break the power of dockworkers and labor unions [79]. ...
... Three separate companies-two owned privately and third by the City-expanded the subway throughout four of New York's five boroughs. These lines were planned and developed in densely populated areas (King, 2011) which ensured that towards the end of the decade public transit usage and automobiles for personal travel were competing at par (Schrag, 2000). Rising demand for transit was supplied through private investment allowing for ridership to boom for four decades and peak in 1947 (King, 2011;Metropolitan Transport Authority [MTA], 2016). ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper discusses the significance of urban rail in sustainable development in the developing and developed world by examining the cases of Hong Kong, New York, London and Indian cities. The paper analyses the project structuring and financing of the urban rail system in these cities and its contribution to shaping sustainable urban growth and sustainable urban development in general. Observations from the case studies underscore the paper's main emphasis which is that both private and public funded urban rail require innovative financing mechanisms (specifically land based) to sustain or revive themselves financially and that urban rail lends itself to such innovation more than urban road projects as well as multiple other co-benefits. The paper reviews metro projects in several Indian cities and explores the applicability of innovative financing mechanisms and the challenges in adopting them in the Indian context to enable a sustainable urban development model for emerging cities.
... These vehicles include cable cars, electric streetcars, trolley coaches, gasoline and diesel-powered buses, underground and above-ground rail rapid transit, ferries, and some commuter trains. In the United States, mass transit has, for the most part, meant some kind of local bus or passenger rail service (Schrag 2000). ...
Article
For more than five decades, the federal, state, and local governments have subsidized mass transit systems through sales, gasoline, and property taxes with an expectation that it would improve mobility to low-income citizens, reduce carbon footprints and traffic congestion, and facilitate regional economic growth. However, in times of financial crisis and chronic government budget deficits, the inefficient use of a mass transit system can increase public outcry over the wasteful spending of government funds and taxpayers' monies. To find ways to utilize mass transit systems more efficiently across the United States, this paper aimed to identify the benchmark transit practices that every mass transit system can emulate and then continuously improve its performance. To achieve these goals, this paper analyzed the multiple years of past performances of 262 mass transit agencies in the United States using data envelopment analysis and the Malmquist productivity index and then provided practical guidelines for enhancing mass transit efficiency.
... These vehicles include cable cars, electric streetcars, trolley coaches, gasoline-and diesel-powered buses, underground and aboveground rail rapid transit, ferries, and some commuter trains. In the USA, mass transit has, for the most part, meant some kind of local bus or passenger rail service (Schrag, 2000). As the gasoline price hit $5 per gallon in some areas of the USA, ridership of the mass transit system across the USA has risen for the last several years. ...
Article
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to find ways to develop more efficient mass transit systems across the USA and, thus, make the best use of state/federal/municipal government funds and taxpayers’ monies. This paper conducts benchmarking studies. In doing so, this paper identifies the best-in class mass transit practices that every regional mass transit system can emulate. Design/methodology/approach The continuous underutilization of a mass transit system can increase public scrutiny concerning the increased investment in mass transit services. To defuse such scrutiny, this paper analyzes the past (in year 2011) performances of 515 mass transit agencies in the USA using data envelopment analysis (DEA). Also, to identify which factors influences those performances, the authors paired DEA scores for transit efficiency at the state level against a set of independent variables using a special form of regression analysis called Tobit regression. Findings The authors found that the greater population density of the service area, the greater number of riders can be served in a short amount of distance and time. Also, the authors discovered that the transportation mode of mass transit services could affect mass transit efficiency. On the other hand, the authors found no evidence indicating that the public ownership or private operation of transit systems could make any differences in the transit efficiency. Originality/value This paper is one of the few that assessed the performance of mass transit systems in comparison to their peers using a large-scale data and identify the leading causes of mass transit inefficiency. Thus, this paper helps transit authorities in handling juggling acts of protecting the conflicting interests of government policy makers against the general public and, then, make sensible future investment decisions.
... Long before the 'great streetcar conspiracy' of the 1940's, mass transit in the United States was unstable and episodically scandalous (Schrag 2000). New York City, for example, saw transit battles emerge in the 1920s, revealing that the tensions between bus proponents and streetcar (and tram) advocates were symptomatic of larger power struggles that often had more to do with regulation and taxes. ...
Article
Full-text available
Transportation infrastructure tremendously affects the quality of life for urban residents, influences public and mental health, and shapes social relations. Historically, the topic is rich with social and political controversy and the resultant transit systems in the United States cause problems for minority residents and issues for the public. Environmental justice frameworks provide a means to identify and address harms that affect marginalized groups, but environmental justice has limits that cannot account for the mainstream population. To account for this condition, I employ a complex moral assessment measure that provides a way to talk about harms that affect the public.
... Seeking to show his support for gasoline automobiles, President Wilson signed the Federal Aid to Roads Act in 1916 that helped construct 700,000 miles of highways, dotted with service stations and motels, by 1930 (Newman & Day, 1975: 3-4). General Motors, Firestone, and Standard Oil of California further promoted gasoline vehicles by purchasing controlling shares of electric railways and trams and converting routes to diesel bus operation or purchasing electric vehicles and trolleys only to retire them so that Americans could purchase gas-fueled automobiles (O'Hanlon, 1984;Schrag, 2000;Snell, 1974;St. Clair, 1986; for a critique of this argument, see Dunn, 1998;Paterson, 2007: 73-75). ...
Article
The belief that modern alternative vehicles and modes of transport continue to fail primarily for technical reasons glosses over the importance of the economic, political, social and cultural dimensions of gasoline powered automobiles. This article investigates the changes that caused manufacturers and customers to abandon bicycles, horses, electric vehicles, cable cars, trolleys, and trains and to overwhelmingly prefer gasoline-powered vehicles from 1890 to 1940 in the United States. It then focuses on the lessons that the historical transition to gasoline vehicles offers modern policymakers.
... When the automobile became a practical transport option in the 1920s and 1930s, city governments massively subsidised car transport through construction and improvement of roads. This was partly a response to demands from middle-class constituencies, but also a move to undermine the strength of electric tram companies [29]. ...
Article
This article investigates transitions at the level of societal functions (e.g., transport, communication, housing). Societal functions are fulfilled by sociotechnical systems, which consist of a cluster of aligned elements, e.g., artifacts, knowledge, markets, regulation, cultural meaning, infrastructure, maintenance networks and supply networks. Transitions are conceptualised as system innovations, i.e., a change from one sociotechnical system to another. The article describes a co-evolutionary multi-level perspective to understand how system innovations come about through the interplay between technology and society. The article makes a new step as it further refines the multi-level perspective by distinguishing characteristic patterns: (a) two transition routes, (b) fit–stretch pattern, and (c) patterns in breakthrough.
Thesis
Full-text available
Esta investigación de historia urbana se dedica a la planificación de tranvías en las ciudades medianas de los países europeos del socialismo real, en especial la RDA, la CSR y la URSS, en los años sesenta y setenta del siglo XX. El objeto de estudio es el tranvía como herramienta de transporte urbano y su relación con la estructura y la morfología urbana. Se estudia el modo en que el tranvía llegó a ser considerado clave para la profundización en la planificación urbana y de transporte de la denominada “ciudad socialista” en el inicio del último tercio del siglo XX, en un periodo importante de desarrollo del “urbanismo socialista” y de consolidación de la infraestructura de transporte público urbano. La investigación se afronta desde una aproximación transnacional incluyendo países industrializados y con alto nivel de desarrollo de transporte público. Asimismo, es una investigación interdisciplinar que incluye tres perspectivas: la primera y fundamental es la urbanística, que atiende sobre todo al modelo urbano enfocando el asunto tranviario y todas sus implicaciones transportísticas en relación con la planificación urbanística y el diseño urbano. La segunda perspectiva es la de la esfera del transporte urbano, en concreto, la ingeniería del transporte, la ingeniería del tráfico y la economía del transporte, ramas del saber que permiten la planificación y la gestión de las infraestructuras y sus servicios. La tercera perspectiva y la más transversal es la histórica, puesto que se plantea una investigación sobre hechos del pasado en relación con lo urbano y con lo tranviario. Con todo ello, los objetivos de la investigación se centran en entender las relaciones entre la planificación de transporte y la planificación urbanística, así como las diferencias y similitudes en la planificación del modelo urbano de la llamada “ciudad socialista”. La investigación planteó varias hipótesis. La primera hipótesis cuestionaba el nivel y la cualidad del transporte público colectivo, sobre todo del sistema tranviario, dentro de los países de socialismo real, a veces contrastando con los países occidentales. La segunda dudaba de la homogeneidad de las decisiones y soluciones en la política de transporte y en la planificación urbana socialista, asumiendo que en ello debían intervenir varios factores y aspectos nacionales. La tercera cuestionaba la existencia de ideas específicas de la “ciudad socialista”, considerando la posibilidad e importancia de un intercambio intensivo de ideas en toda Europa. Y, por último, se planteaba la posibilidad de una influencia fuerte de las soluciones transportísticas en el modelo urbano. La aproximación metodológica se basa en el método histórico-estructural, orientado a la comprensión y explicación de los hechos históricos. Para ello, la investigación se concentró en los siguientes contextos: político, económico, profesional, el nivel de la crítica de experiencia, la tradición y preexistencias en la planificación de ciudades y el desarrollo tecnológico. Asimismo, para ello se trabajaba con varias fuentes históricas, los archivos, estatales y municipales, las revistas y actas de congresos, las entrevistas, el trabajo de campo, los planes y proyectos de ciudades. El otro método aplicado fue histórico-comparativo, orientado a la determinación de los aspectos comunes y diferenciales en la teoría y práctica de la planificación urbana socialista. La comparación de las soluciones prácticas se realizó a través de la definición de las situaciones específicas o comunes en la planificación de tranvía y ciudad. En conclusión, se ha podido comprobar algunas hipótesis planteadas, entre cuales destaca la idea de que el tranvía no siempre fue un medio de transporte importante en la planificación urbana socialista y, algunas veces, la prioridad fue otorgada a los autobuses, trolebuses, metro y trenes suburbanos. Por otro lado, hubo bastantes decisiones diferenciales relacionadas con la política de racionalización de la economía, las preexistencias en infraestructura de transporte público y la fuerza de las ideas del Movimiento Moderno. Y hubo conocimiento suficiente de la experiencia occidental, sobre todo mediante la traducción de obras y los congresos internacionales. Finalmente, se pudo comprobar el alto nivel de influencia del modelo urbano sobre las decisiones de transporte, lo que fue condicionado con las dificultades en la organización de la planificación integrada, así como del trabajo conjunto entre los planificadores de transporte y urbanistas. Palabras clave: tranvía, transporte público colectivo, tráfico automovilístico, ciudad socialista, planificación urbana socialista, modelo urbano, modelo de transporte.
Article
Full-text available
Since the 1960s, research on urban transport and mobilities has evolved within the pages of Technology and Culture. The work reviewed is of growing significance amid the necessity of a transition to more sustainable and inclusive mobilities.
Conference Paper
交通作为城市运行不可缺少的一部分,其发展是城市化的条件之一。本文 的目的是通过比较分析,探索交通发展与城市化进展的关系。城市的交通形态影响城市形态与居民生活。通过分析美国与欧洲国家从工业革命开始的城市发展历程, 包括城市经济与基础设施条件的变化、交通工具的演变及市民对各种交通方式的态 度,对交通发展与城市化进程之间的关系进行探究。得到以下结论:交通技术的发展是城市半径增大的必要条件;基础设施建设情况在一定程度上会影响当地交通发展,包括主要交通工具类型以及运量。可以为城市的交通规划与治理提供借鉴。
Chapter
After the breakdown of the Soviet Union, tramway and trolleybus systems were reduced substantially in the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Despite being very costly for passengers, however, these transport systems have continued to run in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In this chapter I will argue that in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan the significance of trolleybuses goes beyond their capacity to transport people. Functioning trolleybuses are conceived and perceived as running examples of the authorities’ ability to address vital issues such as electricity and welfare provision, and thus maintain the illusion of a functioning Soviet-style welfare system. The exalted symbolic value of trolleybuses is underlined by the Tajik authorities’ decision to make use of them as nation-building billboards.
Article
The New York City 1975 fiscal crisis ushered in a new political order. As the city was placed under the helm of a consortium of bankers, the city was left to operate an economic turnaround against the backdrop of fiscal retrenchment and a new conservatism. The shift to a post-industrial economy was accompanied by a drastic re-ordering of public policies. Municipal unions who had been at the forefront of social gains became the scapegoats of the near-bankruptcy of the city and were among the losers of the new political order. This case-study of mass transit in New York City is a rather unusual instance of the «municipalization »of a private service, and aims at observing the impact of financial capitalism on social relations, more specifically on collective bargaining. The already difficult MTA takeover of the last private bus companies was further complicated by the general transportation strike of December 2005. Beyond the case-study of public transportation in New York City, what is at stake is the deregulation of labor relations as a central component of an American model of a service economy. Already achieved in the private sector, it is now at work in the public sector. This research also demonstrates how public-private partnerships, by increasing the power of financial markets, tend to contribute to a degradation of public services through a process offinancialization.
Article
Some technologies have had a greater influence on peoples ' lives than others. The automobile is, without a doubt, one that has had an enormous impact. By focusing on the specific example of Quebec City during the inter-war period, we shall try to emphasize some of the major alterations produced by automobilization on the city, the road system, and urban transportation. By investigating relationships between the automobile and urban landscapes, this article draws needed attention to a little-examined urban process in Quebec and in Canada.
Article
The 1850s and 1860s saw the first major wave of technological innovation and centralization in Valparaiso's city services. Experiments with new ways of organizing business accompanied the new technology: A public-private partnership built the first gas network, while a corporation built the horsecar line. Both ventures were locally owned, and they helped to establish patterns of service that persisted even after foreign investors and state agencies came in the late nineteenth century. The rhetoric sorrounding the two projects shows changing ideas about technology and the services needed in a city. The conflicts among the companies, city councils, and state officials involved show the difficulty of planning at times of technological change and the problems that poor planning could cause.
Article
This is a pioneering study on bus depots based on a review of the English-language literature on or related to them, which is motivated by the prevalence of real estate projects using the land of the former depots. The review is followed by some conjectures about the transaction cost advantages of bus depot sites as a source of development land and examines the hypothesis that redevelopment projects using former bus depots, compared to other uses, in Hong Kong are more easily approved under the statutory planning system. The literature review found that bus depots have attracted much academic attention, although research angles were conditioned by different social perceptions of bus depots. The empirical results of this case study did not reject the hypothesis. The limitations and implications of the study are discussed.
Article
Since its opening in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge has become an icon for the beauty and prosperity of the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as a symbol of engineering achievement. Constructing the bridge posed political and financial challenges that were at least as difficult as those faced by the project's builders. To meet these challenges, northern California boosters created a new kind of agency: an autonomous, self-financing special district. The Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District developed into a powerful organization that shaped the politics and government of the Bay Area as much as the bridge shaped its physical development. From the moment of the bridge district's incorporation in 1928, its managers pursued their own agenda. They used all the resources at their disposal to preserve their control over the bridge, cultivating political allies, influencing regional policy, and developing an ambitious public relations program. Undaunted by charges of mismanagement and persistent efforts to turn the bridge (as well as its lucrative tolls) over to the state, the bridge district expanded into mass transportation, taking on ferry and bus operations to ensure its survival to this day. Drawing on previously unavailable archives, Paying the Toll gives us an inside view of the world of high-stakes development, cronyism, and bureaucratic power politics that have surrounded the Golden Gate Bridge since its inception. Copyright
Article
For most people in the United States, going almost anywhere begins with reaching for the car keys. This is true, Christopher Wells argues, because the United States is Car Country-a nation dominated by landscapes that are difficult, inconvenient, and often even unsafe to navigate by those who are not sitting behind the wheel of a car.The prevalence of car-dependent landscapes seems perfectly natural to us today, but it is, in fact, a relatively new historical development. In "Car Country," Wells rejects the idea that the nation's automotive status quo can be explained as a simple byproduct of an ardent love affair with the automobile. Instead, he takes readers on a lively tour of the evolving American landscape, charting the ways that new transportation policies and land-use practices have combined to reshape nearly every element of the built environment around the easy movement of automobiles.From the dawn of the motor age to the establishment of the Interstate Highway System and the rise of the suburbs, Wells untangles the complicated relationships between automobiles and the environment, allowing readers to see the everyday world in a completely new way. The result is a history that is essential for understanding American transportation and land-use issues today. Christopher W. Wells is associate professor of environmental history at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota."Wells seeks in this lively, playful, and wonderfully accessible account to introduce readers to the transformations wrought upon the national landscape of the United States to make it fit for Americans and their cars. . . . To grasp the complexities and fascinations and paradoxes of "Car Country," I know of no better guide than this engaging book."-from the Foreword by William Cronon""Car Country" offers a valuable historical perspective that is directly related to many pressing contemporary issues."-Owen D. Gutfreund, author of "Twentieth-Century Sprawl: Highways and the Reshaping of the American Landscape"""Car Country" is the most comprehensive recent synthesis of the automobile in twentieth-century America. Of unusual scope and readability." -Peter D. Norton, author of "Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City". © 2012 by the University of Washington Press. All rights reserved.
Article
'Frank Geels's book gives us a new perspective on how society moves from one technological regime to another. Understanding these transitions is essential if we are to get to grips with what we need to do to switch our societies to more sustainable states and how technologies figure in that switch.' - Ken Green, Institute of Innovation Research, The University of Manchester, UK This important book addresses how long term and large scale shifts from one socio-technical system to another come about, using insights from evolutionary economics, sociology of technology and innovation studies. These major changes involve not just technological changes, but also changes in markets, regulation, culture, industrial networks and infrastructure.
Article
Urban transport systems worldwide are faced by a multitude of challenges. Among the most visible of these are the traffic gridlocks experienced on city roads and highways all over the world. The prescribed solution to transport problems in most cities has thus been to build more infrastructures for cars, with a limited number of cities improving public transport systems in a sustainable manner. However, a number of challenges faced by urban transport systems – such as greenhouse gas emissions, noise and air pollution and road traffic accidents – do not necessarily get solved by the construction of new infrastructure.
Article
This article explores how tramways were publically appropriated, in what way people responded to the new modes of transport, and how they integrated them into their lives and urban environments. The approach of public appropriation shifts the focus away from the technology and tramway companies to the users of the new modes and opens the field to the analysis of the interrelationship between transport technology and urban cultures in a comparative perspective. The study concludes that people were more critical of horse than of electric tramways. The often-quoted "massive public opposition" to electrification turns out to be much weaker than hitherto assumed. Only by the mid-1910s had the urban masses, upper classes, and workers fully appropriated them as modes to serve their working and leisure habits, as fashionable and as a very positive and visual sign for the ability and prestige of the city and an urban community.
Article
This essay proposes the concept of “passé media” as a contribution to scholarship that combines communication and geography, as well as to work that foregrounds background processes of networked, digitized social production. Passé media, communication and transportation technologies that both connect endpoints and are acclaimed only until the next technology arrives, reveal at least three attributes: (1) a novel way to conceptualize mobility, (2) the transformation of use-value to exchange-value, and (3) the continued ecological imprints of digital technologies. To illustrate, we turn to the bus, deployed both for transportation (commuter buses) and communication (computer buses). We argue that the moment of the bus highlights the ways in which spaces of connection are simultaneously privileged and ignored, highlighted and effaced.
Article
A mass transit system not only improves passenger mobility, but also affects the level of economic activities (e.g. working and shopping). Thus, changes wrought by mass transit service planning can heavily influence regional economic growth. This planning requires a careful consideration of conflicting goals (e.g. better utilisation of fleets vs. transit services, improved passenger services vs. increased operating expenses, revenue increases vs. tax or fare hikes) which poses a number of problems for policy decision makers. In particular, given the public's growing concerns over government budget deficits, the continuous underutilisation of mass transit systems can increase public scrutiny concerning the increased investment in mass transit services. To find ways to better utilise mass transit systems across the state of Ohio and thus make the best use of state/federal/municipal government funds and taxpayers' monies, this paper aims to evaluate the operational efficiency of the current mass transit system relative to benchmark standards and then identify the leading causes of mass transit inefficiencies. To achieve these goals, this paper analyzes the past three years of time-series data regarding 24 urban mass transit agencies in Ohio using window data envelopment analysis.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Despite decades of effort, widespread adoption and long-term use of improved cookstoves in developing countries remain hard to achieve. Conventional energy transition models emphasize households' socio-economic improvement as the most important driver of energy transition. However, previous work has shown households' continued use of old cookstoves or fuels even when adopting new technologies. Through a case study in India, this paper highlights the socio-political processes of the permanent removal of the traditional chulha cookstove. Newly available liquefied petroleum gas stoves and improved biomass stoves, thought to be substitutes for chulha, lead to different adoption pathways for lower and higher caste households. Lower caste households seem to remove chulha more readily because of sensitivity to chulha's heavy smoke that pollutes their utensils, kitchen, and clothes. We posit that by adopting cleaner stoves and removing traditional ones, the marginalized can disassociate themselves from practices that perpetuate their social stigma.
Chapter
Full-text available
Mobility – or the lack thereof – has been one of the defining features of the socialist period in Albania and of the social transformations following the regime’s collapse in the early 1990s. The ban on foreign emigration during the communist era created a sense of deep isolation amongst the population, who literally stormed the country’s borders once the fall of the ‘system’ was considered inevitable. By 2010, around 1.4 million Albanians – equivalent to half the resident population – were estimated to be living abroad, primarily in Greece and Italy (World Bank, 2011, p.54). Within communist Albania internal movements were strictly controlled through a set of laws and regulations. The post-communist response was large-scale internal migration, especially from rural areas towards the capital Tirana and the port city of Durrës. This impressive spatial mobility, both international and internal, has brought about social mobility for some, immobility for others. Meanwhile, everyday mobility has also changed, reflected essentially in the rise of private car ownership from zero during the communist years. At the same time, being stuck immobile in queues for food and consumer goods – typical of shortage economies – has not been eradicated but transformed; for during the post-communist era long queues have been about getting visas at foreign embassies, or waiting to be checked by immigration police at border-crossing points. Both ‘then’ and ‘now’, issues of security – of borders, states, and individuals – loom large. These various forms of mobility and immobility are deeply gendered, while at the same time gender relations themselves are being constantly transformed and negotiated. Against this background and framed within the mobilities paradigm, this chapter seeks to investigate some of the complex ways in which the socialist regime in Albania and its collapse have shaped experiences of mobility for ordinary Albanians. The chapter is structured along a combination of thematic and temporal lines. Empirically, we draw on ethnographic material collected in the framework of two separate research projects. The first examined issues of post-socialist migration, gender, remittances and development through a mixed-method approach, including 45 in-depth interviews and participant observation with Albanian migrants in the Greek city of Thessaloniki and their families in rural south-east Albania. The data, which also included 350 household questionnaires, was collected during 2008. The second research project uses oral history to investigate everyday life during the communist period in Albania; some 50 narratives from the north of the country collected during 2011 are used to this effect. Our discussion highlights – amongst others – that mobility reflects power relations and inequalities, since such movements are socially, economically and politically produced.
Article
Full-text available
Before the American city could be physically reconstructed to accommodate automobiles, its streets had to be socially reconstructed as places where cars belong. Until then, streets were regarded as public spaces, where practices that endangered or obstructed others (including pedestrians) were disreputable. Motorists' claim to street space was therefore fragile, subject to restrictions that threatened to negate the advantages of car ownership. Epithets—especially joy rider—reflected and reinforced the prevailing social construction of the street. Automotive interest groups (motordom) recognized this obstacle and organized in the teens and 1920s to overcome it. One tool in this effort was jaywalker. Motordom discovered this obscure colloquialism in the teens, reinvented it, and introduced it to the millions. It ridiculed once-respectable street uses and cast doubt on pedestrians' legitimacy in most of the street. Though many pedestrians resented and resisted the term and its connotations, motordom's campaign was a substantial success.
Article
Tramways in Germany remained the major means of urban transport until the early 1960s when their decline began. As part of a common trend in Western Europe, most German cites began to abandon their tramway systems in order to replace them with buses. This process did not slow until the 1980s when tramways began to reappear; experts spoke of the ‘renaissance of the tramway’. In the 1990s tramways had again become a modern means of public transport. This article argues that notions of fashion were responsible for this technological change in urban transport. The paper analyses the conditions necessary for a technology to become ‘fashionable’ and fall out of fashion. Fashion is understood as a specific cultural context which has led to a preference of a certain technology at particular times. Tramways are shown to have been a manifestation of commodity culture and of desires, ideas and beliefs.
Article
In 1974, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly conducted hearings on concentration in America's ground transportation industries. A considerable portion of the testimony and supporting materials was related to a controversial report written by then Subcommittee staffer Bradford Snell. Snell cited General Motors as an example of a corporation that was powerful enough to adversely affect the national welfare by merely pursuing its own economic interests. The report stated that the G.M. owned Opel plant in Germany made a significant contribution to the Nazi war effort. Snell also accused the company of pursuing transportation policies that had a major effect on the demise of electric urban rail mass transit systems in the United States. General Motors voiced strong opposition to Snell's charges and presented considerable testimony in rebuttal. The following is a review of the controversy and its impact as registered in popular and academic literature.