Date of Completion


Degree Type

Honors Thesis


History (HIST)

First Advisor

Amy Woodson-Boulton


In this paper I am analyzing the automobile as the driving force behind the development of the freeway system in Los Angeles during the Post-World War II period. My research was driven by the following questions. To what extent did the popularity and accessibility of the automobile in the United States govern the way cities such as Los Angeles grow and develop? To what extent did the car’s presence as a status symbol impact this trend? In this paper I argue that Los Angeles exists as it does today primarily as a result of its development during the automotive age in the United States while cities that developed during or after a period of industrialization such rely far less heavily on infrastructure that supports the automobile. I also argue that Los Angeles’ infrastructure continues to develop favoring the automobile because its culture is heavily dependent on image. For residents of LA, the automobile promises to provide a means of attaining independence, freedom, and convenience, but ultimately fails to deliver. This is especially true for people of color and those belonging to the working classes. My evidence comes from periodicals such as the Los Angeles Times, freeway maps, advertising, and secondary scholarly sources. My findings are significant because they explore the reasons why Los Angeles continues to not have an easily accessible public transportation system in the twenty-first century and argues for the continued development of a subway that will provide affordable, efficient, and accessible commuting for all living in the Greater L.A. area.