Street Smart: The Rise of Cities and the Fall of Cars

Front Cover
PublicAffairs, Aug 18, 2015 - Political Science - 312 pages
With wit and sharp insight, former Traffic Commissioner of New York City, Sam Schwartz a.k.a. “Gridlock Sam,” one of the most respected transportation engineers in the world and consummate insider in NYC political circles, uncovers how American cities became so beholden to cars and why the current shift away from that trend will forever alter America's urban landscapes, marking nothing short of a revolution in how we get from place to place.

When Sam Schwartz was growing up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn—his block belonged to his community: the kids who played punchball and stickball & their parents, who'd regularly walk to the local businesses at which they also worked. He didn't realize it then, but Bensonhurst was already more like a museum of a long-forgotten way-of-life than a picture of America's future. Public transit traveled over and under city streets—New York's first subway line opened in 1904—but the streets themselves had been conquered by the internal combustion engine.

America's dependency on the automobile began with the 1908 introduction of Henry Ford's car-for-everyone, the Model T. The “battle for right-of-way” in the 1920s saw the demise of streetcars and transformed America's streets from a multiuse resource for socializing, commerce, and public mobility into exclusive arteries for private automobiles. The subsequent destruction of urban transit systems and post WWII suburbanization of America enabled by the Interstate Highway System and the GI Bill forever changed the way Americans commuted.

But today, for the first time in history, and after a hundred years of steady increase, automobile driving is in decline. Younger Americans increasingly prefer active transportation choices like walking or cycling and taking public transit, ride-shares or taxis. This isn't a consequence of higher gas prices, or even the economic downturn, but rather a collective decision to be a lot less dependent on cars—and if American cities want to keep their younger populations, they need to plan accordingly. In Street Smart, Sam Schwartz explains how.

In this clear and erudite presentation of the principles of smart transportation and sustainable urban planning—from the simplest cobblestoned street to the brave new world of driverless cars and trains—Sam Schwartz combines rigorous historical scholarship with the personal and entertaining recollections of a man who has spent more than forty years working on planning intelligent transit networks in New York City. Street Smart is a book for everyone who wants to know more about the who, what, when, where, and why of human mobility.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

STREET SMART: The Rise of Cities and the Fall of Cars

User Review  - Kirkus

How to fix our transportation nightmare? Former New York City traffic commissioner Schwarz ventures some ideas—and while many are oddly counterintuitive, they just might work.One projected ... Read full review

Contents

1 MOTORDOM
1
2 FOR EVERY ACTION
27
3 THE MILLENNIALS
65
4 HEALTHIER WEALTHIER AND WISER
89
5 WALK ON BY
113
6 UNLOCKING THE GRID
153
7 WHAT MAKES A SMART CITY?
181
8 TUXEDOS ON THE SUBWAY
211
Flatbush and Atlantic
243
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
251
NOTES
253
BIBLIOGRAPHY
263
INDEX
275
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
293
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2015)

Sam Schwartz is one of the leading transportation experts in the United States today. He began his professional transportation career as a NYC taxi cab driver while obtaining his Bachelor of Science degree in Physics at Brooklyn College and later obtained a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. His expertise extends into the areas of urban infrastructure, traffic safety, transportation systems, regional planning and development, urban design and civil engineering. He served as New York City's Traffic Commissioner and the New York City Department of Transportation's Chief Engineer/First Deputy Commissioner. After nearly twenty years with the New York City Department of Transportation, Mr. Schwartz joined Hayden-Wegman Consulting Engineers, Inc. in 1990. In the summer of 1995, he opened Sam Schwartz Engineering, which now employs a staff of more than 100 professional engineers, planners, designers, and pedestrian traffic managers in six offices throughout the country.

William Rosen is a former editor and publisher at Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and The Free Press. He has contributed to The Wall Street Journal, The American Interest, Lapham's Quarterly, The New Atlantic, The Washington Post Book World, Bloomberg, and Smithsonian's Echoes, and is the author of Justinian's Flea: The First Great Plague and the End of the Roman Empire (Viking, 2007), The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention (Random House, 2010) and The Third Horseman: Climate Change and the Great Famine of the 14th Century (Viking, 2014).

Bibliographic information