More parking, lane miles was the automaker's prescription at mid-century, with a cameo from Robert Moses.

Via TheAtlantic.com's Video channel editor, Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg, comes this amazing 1954 propaganda film produced by General Motors on the subject of traffic congestion, Give Yourself the Green Light.

There's a lot to parse in this classic pro-sprawl piece, which starts out with the narrator lamenting the hectic state of the American highway system: "We're running out of roads! We didn't dream big enough," he explains.

This first half of the film, posted above, spends a little time on improving dangerous rural roadways that had yet to be paved, but goes on to outline some more familiar problems: at this point in the country's history, the growing number of cars and commuters has already led to traffic jams, increased stress, and reduced quality of life.

One of the most telling sections has a shopkeeper in a small town promoting a cure-all for small businesses: build more parking! "The best investment a town can make: lots of parking," he says. Nowadays, we know, of course, that free parking isn't all it's cracked up to be.

The rest of the film, which you'll have to watch over at the Prelinger Archive, actually details a contest that General Motors sponsored that called on citizens to contribute ideas for solving congestion. The contest winner, who was awarded $25,000 by the automaker? Why it's the "master builder" himself, Robert Moses, New York's most famous highway enthusiast.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    What the New Urban Anchors Owe Their Cities

    Corporations like Google and Amazon reap the spoils of winner-take-all urbanism. Here’s how they can also bear greater responsibility.

  2. Rescue crews and observers on top of the rubble from a collapsed building that fell in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City.
    Environment

    A Brigade of Architects and Engineers Rushed to Assess Earthquake Damage in Mexico City

    La Casa del Arquitecto became the headquarters for highly skilled urbanists looking to help and determine why some buildings suffered more spectacularly than others.

  3. A LimeBike is pictured next to a Capital Bikeshare dock.
    Transportation

    Bike Share, Unplanned

    Three private bike-share companies are determined to shake up the streets of D.C. But what, exactly, are they trying to disrupt?

  4. Amazon's Seattle headquarters is pictured.
    Life

    The Ultimate List of Top Contenders for Amazon's HQ2

    We sorted through the longshots and likely contenders so you don’t have to.

  5. Black and white West Charlotte High School students pose together in and around their school bus in 1972.
    Equity

    How America's Most Integrated School Segregated Again

    A new book tracks how a Charlotte, North Carolina, high school went from an integration success story to the city’s most isolated and impoverished school.