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Old 06-22-2009, 02:46 PM   #1
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We don't need Mass Transit!!!

Why do we have mass transit? To move people around within cities? To move people from suburbs to cities? And who pays for this and why?

From Appletons' Journal, Volume 13.

Published in 1875.

The subject of "rapid transit" has been revived in New York with great interest. The mayor has sent messages; the Common Council have appointed a committee; the citizens have held meetings; the newspapers have been full of reports, letters, and suggestions. We most certainly hope all this ado will come to something. But to us there seems to be a good deal of wild talk, and a great chaos of ideas in the matter.

We are assured in some quarters that rapid transit would advance real estate at the upper end of the island twenty-five per cent. If should be the result, "rapid transit" would fail to accomplish one of its purposes, which is, to bring cheap suburban homes within easy reach of the business portion of the city.

We need swift communication between one portion of the city and another; Central Park and the Battery ought to be brought nearer together, and nearer to each section of the city; but rapid transit for the purpose of settling the far-off hills of Westchester, or for increasing the already too high price of land at the northern end of the island, would scarcely be worth the expenditure.

We suppose we shall have this "transit" in some way ere long; while it is coming we would our people could see the advantage of utilizing the vast spaces in our city, and rendering the town itself more inhabitable. At the best it is a tax of money and time to compel the artisan or man of business to go a long way from his shop to his domicil.

It would be entirely practicable to convert the upper stories of our warehouses into residences, to repeople the whole large district now exclusively occupied by trade. These upper stories would have pure air, and so miasma, that curse of suburban places; they are capable of being converted into delightful homes; and they would economize a great deal of energy that has now to be expended in the transfer from domicil to business and business to domicil.

And then there are large areas of "down-town" which are only half peopled - filled with mean, diminutive houses. Why should we build railroads at enormous cost to carry our citizens to the dreary suburbs when it is possible to house the entire population in comfortable and even elegant style within easy access of the business centres?

We hear of splendid structures on the Continental flat system in the far-up places of the city, the builders forgetting that, if a man is to travel several miles from his business to his house, he would wish gardens and other suburban features to reward his exertion. The very purpose of the flat-system is to enable people to reside agreeably within immediate reach of their trade, and in neighborly intercourse with others of their class. The greater portion of the lower part of New York might be rebuilt, to the advantage of the beauty of the city, and to the economy of its citizens.

A great city has no need to be diffused over vast spaces; nor can a city be any thing more than a chaos of houses when so constructed. A community ought to have some unity of thought and identity of taste; its citizens ought to be enable to meet in the public places - at the town halls for interchange of ideas in trade and administration of affairs; at academies and libraries for culture and discussion; at the opera and theatre for amusement; at the lecture for instruction; at the club for social recreation! People who meet together merely for the exchange of commodities, and scatter to the four quarters of the compass immediately thereafter, cannot form a community having any singleness of purpose or sympathy of taste.

We would, therefore, encourage plans of transit that served to bind one portion of the city to the other, but none which would serve to disintegrate our elements, and extinguish the public interest in the city except as a place of trade. Rather than this, we would prefer to see a stir and cooperation among our citizens designed to secure noble public buildings, handsome libraries and art-galleries, fine promenades, and the perfect utilization of our in-town spaces for desirable and accessible homes.
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Old 06-22-2009, 03:14 PM   #2
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Re: We don't need Mass Transit!!!

An old argument for walkable neighborhoods. If this author lived long enough to witness the anti-urban developments resultant of the automobile, it probably would have killed them.
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