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Freeways Are Not Free
A Review of Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take it Back

Dateline: 05/24/99

By underpricing and oversubsidizing the automobile, the highway and sprawl, we have made this lifestyle the overwhelming option and diminished the alternatives. (p. 345)
In Asphalt Nation, architectural and planning writer Jane Holtz Kay has created an excellent synopsis of Interstates, roads, highways, and suburbia. It is an wonderful text on the current state ideas toward making America more habitable.

Kay blends in a plethora of primary and secondary source material to build an easy-to-read survey of our highway and suburbia-based world today. Along the lines of what Crabgrass Frontier is for suburbia, Asphalt Nation is destined to become the classic text about highways and roads for the next decade.

Kay makes an excellent case for the riciculousness behind our lack of public transportation in America. She eloquently highlight the costs, both social and economic, of the car. From the basic fact that each parking space in a lot costs $10 a day to support to the fact that 49% of all automobile trips are to places less than three miles away from the home, Kay selects poignant facts and anecdotes for her book.

Focusing on the need for more densely populated and community-oriented neighborhoods is not popular among transportation engineers although Kay makes her case beautifully and may even win over a transportation engineer or two. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in cities or transportation and it would make an excellent adjunct text in a transportation geography or urban geography or history course. The 418 page book was recently released in paperback.

Order Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took over America, and How We Can Take It Back from Amazon.com today.


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