7. Why was Robert Moses such a strong proponent of highways, and so blithely opposed to public transportation?

lower-manhattan-expressway-lomex-robert-moses-lower-manhattan-soho-chinatown-little-italy-nycProposal for the Lower Manhattan Expressway (LOMEX) that was never built. Image from Library of Congress

It wasn’t so much that he opposed public transportation, but more likely that he was enamored with all things automobile related. Coming of age in the 1900s and 1910s, Moses viewed the private automobile, as many people did at that time, as an exciting new technology that was a vast improvement over the day’s standard horse and buggy carriage. It was an era where newness and expansion were the driving forces of American commerce. Sustainability and environmental issues were not yet part of the public discussion.

Much like the computer and the Internet today, the car was the disruptive technology of its era, the must-have device of the 20th century. The downside of its subsequent growth and dominance over the transportation industry, and the repercussions of the urban decay and suburban sprawl brought on by this new “car culture” were not fully understood for decades to come. Is this possibly a cautionary tale for our current digitally oriented consumer infatuations?