A is for Automobile

October 17th, 2007

Not a member of PlannersWeb? Larry Gerckens' complete Planning ABC's is available to purchase & download via the Scribd web site.

These 26 short articles provide -- in alphabetical order -- a terrific introduction to planning in America. They were prepared for the Planning Commissioners Journal by planning historian Laurence C. Gerckens, FAICP. Gerckens is national historian for the American Institute of Certified Planners; founder of The Society for American City and Regional Planning History; and emeritus professor at The Ohio State University.

Paul Hoffman, who illustrated all 86 covers of the Planning Commissioners Journal, prepared the 26 illustrations for the Planning ABC's.

Sit back, relax, and browse through a range of fascinating planning topics.

Read excerpt from start of article:

The automobile enabled creation of multi-million-person urban areas spread thinly over vast regional areas -- and shaped the character of the 20th century American city. The primary city-shaper until the mid-1920s was the trolley. Electric trolleys, running on fixed-rails, generated high density residential development within a few-block walking distance of the main streets on which they ran. Small mom-and-pop grocery stores and personal service shops were located at street corner trolley stops regularly spaced along the major streets radiating outward from the central commercial and manufacturing district: the "downtown."

The advent of the automobile changed all that. Not limited to fixed main-street routes, the automobile could travel anywhere there was a passable public way. The auto-owning seeker of a housing site could negotiate for a parcel of land beyond the limits of a few major streets. This dispersal of new residential development (generally for a population with higher disposable income than that of the average dweller along a trolley line) led, in turn, to strip-commercial development along auto routes radiating outward from the city center.

End of excerpt

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