Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Dr. Norman W. Garrick, Dr. Carol M. Atkinson-Palombo, Dr. John N. Ivan

Field of Study

Civil Engineering


Master of Science

Open Access

Open Access


For thousands of years cities have been centers for commerce, creativity, and livelihood, consisting of relatively unchanged characteristics such as walkable streets, diverse land-uses, and human-scaled buildings and streets. With the introduction of the automobile, this past century the desire for free-flowing traffic and convenient parking has drastically transformed the fabric of many cities. Transforming cities into places that accommodate automobiles has transformed downtowns into office parks rather than vibrant mixed-use environments and destroyed communities.

Investigation into reducing automobiles in cities has increasingly piqued the interest of stakeholders in the environmental, safety and economic development communities. This body of research first quantifies the differences between cities that have and have not accommodated the automobile. The second component consists of an in-depth examination of how one city, Bridgeport in Connecticut, has changed since the advent of the automobile.

The first component builds upon prior studies that have investigated parking supply, parking policies, and the taxation of parking in selected New England cities. Our major finding is that regardless of the level of automobile accommodation, city streets in our four case studies account for between 21% and 24% of the area of downtown. The amount of land devoted to parking in our two accommodative cities (Bridgeport and Lowell) was 20% and 23% respectively. This was five-fold the amount found in Cambridge and Somerville—4% and 9% respectively. While the parking figures reveal stark differences, our most dramatic finding was that Bridgeport, CT, devotes 21% of its downtown land to freeways. As a result, Bridgeport has almost two-thirds (62%) of its downtown land oriented towards automobiles.

The second study takes a closer look into the characteristics of Bridgeport, CT, prior to the widespread use of the automobile. The most startling result is the change in density and diversity of land uses. From the passenger train station in downtown, a pedestrian can reach only 28% of the number of establishments that a 1913 pedestrian could in a 5 minute walk. If examined by land use only a startling 6% of the number of residential properties can be accessed today, greatly diminishing the walkable nature of the city. Analysis of this type helps to further inform the general debate about the place of automobiles in cities and may help city planners and developers understand the extent of the challenges they are facing in becoming more walkable, livable, competitive and fiscally solvent.

Major Advisor

Dr. Norman W. Garrick