The Effects of Highways and Automobiles on Urban American Character

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The development of the United States Highway System has had negative impacts on the urban character of our country’s cities. One of the main catalysts, if not the main catalyst, of urban sprawl has been the development of transportation. It has made it extremely convenient and easy for people to move farther out of the inner city and develop rural America. As a result many prominent cities across our country have felt the effects of sprawl through diminished downtown economies. Highways have also played a key role in the standardization of American urban environments. Many urban areas around the country have lost their character and senses of place that they once used to embrace. More effective strategies to halt these issues should be implemented by the government. Different strategies in locating highways and strategies to help discourage the use of automobiles would assist in revitalizing urban centers, decreasing traffic congestion, and dependency on the automobile.

The original intent of street development in our country appeared to be for the legitimate reasons of postal service and agricultural shipping routes. Not until the automobile industry and economic opportunists got involved did the transportation system in America start to change. The system of buses and streetcars in the cities appeared to be functioning reasonably well. The theory of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” was not applied here. The auto industry convinced numerous cities to rid their streets of the streetcars and cut back on bus transportation. Overall results were good, for the auto industry. Urban centers started to lose large portions of their downtown populations to urban flight out of the city. The stereotypical suburban style living be...

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... would then be recorded and the user would be billed accordingly. I envision this system to be similar to paying electric bills. Electricity is not a common public good and should not be because some citizens use more than others. No one should have to pay for the electricity that someone else uses more frequently. This applies to roadways as well, only the people that use them most frequently should have to pay accordingly. The excess money could be used to possibly help fund the research being done on finding alternative fuel methods. I would hope that these strategies would help stop the sprawl issues that face our cities. Public transportation or other forms of transportation could be used to get to work or other destinations. Overall our country’s system of transportation has created and continues to create major problems for the cites from coast to coast.

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