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The 1920s and 30s: Transit, the Automobile and the City
 

The Automobile in the Transit Metropolis

During the 1920s, the number of cars in Chicago quadrupled. The Cook County Superintendent of Highways began to warn that Chicago roads were dangerously congested, and that road building was not keeping up with auto registration.

View of California Avenue “L” with automobiles, Chicago, Illinois, March 1931.
View of California Avenue “L” with automobiles, Chicago, Illinois, March 1931.
Courtesy of Chicago Transit Authority

Chicago decided almost inadvertently to favor the automobile as early as the 1920s. Although “L” ridership reached its peak in the 1920s, a variety of road projects—including a far-reaching superhighway system—were proposed during this period, as city leaders and planners began to look for ways to adapt the city to the car.

As more citizens chose and were able to purchase and use private automobiles to get around, they began to alter the circulation patterns of the city. Over the next decade, the Chicago Motor Club, with assistance from the pro-business Chicago Tribune, began to agitate for constructing urban highways.

Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 1935
Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 1935

This 1935 photograph shows pedestrians, a 1910 Pullman streetcar, and countless automobiles.

Ashland Avenue at 47th Street, Chicago, Illinois, 1935
Ashland Avenue at 47th Street, Chicago, Illinois, 1935
In this 1935 photograph of Chicago’s Ashland Avenue, pedestrians crowd the sidewalks, countless automobiles park on the diagonal along the curb, and a 1906 J.G. Brill streetcar pauses in the middle of the street.
Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois, 1935
Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois, 1935

This 1935 photograph of Halsted Street in Chicago shows pedestrians, a 1907-08 J.G. Brill P.A.Y.E. (Pay As You Enter) street car, and many automobiles.

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