Highways and Buses

Another significant factor that impacted the transportation sector in the suburbs was the development of highways and the urban sprawl. The suburban sprawl is defined by Owen Gutfruend as “the dispersal of citizenry across previously undeveloped countryside.”[1] Gutfruend argues that before the 1950s, roads in the United States were maintained primarily though the local government. But after the 1950s, highway federalism took place and paved the way for the new age of automobiles. The Highway Trust Fund act of the 1950s is a prime example that shows where federal finances were being directed at a crucial moment for urban and suburban development in the United States.

This segment will analyze how the pre-existing highways were handled in order to develop public transit involving the suburbs. Bus operations were one way the American Transit Association managed the rapid growth and public reliance on highways. The news release the President of the Cincinnati Transit Company released in 1963 is a classic example of how a transportation agency handled the expansion of highways. The agency launched the start of an expressway rush hour bus service that would run Monday through Friday on seven bus lines, “saving passengers from 12 to 32 minutes per trip.”

But despite the initiatives to implement feasible bus programs, there was a trend of fare increase and falling ridership in multiple cities in the 1960s. Gutfruend describes this pattern as a result of the dominance of the automobile industry and the rapid decentralization of the metropolis.[2] The 1950s and 1960s was a significant period of time that determined the future path of Suburban transportation in America. The bus initiatives of the 1960s were crumbling due to the public’s desire to succumb to the new infatuation of the private ownership of a vehicle, which created a lack of ridership and therefore a lack of revenue.

[1] Owen D. Gutfreund, Twentieth-Century Sprawl: Highways and the Reshaping of the American Landscape, (Oxford University Press, 2004), 15

[2] Ibid., 97