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Recent History of Boston Transportation (1990"2007)

03/13/2008 2:00 PM 8"404
Frederick P. Salvucci, '61, SM '62, Senior Lecturer, Center for Transportation and Logistics, MIT

Description: Frederick Salvucci's perspective on transportation development is an amalgam of civil engineering, history, economics, policy, and not least, the direct impact on people's lives. Here he surveys the evolution of transportation in Boston and beyond from the 1830s to the present.

Salvucci covers significant junctures in transportation history, beginning in the 1830s with horses pulling streetcars on wagon wheels, then steel wheels. In the 1870s, electrification of streetcars alleviated the phenomenon of overworked horses succumbing in the streets, causing both traffic jams and a public health hazard. "It was a really messy affair," Salvucci says.

By World War I, automobiles increasingly crowded Boston streets, competing with streetcars and encouraging the growth of suburbs. Salvucci acknowledges urban planner Sam Bass Warner, Jr.'s book Streetcar Suburbs for telling this story. Not only the location of housing was affected. On the outskirts of Boston, at the ends of the radial subway lines, amusement parks and dance halls arose, luring city dwellers.

With the Eisenhower administration came the interstate highway system, inspired by the model of the German Autobahn. Salvucci characterizes this period as a time when people held "an unprecedentedly high belief that the government is capable of doing things; not exactly where the government reputation is today!" This roadway network forms the basis of the trucking industry, the "way the American economy moves today," says Salvucci. He commends Eisenhower for accomplishing "something impressivea whole different economy out of this major investment of the public sector."

But highway construction also eliminated jobs and razed neighborhoods. An automobile" dependent society rediscovered the virtues of public transportation. Salvucci credits Massachusetts GOP governors John Volpe (1960s) and Frank Sargent (1970s) with enlightened views promoting mass transit, though he admits "I don't usually say good things about Republicans" unless they're dead.

Salvucci also pays homage to activist Catholic priests fighting for the interests of residents in Boston neighborhoods threatened by destructive road construction plans. He singles out Richard Cardinal Cushing as "a rough justice guy."

The lecture concludes with the nursery rhyme about Jack Sprat and his wife, whose complementary tastes Salvucci borrows as a parable for the necessity of balancing and integrating priorities. Land use planning, transportation development, economic growth, and the welfare of individuals are inextricably intertwined.

About the Speaker(s): Frederick Salvucci served as transportation advisor to Boston Mayor Kevin White between 1970 and 1974, and then as Secretary of Transportation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts under Governor Michael Dukakis between 1975 and 1978, and again from 1983 to 1990. In those roles he shaped much of the transportation planning and policy in urban Boston and Massachusetts over the past 20 years.

More recently, he participated in a restructuring of commuter and rapid transit services in Buenos Aires, Argentina; helped review the transportation planning process in U.S. metropolitan areas; and worked on the development of a new transit system for San Juan, Puerto Rico. . At MIT, he concentrates on transportation planning and government policy.

Salvucci received a B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering from MIT. He spent a year at the University of Naples as a Fulbright Scholar from 1964 to 1965, studying the use of transportation investment to stimulate economic development in high poverty regions of Southern Italy.

Host(s): School of Engineering, Materials Processing Center

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

Category: Events | Updated over 2 years ago

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December 14, 2011 15:57
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