You Can’t Get There From Here – Getting Around In America In 1972 – Past Daily Reference Room
Click on the link here for Audio Player – NBC News: Second Sunday – Sic Transit America – June 10, 1972 -Gordon Skene Sound Collection
In the 1960s, as awareness of what was going on in our world was growing, the state of our Cities was coming under scrutiny. By the 1970s we were well-aware that something was very badly wrong with our systems of transportation. That we had, as several noted, “achieved a certain Fifth Freedom – to drive anywhere, all the time”, and this was creating huge problems for our cities. There were more people, but there were even more cars on the road. It was estimated that, on the average day some 6,000 babies were born in the U.S. – on the same average day, some 12,000 new cars were registered. In essence, two new cars for every newborn.
In 1972 we had become dependent upon Foreign Oil, we were still driving massive cars, referred to as “gas guzzlers” and we were polluting the air at an alarming rate. A scenario guaranteed not to have a happy ending if it kept going.
Steps were being taken, albeit small ones, to address the problem. The question of Mass Transit arose, and what was being done about our system of busses and subways and public transportation to and from our cities to areas surrounding those cities. Bear in mind, it cost .35 to ride a subway in New York – and gas was inching dangerously close to .50 a gallon in most cities.
But the writing was on the wall. This lifestyle could not be sustained. There were many however, loathe to actually do something about it. It’s that old “it’s your problem-not mine” mentality which caused even the best intentions to fall by the wayside. Cities were slow to change. San Francisco was getting around to constructing BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). Washington D.C, was tinkering with a rapid transit system called DC Metro. But every one of these proposals for change ran the gauntlet of resistance; not only from politicians and lobbyists, but from the average citizen who felt, as was the case for New York, even the subways were not any solution. New York’s subway system was in place since the early 1900’s and it was in dire need of revamping.
Not any easy solutions. But keep in mind the problem was starting to be addressed. Forty-two years later, it’s still a problem – even more now than before, because on top of everything else, the infrastructure that so much of this depends on, is collapsing under the weight of neglect and obstruction. Yes, it can go from bad to worse – just watch.
In June of 1972, NBC Radio, as part of its Second Sunday series of Documentaries, ran Sic Transit America, a look at the transportation problem in America and what steps were being proposed to remedy it. No snap answers – a lot of theories and a lot of opinions. But the conversation was going, and that was sign at least.
Here is Sic Transit America, as it was aired on June 11, 1972.
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