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1950s General Motors Propaganda Film: Solution to Congestion Is More Roads

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.

Sommer Mathis is editor of The Atlantic Cities. Previously she spent five years editing and reporting on the D.C. metro area at DCist.com and TBD.com. All posts »

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