It’s clear that the suburban way of life didn’t develop because suddenly people could afford cars

Saturday, February 12th, 2022

I was vaguely aware that the Interstate Highway System was seen as important for civil defense in the Atomic Age, because dispersed industry would be harder to take out with a limited number of atomic bombs, but the Federal Highway Administration‘s own history points to a slightly different concern:

For the President, the Formosa crisis illustrated the need for the Interstate System. He worried about evacuating Washington and other cities in the event of a nuclear attack. He knew the present roads were inadequate for that purpose. Still, in a meeting with legislative leaders on January 11, 1955, the Formosa crisis prompted a discussion of what would happen in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States. The President said he was worried about an atomic bomb attack, which prompted him to suggest the need for a plan to relocate Congress in an emergency.

[…]

[Civil Defense Administrator Val Peterson told a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee that] evacuation was the only practical solution. “It’s much better to get people out, even if in the process you may kill some of them or damage property. It’s better to do that than to have millions of Americans just stay there and be killed.”

On this same day, Governors Averell Harriman (New York), Robert B. Meyner (New Jersey), and Abraham A. Ribicoff (Connecticut) met with Mayor Robert Wagner of New York City to discuss plans for evacuating the city in the case of a hydrogen bomb attack. A report by the Mayor’s Special Committee on Civil Defense estimated that 1 million people could be moved from the worst danger zones in an hour by rail, subway, and ferryboat. Another 4 million would have to be evacuated by bus, taxi, truck, and automobile along 200 outgoing traffic lanes.

[…]

The report also estimated that 400,000 people an hour could be moved out of Manhattan in 75,000 to 100,000 available vehicles, aside from mass transportation facilities. In addition, if evacuation was not possible, 2,411,855 people could be accommodated on subway platforms serving as emergency shelters.

As illustrated by these activities on the day of General Clay’s testimony, the idea of evacuating cities was by no means unusual. Still, doubt existed about whether evacuation would prove to be practical if needed. In questioning General Clay, Senator Pat McNamara (D-MI), who was from Detroit, observed that when one crash occurs on a freeway, 10 cars pile up. “This is just normal driving, and they are not running scared for their lives.” He couldn’t “visualize it lasting for 10 minutes as a means of escape” and said he would “use the alleys rather than use the superhighway” in the face of a pending atomic attack.

The Interstate Highway System does not strike me as a system for evacuating cities. That does present an interesting thought experiment though: what would be a good system for evacuating a city and getting its population out of immediate danger from the blast and then the fallout? Subways out into the countryside?

This Treehugger piece presents the more familiar argument that one of the best defences against nuclear bombs is sprawl:

In 1945, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists began advocating for “dispersal,” or “defense through decentralization” as the only realistic defense against nuclear weapons, and the federal government realized this was an important strategic move. Most city planners agreed, and America adopted a completely new way of life, one that was different from anything that had come before, by directing all new construction “away from congested central areas to their outer fringes and suburbs in low-density continuous development,” and “the prevention of the metropolitan core’s further spread by directing new construction into small, widely spaced satellite towns.”

But the strategy had to change after the development of the more powerful hydrogen bomb, and with it the realization that having people living in the suburbs but working downtown was a problem. “President Dwight D. Eisenhower instead promoted a program of rapid evacuation to rural regions. As a civil defense official who served from 1953 to 1957 explained, the focus changed “from ‘Duck and Cover’ to ‘Run Like Hell.’”

To service that sprawl and to move people quickly in time of war, you need highways; that is why the bill that created the American interstate highway system was actually called The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956- they are exactly that, defense highways, designed to get people outta town in a hurry.

It’s clear that the suburban way of life didn’t develop because suddenly people could afford cars; it happened because the government wanted it.

[…]

After getting the people out, the next step was to actually move the industries and offices out of the dense urban cores, where so many corporations could be taken out with a single bomb, and establish them in suburban corporate campuses where just about every one of them would be a separate target. There was actually a National Industrial Dispersion Policy, designed to decentralize industry and commerce.

Comments

  1. David Whitewolf says:

    Coulda sworn I read somewhere that the initial highways were designed to handle the weight of tank transports to facilitate rapid deployment nationwide and that other considerations were just gravy.

  2. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    “The Interstate Highway System does not strike me as a system for evacuating cities. That does present an interesting thought experiment though: what would be a good system for evacuating a city and getting its population out of immediate danger from the blast and then the fallout? Subways out into the countryside?”

    Going by the numbers the most efficient form of overland transport is canal systems. A stream of barges could empty out a city very quickly.

    The efficiency of rail transport, vs road transport, is by a similar basic principle, the ‘rolling resistance’ of the steel rail and bogey systems being lower than the road and wheel systems.

  3. Harry Jones says:

    Once, when I was stuck in a traffic jam, it occurred to me that if there were a lot more exit ramps, there would be a lot less of a problem.

    The key is they would have to be exit only – no corresponding on ramp. The point is to evacuate the expressway itself.

    There’s a whole lot of things wrong with megacities. The possibility of nuclear attack is far from the top of the list. Never mind evacuating. Ask yourself: why even be downtown in the first place?

    It’s putting all your eggs in one basket case.

    The suburbs are bland. Bland is not so bad, but we can do better. Small cities are cozy. Small cities are how humans are meant to live.

  4. Bob Sykes says:

    Dispersal made some sort of sense when atomic bombs were only 20 kiloton devices. Nowadays we have megaton devices, and dispersal is meaningless.

    It is true that the Interstate system was justified as a contribution to national defense. The overpasses were specified to have a 14 ft 6 in clearance let the now defunct atomic cannons pass. But anyone who has driven in an urban rush hour knows they cannot be used to evacuate a city. The residents must shelter in place and pray.

    I live in a rural area. That not small cities is how people were meant to live, how we evolved to live. Cities provide many economic advantages, and they simply population control, but they are inherently evil.

  5. Harry Jones says:

    I’ve lived in a rural area. It was nice at first. It got old. The winters were the worst part of it. To this day I hate snow.

    I know exactly why hillbillies drink so much.

    There’s a Breaking Bad episode where Walter is holed up in the wilds of New Hamster in the winter. That’s what it’s like. Screw that.

    Cabin fever is proof that rural life is not how humans are meant to live. Megacities are unnatural and unhealthy in the opposite direction. Small cities are a sane middle ground.

  6. Bomag says:

    I’m thinking of the hurricane evacuations of Houston etc. Salient story was of people getting fed up and going back home.

    Our extant civilian population isn’t wired for a military type evacuation. It would be a bad case of loading an airplane with slow people stashing their oversized carry-ons.

  7. Gavin Longmuir says:

    By 1955, automobiles had been around for close to two human generations. Germany pre-WWII had built freeway-type roads. There was nothing new about the idea of a national highway system.

    The US still paid more attention to the Constitution back in those far-off post-WWII days. Perhaps claiming that the Federal Interstate system was in part for defense avoided some concerns about an expanding FedGov impinging on State prerogatives?

  8. Harry Jones says:

    Before the Interstate there were state highways. I’m not old enough to remember if they were good enough. But if they weren’t, I can’t imagine why anyone would need to come up with a strained national defense rationalization for something better.

    I very much appreciate beltways. It’s the rest of it that I’m skeptical about.

    I can conceive of an experiment to test the hypothesis, but my satnav won’t cooperate.

  9. Sam J. says:

    If you had deeply dug subways like Moscow has, then everyone could be safe in them. I’m sure they were built that way on purpose.

    Going into the subways would be very fast. Lines could fan out from the city center underground to far away from the city.

  10. Sam J. says:

    The Federal Interstate system was for defense. If I remember correctly, Eisenhower did an exercise where they tried to move whole army diversions across the country. It took forever. All the old State highways went through the center of cities. You can imagine the log jam that was. When Eisenhower saw the roads in Germany he knew we needed the same and as President he got it done.

    The original system was supposed to have fall out shelters under each overpass, but they never got built.

  11. David Foster says:

    The desire of Americans to live outside of central cities, even when they work in those cities, predates the mass adoption of automobiles. I can’t find it at the moment, but there is a piece written circa 1902 about how eager Americans were to use the then-new electric trolleys to lives in the suburbs, even at the expense of an unpleasant commute.

  12. Harry Jones says:

    I’m just old enough to remember when the jobs starting moving out closer to where the bedrooms were.

    I think what slowed it all down was the major universities were still near downtown. But then they started building suburban campuses.

    Once downtown was a Schelling point. But that couldn’t last. Nobody goes there anymore… it’s too crowded.

    I’m curious whether Eisenhower’s study was repeated after the Interstate system was built. Or do we just assume it helped the situation?

    I still think just beltways would have been enough.

  13. Bill Jones says:

    The purpose of the I. H. S. was far simpler than evacuation, it was to replace the public transport system with the private one preferred by the oil companies and car manufacturers. We’ve all seen the 40′s era movies set on trains- the system actually worked. James Corbett in his excellent piece “How oil companies conquered the World” touches on this aspect briefly. It’s well worth a look.

  14. Harry Jones says:

    “The system actually worked” and yet everyone abandoned it.

    Some things work better than others. And now we have that paragon of a great public utility: Amtrak.

  15. Freddo says:

    In the time that factory and office workers lived close to their place of employment, and the main thing to move was freight and some executives, of course trains were great. Curse the oil barons for their evil plan of providing us with a mode of transportation that does not involve multiple transfers with sketchy timetables.

  16. Wang Wei Lin says:

    I guess it’s all relative. I live in what was a sleepy Tennessee town of 2,000 30 years ago. Now it’s pushing 50,000 and the traffic is more than 25 times worse. I commented on the traffic to an old timer and he said it used to be worse. I asked how that was possible then he reminded me before the interstate system all the semi truck traffic traveled the two lane state/federal roads through little towns.

  17. Harry Jones says:

    Wang, I’ll say it again: beltways are fine. And I’ll add: a bypass is like a miniature beltway, and that’s just fine.

    But the rest of it? I’m not sure that limited access highways as such are at all a good idea.

    I’ll bend enough to tolerate a median strip, as I can see how they prevent accidents. But limited access is a trap. Give me a road I get can off of when I need to. Otherwise, “seek alternate routes” is a cruel joke.

  18. Jim says:

    Suburbs and interstate highways coincided but neither necessitates the other. There could easily be an interstate highway system and European-style (real) cities or real cities and rail. Frankly it’s kind of bizarre to rely on “road rail” as the logistical backbone and even more bizarre to mix commercial trucks and passenger cars together. In a vigorous country you could easily imagine long-distance travel being a personal choice between “mass” passenger train and “individual” family gyrocopter. Either would be faster, more convenient, and safer than driving. A modest train goes 120 mph and never crashes and if a woman could fly a Pitcairn PCA-2 in 1931 so can you.

    But everyone knows that these things will never happen because the national security establishment pulverized the blacks with drugs and divorce and BET and they’ve been used as a forcing function to keep the suburban engine of assimilation lubricated ever since.

    We love our counterinsurgency analysts don’t we folks?

  19. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    The comparative advantage of having your home/business/headquarters in a city, is close access to power.

    The city itself is not really valuable – dysgenic iq shredders in fact – the mass of value is that personal contact with holders of power, who also want personal contact with each other.

    In other words, it’s coordination problems, as always. But with the Great Resignation in latter days, people are starting to realize there are other vectors through which personal coordination is now possible, and that ‘email jobs’ don’t actually require you to show up at globohomo inc. in person.

  20. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    “yet everyone abandoned it.”

    Who is “everyone”?

    No “everyman” in America or her vassal states around the world was interested in buying a religion of negro worship back then either. But of course, he wasn’t the one calling the shots either.

  21. Sam J. says:

    Harry Jones says, “I know exactly why hillbillies drink so much.”

    As usual, not true.

    “Although these studies are difficult to compare, the ones reviewed here suggest that rates of alcohol use are higher for urban versus rural residents.”

    As for public transportation, I’m all for it if the people who abuse others on it are banned from it. Of course that would be racist, so we can’t have that. Blacks are just not capable of not aggressively attacking everyone around them. The only way to get them to stop would be to treat any hostile action by them aggressively. That has been tried and worked very well, but that’s racist, so instead all of us have to suffer. No one wants to ride on public transport because of their behavior, and in turn no one wants to pay for something they can’t use safely.

    Also the US is not compact like Europe, so planes are a better fit than trains.

  22. Harry Jones says:

    Once again, Sam misses the point by ignoring a category.

    Urban. Rural. Are these really the only two things?

    You can count in binary, but you need more than one digit.

  23. Sam J. says:

    Once again Harry Jones tries to gas-light everyone by added “other” things that don’t exist in something already categorized.

    He doesn’t like the facts, then say it’s not true because it’s not categorized correctly.

    See how this works. Always add some sort of quibble that has nothing to do with what he said in the first place to get you to forget that he said one thing and concentrate on some other thing he brings up.

    Typical. Frequent tactic to discombobulate any conversation into endless hectoring and meaningless blather.

    Our whole entire media is saturated by this sort of discombobulation, topic shifting and gas-lighting.

    I would just ignore this stuff except for he is a great tool(he does it so much) to show how this works. You will find that when it’s point out to you, you will begin to see it all over the place. Ruins the discombobulation effect when you understand it.

  24. Harry Jones says:

    Sam, I know for a fact that suburbs exist because I’ve seen them.

    You don’t have to believe me.

  25. Sam J. says:

    And once again, see how he attempts to deflect his false statement, “I know exactly why hillbillies drink so much.” which was proven wrong.

    So in a futile attempt to assuage his narcissism of never being wrong he tries his best to change the argument to something else, anything else, but that he was proven wrong.

    Look at what he says, “Sam, I know for a fact that suburbs exist because I’ve seen them.”

    And you know that by him attempting to separate out the suburbs into some special “class” he is trying to weasel out of the fact that the study was urban and rural. So in fact it has nothing to do with anything. And even if you were to include the suburbs think fast, what is the first thought that comes to mind, are suburbs rural or urban? You know the answer.

    I meant to, but somehow missed the links on the statistics for this. The first is the quote from the national institute of health site and the second is a table clearly showing the suburbs in the urban class of statistics.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4872615/
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4872615/table/t1-arcr-38-1-69/

    This is a pattern with people like him. I mostly ignore this stuff but do find it amusing to point it out so others when they see this, and it is very widespread in all media sources, they will recognize it. Once you are made aware of this sort of constant lying and obfuscation it really leaps out at you. You see it everywhere because the people feeding you constant lies are one and the same of those that have this mental disposition.

    It has worked for them so much in the past. I’m not sure if it’s genetic or taught. I lean towards there being at least some of this being a genetic trait.

    I also wish to point out a large part of their behavioral pattern is to attempt to demoralize others not of their race. That’s what spurred me to show that his attempt to do so is based on lies.

    He does this all the time. He tries to do it subtly but if you are wise to this sort of thing you can see how absurd the links he goes to to to degrade the people and the country he lives in because they are not his tribe.

    Here’s another example. Anyone who has driven across the country or done a goof deal of driving knows the Interstate Highway system is a huge blessing. Over the years I’ve driven certain sections where before the interstate was added you had to go through town. It used to be like this everywhere. The aggravation, traffic, time-wasting and excess fuel used in all this stop and go traffic was an immense aggravation. When they put in an interstate so you could go around, it speeded things up by hours.

    But he can’t stand this because this is a good thing. Anything good he must attack. He even does so by saying things that are completely stupid like,

    “Once, when I was stuck in a traffic jam, it occurred to me that if there were a lot more exit ramps, there would be a lot less of a problem. The key is they would have to be exit only — no corresponding on ramp. The point is to evacuate the expressway itself.”

    This is of course imbecilic that there be no on ramps only off ramps. When I saw that I laughed how he was stretching it to attack the highway system.

    Another,

    “I still think just beltways would have been enough.”

    So we should have huge highway bypasses to…no where. No way to interconnect cities except small country roads. I think he should write some letters to the editor of all the papers telling them of his brilliant idea to have lots of bypasses to no where with no connections and few on ramps.

    HAHAHHAHA

    In fact he is trapped because while the highway system is far from perfect, it’s difficult to say it’s not needed and it’s a great blessing if you need to go somewhere quickly. It’s a very fast way to move people and goods very rapidly. Rail is fine for large bulk goods that can move slower but you need the highways to move stuff faster. He knows this hence his befuddled attempt to say that “it’s a bad thing” by coming up with totally absurd “problems” to show his distaste.

  26. Harry Jones says:

    I feel so ignored.

    Logic is not something where if you’re selling at a loss, you can make it up on volume.

    There’s a saying: the left can’t meme. It’s not just them.

  27. Sam J. says:

    Harry Jones says, “Logic is not something where if you’re selling at a loss, you can make it up on volume.”

    More of the same. This follows the “pronouncement” tactic where they just pronounce things are so even though what they are saying is pure BS.

    Harry logic, “make freeways with little access but lots of exits” such that you spend millions of dollars on expensive freeways while not allowing people to get on them unless they wade through lots of city streets to get there.

    Harry logic, “only make freeways around towns while not providing anything but small county roads to connect the cities.”

    See how this works? This is once again a display of him attempting to denigrate the opinions of, the “other”. Not very successfully, but there’s a lot of this too. Frequently as we have seen they censor any opinion not theirs, however stupid their “logic” is, so they have the only opinion.

    It’s all one big ass gas-light. A good guideline s that if a Jew is agitating the air he is lying or distorting the truth.

  28. Jim says:

    Sam: “In fact he is trapped because while the highway system is far from perfect, it’s difficult to say it’s not needed and it’s a great blessing if you need to go somewhere quickly. It’s a very fast way to move people and goods very rapidly. Rail is fine for large bulk goods that can move slower but you need the highways to move stuff faster. He knows this hence his befuddled attempt to say that “it’s a bad thing” by coming up with totally absurd “problems” to show his distaste.”

    Cargo trains could easily move faster than trucks.

  29. Harry Jones says:

    Here in the real world, getting off a freeway is a far bigger problem than getting on one.

    We all know this. We all experience this. Just as we all know suburbs exist because we’ve seen them and some of us know hillbillies tend to be morose alcoholics because we’ve watched them try to drown their sorrows.

    Pro tip: if you’re looking to understand the world as it is, start with observation, thus discover facts and then finally add logic. Anyone who does it in the opposite order is not sincerely interested in reality.

    Anyone who doesn’t start with everyday observation is a nincompoop. Anyone who never gets around to everyday observation is divorced from reality. Anyone who refuses to acknowledge everyday experience is insane.

    This is the first step down the road to conspiracy theorizing. That’s a traffic jam in a blizzard, and no off ramp. It’s a highway to hell.

  30. Sam J. says:

    Jim says, “Cargo trains could easily move faster than trucks.”

    Another thing they do is try to mob up to provide support for each others “pronouncements”.

    You frequently see lots of “Alt” web sites all linking to and promoting each other, spouting much the same Jew gas-lighting.

    In this case Jim ignores all the people using the freeways other than trucks to tell use how bad the freeway system is. Like only trucks use the highway. Another Semantic, or is it Semitic, trick.

    He also ignores…time. You have to wait for a train to be scheduled, and it’s hardly a spur of the moment thing to hook up a box car to a train. With a truck or a passenger car…you just go when you want.

    Here’s another poor attempt to derail the freeway system by saying,”…Here in the real world, getting off a freeway is a far bigger problem than getting on one…”, which is logically retarded. If the freeway is clogged up then, you’re not going to get on it much faster than you will get off. In fact it’s faster to get off. If you want to get on and the freeway is packed you have to wait for someone to let you in but if you are getting off then as soon as you get to the exit you can exit right away.

    The distance between the exits and entrances in most places is exactly the same. So the comparison of off to on is…retarded. Let’s make sure we note Harry Jones quote here, “Anyone who doesn’t start with everyday observation is a nincompoop.”

    And the coup de grâce of the whole thing is…the whole reason the freeway is crowded is because when they designed them they “specifically” designed them for a population without mass immigration.

    Thanks to the malicious Jews we have out of control mass immigration, crowding the freeways so, it’s the Jews fault the freeways are crowded.

    So don’t tell us a damn thing is wrong with the freeways. Stop complaining about them. Anything wrong with them is the Jews fault. SO they have no right to complain about the mess they created.

    “This is the first step down the road to conspiracy theorizing.”

    You have this all wrong. The first step to conspiracy theorizing is to just watch what the Jews are doing. All it takes. You can see he’s getting stuck because the only thing he can think of to say is call anything he doesn’t want people to talk about “conspiracy theorizing”. It’s one of their standard fallback lines, much weakening by their continuous conspiracies and attacks on Americans. Even perfectly normal people believe in conspiracies now. I’m not sure if I know anyone who doesn’t believe in conspiracies.

    What you people should do is listen to Jesus. Now you might not believe in Jesus as the Son of God or even if he was real at all, but he said some very wise things like,

    Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
    - John 8:42-47 ”
    – then answered the Jews — ” (which makes it clear that Christ was addressing the Jews.)

  31. Jim says:

    Sam: “Another thing they do is try to mob up to provide support for each others “pronouncements”. You frequently see lots of “Alt” web sites all linking to and promoting each other, spouting much the same Jew gas-lighting. In this case Jim ignores all the people using the freeways other than trucks to tell use how bad the freeway system is. Like only trucks use the highway. Another Semantic, or is it Semitic, trick.”

    Ouch! Defamed by my hero.

    Any honest person will admit that there are many things wrong with interstate highways. For example, they make it easy, simple, and inexpensive for Californians to escape the People’s Republic and infest and occupy America. Think of how much better the world would be if the Blight’s only ways out were by air, sea, or overland. I rest my case.

    (I also support internal passports.)

  32. Sam J. says:

    “Any honest person will admit that there are many things wrong with interstate highways.”

    And there are many things wrong with stainless steel, knives, gunny sacks, Pyrex bowls and helicopters but…they are useful, none the less.

    “For example, they make it easy, simple, and inexpensive for Californians to escape the People’s Republic and infest and occupy America. Think of how much better the world would be if the Blight’s only ways out were by air, sea, or overland. I rest my case.”

    A wise Man knows when to admit defeat. I have no come back to this at all.

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