Tri-State came across this 1937 children’s alphabet book, The ABC of City Planning (hat tip to the Citizens Housing and Planning Council) published by New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s Committee on City Planning. The book, CHPC writes, was “intended to instill understanding and enthusiasm in children for the city’s built environment.”
Some of the book’s entries struck a chord here at TSTC, not only because of how things have changed over time, but also, unfortunately, how some things haven’t changed.
B is for BRIDGES that join land with land. They help us to travel but must be well-planned. While there are number of long-lasting, multi–modal bridges in and around New York City, there are others that were built without accommodations for cyclists or pedestrians, one that was designed for transit but never got it, and one that should have transit, but is still being debated.
O is for OMNIBUS, and the nickel you pay transports you for miles in a most modern way. True, nobody calls it the “omnibus” anymore, but that’s not all that’s changed. Fares have increased, both in real dollars and inflation-adjusted dollars. A nickel in 1937 is the equivalent of 81 cents today. At $2.50, the bus fare in New York City today is more than three times as much as what it cost in 1937 when adjusted for inflation.
R is for ROADS over which we must ride. It’s best, then, to make them all smooth, safe and wide. No argument here against safe, smooth roads. But is it really best to make them all wide? Wide roads are problematic for pedestrians because they encourage motorists to drive faster and take longer to cross. History has also taught us that widening roads over time is not a solution for traffic congestion.
X is the CROSSING where often we’ve seen people breaking through traffic when lights are not green. It’s a shame that this one is just as relevant today as it was 76 years ago. And although technological innovations like red light cameras have helped improve safety at intersections, failure to yield continues to be a common — and deadly — problem.