Courtesy of the Transportationist comes this 4 minute time-lapse video of a cross-country road trip from San Francisco, CA to Washington, D.C.

The producers of the video used a time-lapse camera that took a photo once every 10 seconds over the course of this 3,052 mile route.  As much as I may write about the virtues of rail and the importance of public transportation, there is still something undeniably romantic about the American road trip, especially of the cross-country variety.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics the US had 4,032,126 miles of paved public roads as of 2007.  However, of that, almost 3/4 of the mileage, 2,987,758 miles of it to be exact came in the form of rural mileage.  I adore the fact that Americans can drive just about anywhere and see pretty much any part of this country just by hopping in their cars.  However, the time has come to essentially stop building.  How many more roads do we need?  As of the 2000 Census, 79% of Americans lived in urban places.  Those people need means to get from one urban area to another and out of the urban areas altogether.  That said, we currently have the means to do it.  Building more roads is only a burden down the line of maintaining them.

It is now time to focus our funds on urban areas and sustainable ways of moving people within metropolitan areas and from one area to another.  The focus on building highways should rightfully come to an end.  I too one day want to take the great American road trip and I want those roads maintained for longevity, but we do not need any more for that dream to be realized.

map of streets of americaCourtesy of my partner at eartotheground comes this amazing map of the United States by Ben Fry.  He describes his creation:

All of the streets in the lower 48 United States: an image of 26 million individual road segments. No other features (such as outlines or geographic features) have been added to this image, however they emerge as roads avoid mountains, and sparse areas convey low population.

This is a really artistic and thought provoking study of settlement in the United States.  Not only does this show where our population centers are but also gives us a notion of where sprawl is most pervasive.  For example, compare the size of the Houston area to the size of the Boston area.  The Houston area is far more spread out, which makes sense as Houston was founded on the basis of auto travel and Boston was first designed to accommodate nothing much faster than a horse.  However, these images of the pervasiveness of sprawl or lack thereof demonstrate the difficulties of establishing effective public transportation systems in many American cities.