The Automobile and the Environment in American History

by Martin V. Melosi

Annotated Bibliography

F. Kaid Benfield, Matthew D. Raimi, and Donald D.T. Chen, Once There Were Greenfields: How Urban Sprawl Is Underming America’s Environment, Economy, and Social Fabric (New York: Natural Resources Defense Council, 1999). A strong critique of urban sprawl and its impact on the environment.

Derek Elsom, Smog Alert: Managing Urban Air Quality (London: Earthscan Publications, 1996). The book provides good detail and some useful case studies on ways to manage automobiles in order to limit air pollution. Largely dealing with non-US examples, however.

James J. Flink, The Car Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1975). A well-known overview of the automobile in American culture with some good attention to issues related to automobile safety.

Mark S. Foster, From Streetcar to Superhighway: American City Planners and Urban Transportation, 1900-1940 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981). A well-respected historical treatment of the rise and decline of mass transit and the rise of automobiles as mass carriers. The discussion of the development and planning of superhighways is particularly useful.

Peter Freund and George Martin, The Ecology of the Automobile (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1993). A good study of the auto-centered transport system, discussing both the benefits and costs of automobile use. Most of the standard subjects are treated: suburbanization, core congestion, parking, accidents, and the transformation of public space.

Deborah Gordon, Steering a New Course: Transportation, Energy, and the Environment (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1991). A solid critique on transport and energy use with substantial statistical data.

Lawrence Halprin, Freeways (New York: Reinhold Publishing, 1966). A somewhat dated but nonetheless valuable book depicting how freeways helped to transform the physical city.

Jane Holtz Kay, Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America, and How We Can Take It Back (New York: Crown Publishers, 1997). A popular and polemical treatment of the subject that looks to rethink the use of automobiles in the United States.

Jean Labatut and Wheaton J. Lane, eds., Highways in Our National Life: A Symposium (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950).This published symposium from the 1940s gives excellent insight into thinking about the potential impact of highway development before the push for an interstate system in the mid-1950s.

Charles H. Liebs, Main Street to Miracle Mile: American Roadside Architecture (Boston: Little, Brown, 1985). A useful study of architecture from an automobile’s vantage point, with an emphasis on a variety of commercial establishments from gas stations to restaurants. The book is very well illustrated.

Peter J. Ling, America and the Automobile: Technology, Reform and Social Change (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990). This book takes a broad look at the role of the transport network and how it influences urbanization and economic development. Attention is given to suburbanization, transformation of the central business district, traffic congestion, and an array of other topics.

Richard Longstreth, The Drive-In, The Supermarket, and The Transformation of Commercial Space in Los Angeles, 1914-1941 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999). Longstreth provides an insightful look at commercial establishments catering to automobiles, and how they transformed space in interwar Los Angeles.

Clay McShane, “The Origins and Globalization of Traffic Control Signals,” Journal of Urban History 25 (1999): 379-404. This is the best single historical treatment of the subject of traffic control and traffic control signals.

---, Down the Asphalt Path: The Automobile and the AmericanCity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994). A standard study on the automobile and American culture, with some good attention to the impact of hard-surfaced roads, problems of traffic control, and car accidents.

John R. Meyer and Jose A. Gomez-Ibanez, Autos, Transit, and Cities (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981). A solid report of public concerns and policies relative to automobile use in the United States. The sections on air pollution, parking, and roads are quite useful.

Peter Neuman and Jeffrey Kenworthy, Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1999). A look at how automobiles shaped cities after World War II. This book is particularly useful in examining the constraints on automobile-dependent cities and the potential loss of community, urban utility, and public safety.

Paul Nieuwenhuis and Peter Wells, eds., Motor Vehicles in the Environment: Principles and Practice (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1994). A rather straight-forward, systematic treatment of a range of basic issues related to the automobile’s impact on the physical environment—habitat destruction, air pollution, and so forth. The volume provides some policy options for the future as well.

John B. Rae, American Automobile Manufacturers: The First Forty Years (Philadelphia: Chilton, 1959). A classic study of the history of the automobile in a broad cultural context. This book provides a good introduction to a wide variety of themes related to the physical impact of the automobile—especially in cities.

John Robinson, Highways and Our Environment (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971). A dated but still useful overview of everything related to highway ecology from roadside billboards to excessive dust. This book is a good place to start on the subject.

John Rose, ed., Wheels of Progress? Motor Transport, Pollution and the Environment (London: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, 1973). A fairly technical and detailed account of almost every key issue concerning automobiles and their environmental impact largely from a European perspective at the onset of the energy crisis.

Ian F. Spellerberg, Ecological Effects of Roads (Enfield, NH: Science Publishers, 2002). A recent study, written by a professor of nature conservation, that attempts to place roads and road building within the context of their physical surroundings.

John Stilgoe, “Roads, Highways, and Ecosystems,” Nature Transformed: The Environment in American History, National Humanities Center. A good overview of the development of roads and highways, with some attention to their ecological impact.

Vukan R. Vuchic, Transportation for Livable Cities (New Brunswick, NJ: Center for Urban Policy Research, 2000). Among other things, the book addresses the important question as to whether automobiles were the builders or destroyers of cities.

Martin Wachs and Margaret Crawford, eds., The Car and the City: The Automobile, the Built Environment, and Daily Urban Life (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1992). This edited volume includes essays on a wide array of subjects that touch upon transportation and city life, the coming domination of automobiles, questions of decentralization, decline of central cities, suburban growth, and freeway development.

Ann Y. Watson, Richard R. Bates, and Donald Kennedy, Air Pollution, The Automobile, and Public Health (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1988). Not the last word, but a solid introduction to air pollution and automobiles within the context of public health.

Michael Karl Witzel, The American Gas Station (Osceola, WI: Motorbooks International, 1992). Everything you want to know about the historical development and evolution of this necessary component in the automobile transportation system.

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Environmental Cost of the Automobile Production Process
Energy Use and the Internal Combustion Engine
Auto Emissions and Air Pollution
Noise, Visual Pollution, and Derelict Cars
The Automobile's Imprint on the Landscape
Suburbanization and the Automobile
Annotated Bibliography
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