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A propos, John Scalzi quotes Lewis Shiner on the whole highway vs. mass transit thing.

What if the US had decided against building the Interstate Highway System?

Admittedly, this is a long shot. From the days of Henry Ford's "motor car for the great multitude," we in the US have been assured that each of us deserves his or her own automobile. It's our own little piece of Manifest Destiny, part of that fiercely independent, "Don't Tread On Me" attitude that seems fundamental to our national character.

[...]

Black & White is about a North Carolina neighborhood called Hayti, once the most prosperous black community in the South. During the 1960s, Hayti was bulldozed to make room for the Durham Freeway, leading to a new industrial development called Research Triangle Park. The money to do it came in large part from the federal urban renewal program. All told, urban renewal wiped out 150 neighborhoods like Hayti, and virtually all of the displaced residents were African-American. Freeways were often the excuse for the demolition.

[...]

I've ridden subways and commuter trains in New York and Boston, in Europe and Latin America, and the quality of the experience is profoundly different from that of driving a freeway. Instead of glorifying the individual, it values the community. There is no advantage to be gained by reckless stunts-everyone on the train arrives at the same time. Instead of spending the trip in caffeine-fueled aggression-or, as I do, in stark terror-you can read, listen to music with your eyes closed, or even talk to a stranger.

These thoughts had a considerable effect on the novel. It's bad enough to sacrifice a neighborhood for the sake of a greater good. It's far worse when the destruction-for dubious motives in the first place-is one more step toward the wrong future.

[...]

by MarekNYC on Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 08:02:55 PM EST

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