After World War II, the automobile dictated the shape of suburban development in U.S. metropolitan areas. Our strong reliance on cars shaped cities and buildings throughout the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and well into the 1980s and 1990s, running counter to leading urbanists’ views of the virtues of pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and development. Why did this occur? There are many reasons:
The economics of auto-centric development were more compelling. Local zoning ordinances were based on the assumption that segregated land uses maximized land values and municipal property taxes.
Land assembly costs were much lower on the periphery of urban areas.
Government infrastructure spending focused on the interstate highway system and county/state-funded feeder routes for autos.
Housing in America went through two decades of disinvestment — the depression and the 1940s’ war years. The nation’s housing inventory was in terrible shape in the 1950s, so low-density subdivisions provided an affordable alternative to repurposing the older, dilapidated housing stock in urban neighborhoods.
Source : LaSalle Investment Management