A national poll undoubtedly would show that most people favor coordinated transportation planning. Certainly the officials who deal with metropolitan areas in any capacity speak highly of the need to get away from the narrow, single-purpose plans for highways, public transportation, land use, and other key elements of the metropolitan landscape. But to develop an acceptable comprehensive plan turns out to be an illusive and often shattering experience. In this book Melvin R. Levin and Norman A. Abend, relying in part on their personal experience, comment upon the problems of planners, engineers, and public administrators who were faced with the knotty issues involved in the massive regional transportation studies that were launched in the early 1960s.
Using the case study approach, the authors examine the planning experiences of five metropolitan areas—Boston, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Portland, Maine. The book examines the often harrowing difficulties encountered in meshing federal, state, and regional bureaucracies in which most decisions and virtually all accomplishments involve functioning agreements involve functioning agreements by a network of wary agencies and touchy personalities. Comprehensive planning is shown to be highly sensitive to conflicting agency goals, outmoded practices, and clashing interests, while it is confusing and generally boring to the general public. Not the least of the obstacles confronting the area studies was an almost mystical belief in the promises of computer technology as the key to human understanding and painless decision-making.
This is not a planner's book, nor are many executives in transportation agencies likely to be pleased with it. In fact, some may find it irritating. Rather, it attempts to illustrate, for the benefit of public administrators and others engaged in designing and implementing public policy, the pitfalls and pratfalls involved in mounting and carrying forward interagency programs.