The Transportation Experience in America
A Research Guide


Alvord, K.T. (2000). Divorce your car!: Ending the love affair with the automobile. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers. [SPEA -- HE5611 .A48 2000]

This ample volume, though not lacking in scholarly apparatus (including an ample bibliography and copious statistics), is written for a general audience, with the consumer in mind; indeed, the author addresses the reader directly, using the second person. Alvord uses the metaphor of a love affair to construct many compelling arguments, from the more obvious environmental implications of constant automobile use, to such “miscellaneous drawbacks” as aesthetics and noise. Not surprisingly, several alternatives to automobile transportation are also described at great length.

Bullard, R.D., Johnson, G.S. & Torres, A.O. (Eds.) (2004). Highway robbery: Transportation racism & new routes to equity. Cambridge, MA: South End Press. [SPEA -- HE206.2 .H54 2004]

This compilation of articles aims to, in the words of Bullard, “expose the nation’s dirty secret and force transportation racism out of the closet.” The book begins with a historical sketch (“The anatomy of transportation racism”), which traces disparities from the age of segregation to the invisible markers which persist today. Other articles are case studies of transit racism in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The book ends with a chapter on smart growth, and its relationship to transportation equity.

Jakle, J.A. (2008). Motoring: The highway experience in America. [Center books on American places]. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press. [HPER -- GV1021 .J33 2008]

In this book the author describes how driving has become inextricably linked with all manner of American experiences, from leisure travel to commuting. The historical period of focus is from 1900 to 1960, though it is acknowledged that implications of highway culture continue to unfold. The author’s aim is not to condemn (as Alvord does in her book), but rather to describe, synthesize and speculate. The crux of this inquiry can best be summed up in the author’s own words; he ponders how “the playful world of the automobile tourist—the promised world of enhanced freedom in leisure movement—became the mundane world of everyday life.”

Jones, D.W. (2008). Mass motorization + mass transit: An American history and policy analysis. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. [WELLS – HE5623 .J658 2008]

There is a seeming correlation between the ubiquity of personal automobile usage in America and the relative lack of viability of mass transit systems here. This work treats this correlation as a starting point from which to explore related issues such as suburbanization and the continuous development of highway infrastructure.

Kay, J.H. (1998). Asphalt nation: How the automobile took over America, and how we can take it back. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. [EAST -- HE5623 .K36 1998]

This narrative work describes the effect automobiles have had on the development of modern American culture; as such it is a “powerful indictment of a central element of life in America” (Choice, Sept. 1997). Set in three parts, which describe the burdens automobiles have imposed, their effect on urban development in recent history, and mitigating proposals, respectively. The author’s style is “accessible [and] journalistic” rather than overly scholarly.

Middleton, W.D. (2003). Metropolitan railways: rapid transit in America. [Railroads past and present]. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. [SPEA -- HE4500 .M53 2003]

This historical treatment of rail-based transit systems in the U.S. explores how they have helped shape cities during the past two centuries. Illustrations and photographs abound in this volume, and the author’s tone is decidedly optimistic, as he describes the “unparalleled period of growth and renewal” that will ensure their place in urban life well into the twenty-first century. The narrative prose is accessible to the general reader, while the bibliography provides sufficient apparatus for the scholar.

Newman, P. & Kenworthy, J. (1998). Sustainability and cities: Overcoming automobile dependence. Washington, DC: Island Press. [SPEA -- HE305 .N483 1999]

This book explores the relationship between auto dependence and urban ecology. The perspective highlighted here is decidedly progressive (one section is entitled “Greening the auto-dependent city”). In addition to the copious bite-sized chapters are several appendices, which serve as practical guides to the activism-inclined; one particular appendix includes a “Checklist of transit quality.” An extensive bibliography and index conclude the book.

Paterson, M. (2007). Automobile politics: Ecology and cultural political economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [WELLS -- HE5611 .P38 2007]

This book helps to explain the automobile’s centrality in not only modern culture, but in modern politics. Of particular interest is the chapter on the pro-car backlash, a movement by corporations and private citizens alike who wish to defend motorists’ rights In the final chapter, the author attempts to reconcile the critiques and defense of the car given earlier in the book. An avid cyclist, his perspective can best be summed up in his own words (from the preface), that “how we experience transport helps to shape our overall political orientation.”

Peters, P.F. (2006). Time, innovation and mobilities: Travel in technological cultures. [International Library of Sociology]. New York: Routledge. [WELLS – HE151 .P45 2006]

The author explores the relationship between time and travel, from a sociological perspective. He cites the “mobility turn” which characterizes recent research in social theory, and brings out the disparate concepts of mobility (which can be a measurable commodity) and travel. He builds his arguments through historical treatment, and explores various topics in chapters titled “Roadside wilderness” (dealing with American highways) and “Sharing the road” (cycling).

Tolley, R. (Ed.) (2003). Sustainable transport: Planning for walking and cycling in urban environments. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. [SPEA – TE279.5 2003]

This collection of short essays focuses on non-vehicular forms of transport, and as such provides another perspective to transportation in urban areas. Though the scope here is international, several of the essays highlight the United States. In the aggregate, this collection supports comparative study of walking and cycling in cities worldwide.