THE GREAT AMERICAN MOTION SICKNESS: Or Why You Can't Get There from Here by John Burby


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Mr. Burby was special assistant to Transportation Secretary Alan Boyd in the early days of the Department and his account of contending industries and congressional subservience to them, of pressured decisions and resistance to long-range policy, constitutes the most thorough and stringent analysis of the transportation snarl yet. Establishment of the Department was the only upshot of the comprehensive 1961 Doyle report, and it was clipped at the outset: ""The bill not only ruled out decisions on (governmental) investments but even calculations that might be used to compare the benefits of one form of transportation and another"" -- this at the behest, most crucially, of barge owners whose fleet ""carries about nine percent of America's freight and (who) pay not one cent in taxes for the use of the publicly financed waterways."" The often-excoriated highway lobby -- ""the Road Gang"" -- is not more greedy, though Mr. Burby contributes a refined assessment of its components (e.g. the AAA ""is the best known and the least effective"") as well as weighing the current status of the Highway Trust Fund. He pinpoints anomalies too in aviation (in 1969 ""the private fleet outnumbered the commercial fleet by 50 to 1, flew four times as many hours, traveled twice as many miles, and moved about one-fifteenth as many people""): brings the railroads' past performance to bear on present problems, seeing a residue of poor labor relations and rigid, unprogressive management; and notes, re public transportation, public disinclination to use it except as the last resort. Here he has concrete proposals for small-scale improvements; overall he would ""permit creation of transportation companies which would own any or all of the equipment required to move a cargo from a factory to a retail store and to move people from a New York home to a California office."" The operative word is rational -- and at the same time it makes lively reading.

Pub Date: July 13th, 1971
Publisher: Little, Brown