(return to Chicago essays)

Here I am in a big city, right in the middle of Chicago. I don’t know anybody. I am so lonesome and I have that urge to go home. I don’t know which direction to go - south, north, east or west. I can’t just take any direction because I don’t know my way around yet.
Belle Jean Francis (Athabascan), Program Book of American Indian Festival (Field Museum, September 23-October 13, 1968), p.8.

In 1955, the City of Chicago, together with three other governmental agencies, created the Chicago Area Transportation Study, or CATS, and charged it with the task of planning the future transportation system for the Chicago metropolitan area. Once completed, the CATS provided a powerful and influential model for future urban transportation studies. Other scholars (e.g., MacDonald 1988; Black 1990) have marked the CATS as a critical moment in the history of transportation planning in America. Although we agree that the CATS marked an important turn in transportation planning, we think it is also important to stand outside that conventional history, to probe the assumptions that undergird the CATS, and to reveal the bedrock on which the CATS’ assumptions rest. Thus, in what follows we argue that the assumptions of the CATS planners must be considered not only in light of their own history and that of their disciplines of highway engineering and transportation planning, but also through a, indeed the, dominant ideology of mid-century, what could be called the Americanization of Freud. By giving particular attention to the CATS planners' definitions of desire lines, origin, and destination, we interpret their work within a central paradox of American individualism. On the one hand, psychoanalysis gave to western culture a foundation for asserting that each individual possesses a unique interiority susceptible to self-reflection, rational thought, and rebellion. On the other hand, as institutionalized in post-war America, this presumably rational self-determining agent became reified as a consumer, an object to be socially controlled by experts of medicine, psychology, advertising, and, we would add, planning. In the post-war Americanization of Freud, the element of rebellion seemed to disappear from the self.

To bolster our argument for interpreting CATS within the paradox of this post-war American self, we examine two additional government plans to move people into and within Chicago. One is the middle-1940s plan of the War Liquidation Unit (formerly the War Relocation Authority) to place interned Japanese Americans in interior cities, principally Chicago. The second is the so-called termination and relocation policy of the early 1950s to urbanize and decommunalize American Indians, in part by encouraging Indian peoples of the Plains and Upper Midwest to move to Chicago. These two rational federal plans for efficient movement of specified populations provide particular access into the post-war paradox of American individualism, especially as we illuminate each plan with the memories of people in Chicago who were the objects of those policies. This information uncovers, better than does transportation history alone, we argue, the ideological assumptions of the CATS. Throughout, the terms desire lines, origin, and destination act as touchstones. We mean to deepen and complicate their definitions such that transportation planners will never hear them quite the same way again.

An Express Route to a More Desirable Line of Urban Development

The CATS began to plan the future transportation system for the Chicago metropolitan area in 1955. The study cost $3.5 million and took seven years to complete. One way to make sense out of this costly and lengthy study is to place it in the context of the larger history of transportation planning in the U. S. Seen in light of this long and complicated history (Barrett and Rose 1999; Flink 1988; Lewis 1997; Rose 1990; and Seely 1987), the CATS can be understood as the foundational study of urban transportation planning in America (MacDonald 1988; Weiner 1987) and as an early and highly influential exemplar of the "rational planning" model (Black 1990).

The history of transportation planning per se is intimately tied to the history of the automobile. For a wide variety of reasons, Americans have been drawn to the automobile almost from the first day it was invented (Flink 1988). It provided a degree of speed, freedom, mobility, and privacy that Americans seemed to desire enormously (Lewis 1997). That attraction quickly began having profound effects upon American cities and regions. As increasing numbers of American purchased automobiles, especially after the end of World War I, increasing numbers of cars and trucks clogged the streets of American cities, and increasing numbers of residents and businesses moved to their suburban peripheries. By the 1930s city planners and businessmen worried that congestion and decentralization were undermining cities, and they wondered how expresssways might be used to direct urban growth along "more desirable lines" (Rose 1990, 15).

Some of them argued that express highways could save cities by re-centralizing them (as in the Regional Plan for New York and Its Environs), whereas others argued that express highways could be used to disperse new garden cities throughout regions (as in the work of the Regional Planning Association of America). By the late 1940s, many businessmen, politicians, and city planners assumed that they would have to slow or reverse the process of decentralization while the remainder of their cities, especially the central business districts, were being rebuilt, and that freeway construction, at whatever scale, had an important role to play in the redevelopment and recentralizing process (Rose 1990).

Truck operators, truck and auto manufacturers, and professional highway engineers looked at urban transportation and redevelopment planning differently. Simply put, they believed new highways should reduce traffic congestion (Seely 1987; Rose 1990). For them, facilitating the flow of traffic was more important than broader social or economic concerns or urban affairs in general, and they paid little or no attention to the potential effects of highway construction on urban growth and social relationships. Many Americans seemed to agree, showing – by their gravitation to suburbs during the 1950s -- little interest in the city planners’ vision of ideal urban development.

Thus there were at least three competing visions of how expressways could be used to guide urban development along more desirable lines after the end of World War II. Adoption of the National Interstate Highway and Defense Act in 1956 settled the matter for at least the next 10-15 years. From that point on, federal and state highway engineers largely controlled the transportation planning process. As Seely (1987, 75) puts it, they undertook "a narrow technical effort to accommodate an increasing volume of traffic rather than real planning." Presuming that they could measure "real" phenomena that were "out there," and that, as one engineer put it early in the century, the goal of the highway engineer was to "supply the public with the facilities that the [riding] public desires, and not what he [the engineer] thinks they should desire" (Barrett and Rose 1999, 410), highway engineers used current and projected traffic flow data to determine the precise locations of urban portions of the interstate system. Their effort to systematically measure and quantify began in the 1920s when statisticians in the Highway Research Board produced reports on traffic flow and "desire lines," and it became more firmly institutionalized in the 1930s when the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) encouraged states to use vehicle counts, origin-destination surveys, and other studies to project future needs (Lewis 1997). The origin-destination survey, "with its biases in favor of existing traffic flows and measures of the desired paths of motorists" (Barrett and Rose 1999, 413) emerged as the paramount criterion for fixing routes. The highway engineers’ vision won out in large part because they possessed considerable technical expertise and had been able to earn respect for the quality of their arguments, for their attention to facts and details, and for the thorough analysis that went into their decisions.

Although the highway engineers had earned considerable respect for their technical expertise, that expertise might not have been as objective as they claimed and wanted others to believe. Barrett and Rose (1999) have recently argued that the engineers’ data and analytic categories encouraged them to define their work and their conclusions as the natural and inevitable outcomes of apolitical expertise, but that the statistics which they took to be objective were as much the consequences of prior institutional arrangements and expressions of group and personal experiences as they were simply manifestations of travel behavior. Furthermore, the highway engineers’ studies often intertwined presumptions about race and class with technical analyses of traffic, primarily through the engineers’ belief that decaying inner city areas offered the most cost-efficient routes for new inner city expressways. Thus, "the numbers produced by these engineers only masked a bias in favor of middle-income motorists who paid gasoline taxes over residents who paid bus fares and rent" (Barrett and Rose 1999, 418) and the highway engineers’ numbers "reified the notion that traffic had to take precedence over existing land uses and residents" (413). In the end, Barrett and Rose argue, highway engineers constructed their success around the rhetoric of experts-without-politics and on their ability to win respect for their statistical methods, data, and projections, but their success was grounded in the prior creation, celebration, and legitimation of data, analytic categories, and a professional image that highway engineers had brought to a remarkable level of triumph and certitude.

If Barrett and Rose are right, why might engineers have relied on data, analytic categories, and technical studies while ignoring socially constructed biases embedded in their data and categories? Lewis (1997) implies that they did so largely because the curriculum at engineering schools was "extremely specialized and profoundly limited in its attention to the humanities and social sciences" (Lewis 1997, 133). The prestige of highway engineering -- which enjoyed increasing influence throughout the twentieth century -- was both created and corroborated by a definition of expertise dependent on quantitative measurements and based on scant attention to complicated human behavior.

That prestige was tested in the late 1940s when dramatic growth in traffic, coupled with accelerated suburbanization of housing, forced highway engineers and planners to begin focusing sustained attention on the transportation problems of urban regions. A new kind of expertise was required, an expertise in planning new transportation systems for (sub)urbanizing regions. It was in Chicago, in the mid- to late-1950s, that this new expertise came to life. Though not the first instance of such applied expertise, the CATS "set the standard for future urban transportation studies" (Weiner 1987, 13).

The Chicago Area Transportation Study

The first detailed plans for a system of limited access highways for the City of Chicago had been devised by the City’s Department of Public Works in the early 1940s. By the mid-1950s, 288 miles of expressways had already been built or were committed to construction in the Chicago area (MacDonald 1988). But highway officials were worried that this system had been designed without adequate research, that it might not meet the needs of the metropolitan area, and that a better process for planning future additions and for coordinating transportation policy across governmental and functional boundaries needed to be devised. Thus the City of Chicago, the County of Cook, and the State of Illinois, acting in cooperation with the BPR created the CATS in 1955 to analyze travel behavior, to forecast the future requirements for the metropolitan area, and to devise a long-range plan for highway and mass transportation facilities. Dr J. Douglas Carroll, Jr., the third person in the U. S. to receive a doctorate in planning, was selected to direct the study, and Roger L. Creighton served as its assistant director for research and planning. At its moment of peak activity in 1956, 368 people were employed on CATS staff. They came from a wide variety of backgrounds and, according to one of the CATS planners (Black 1990), surprisingly few were engineers. But, inspired by Carroll, the CATS planners firmly believed in the rational planning process and thought that planning should be made as scientific as possible (Black 1990).

In the view of the CATS planners, "the main transport aim [is]… to promote the general welfare by increasing productivity. The principle by which greater productivity is gained is the principle of the assembly line in a factory. …A transportation system is the assembly line of an urban society" (CATS Vol. III, 7). Given that aim, the overall objective of transportation planning could be stated quite precisely. It was "to secure a transportation system for the Chicago area which will reduce travel frictions within the constraints of safety, economy, and the desirable development of land" (Vol. III, 6). Beneath the umbrella of this goal, the CATS planners specified six objectives: increasing speed, increasing safety, lowering operating costs, economizing on new construction, minimizing disruption, and promoting better land development. Believing that these criteria might tend to conflict with one another, the CATS planners argued that it was necessary to assess alternative plans in terms of a single criterion (or what they called "the law of the single superlative"), namely "to provide that transportation system for the region which will cost least to build and use over a period of thirty years" (Vol. III, 15).

Guided by their desire to devise a cost-minimizing transportation system, the CATS planners collected data about travel, land use, and the networks over which transportation trips moved. They also projected changes in population, population distribution, per capita income, auto ownership, and other variables. Using computer simulation models, they prepared alternative transportation plans, evaluated them in terms of their chosen criteria, and identified the alternative which best satisfied all the criteria. This alternative contained 520 miles of expressways, 230 of which would be in addition to the existing and committed system. This plan was estimated to require an investment of $2.013 billion for highways. Another $185 million was recommended for the much less intensively studied mass transit system.

In order to judge where new expressways were most needed, the CATS planners relied heavily on origin-destination studies, plotted desire lines, used mathematical models to calculate the optimal spacing of expressways, assigned trips to new expressway links, and tested the efficacy of the resulting traffic flows. Though all of these techniques contributed to the CATS planners’ systemic effort, we want to focus on desire lines and their assumed relationship to stipulated definitions of origins and destinations.

As the CATS planners put it, "A desire line map shows the sum of all the straight lines connecting the origins and the destinations of all trips. The desire line is the shortest line between origin and destination, and expresses the way a person would like to go, if such a way were available" (Vol. 1, 39). From a technical transportation planning point of view, these desire lines were not about desires as such; rather, they were simply imputed from easily measurable behavior (Fuller 2000). They were straight lines that connected the centroids of the zones households lived in with the centroids of the zones that they traveled to. The CATS planners did not ask why people lived in particular zones or traveled to other specific zones in order to shop, work, or play. Nor did they ask what desires and attitudes about time and space and what social constraints might influence how people chose their routes when they traveled within their city. Rather, they assumed that individuals were making free and autonomous decisions about where to live and work. To map these desire lines automatically, the CATS planners used a device which they called a Cartographatron (see Figure 1). In effect, it acted as a respository of imputed desires. Figure 2 shows the resulting desire lines for all "internal person trips."

These desire lines were based on the CATS planners’ presumption that all people living in Chicago were alike in their desire to economize. As the CATS planners put it, "Trips are made for profitable purposes."

While not all such profits are tangible, this does not mean that they are not real. A man leaves his home to go to work in a factory, and his earnings justify the cost of his journey; a woman drives to the library for a book and gets her reward from reading the book. At least ten per cent of consumer income is spent for personal transportation; none of this would be spent if there were no rewards to be gained. Hence, the key to understanding of travel lies in the rewarding activities which generate travel (Vol. 1, 58).

Although the CATS planners understood some rewards to be nonmaterial, in their view, the people of Chicago chose to move in a way that maximized return on their investment of time and energy; that is, to economize, to behave rationally. The CATS planners took this behavior to be a natural and enduring feature of city life.

The CATS study proved to be rather accurate in projecting trends in development patterns and travel behavior, and in that sense can be (and was) thought of as a major success. However, this success was based on the prior existence of controls and incentives that strongly encouraged travelers to behave in the manner that the CATS study projected would occur. Long-term, low-interest FHA and VA home mortgages and the ability of home owners to deduct home mortgage interest payments from their federal income taxes are two well-known ways that the federal government massively subsidized single-family housing construction in suburbia. Moreover, local housing and development policies and actions ensured that new African-American in-migrants from the South would, in the 1940s and 1950s, be confined to expanding portions of Chicago’s "Black Belt" and that the region’s suburbanizing periphery would be protected from the purported dangers of those in-migrants (Hirsch 1983; Meyerson and Banfield 1955).

To their credit, the CATS planners recognized that it might be possible to alter land use and density patterns rather than simply respond to current trends extrapolated into the future. But they quickly dismissed this possibility out of deference to citizens’ desires as they understood them.

[C]urrent trends would have to be reversed, and this probably would require a reversal of current practices and policies in all or nearly all of the political jurisdictions in the Chicago area. … If such policies should run counter to the preference of people, it would be hard to expect elected officials to persist in them. Current popular demand, as expressed in thousands of daily decisions, has been predominantly towards low density use of the land. The momentum of these many individual decisions is very great and would make a major directional shift hard to accomplish (Vol. 2, 54)

Thus the CATS planners chose not to imagine trends that differed significantly from the past. By doing so, they implied that any policy bucking current trends would be authoritarian and would likely fail for want of popular support as defined by past measured behavior. Their plan was to be a form of social control which understood individuals as self-determining (free and rational) agents.

Though a sophisticated and highly influential example of rational planning as applied to urban transportation systems, the CATS had limited influence on actual decisions about which roads to build, and where (Black 1990). As of the late-1980s, only one of the "first stage" elements of the recommended alternative had been implemented (McDonald 1988). For example, a proposed Crosstown Expressway became the subject of much political debate and study and was never built. Other elements simply passed away.

Black (1990, 27) attributes the CATS’s failure to be implemented to the fact that it was conducted in "a political vacuum." "As would-be scientists," he states, "the CATS staff usually ignored politics. There was a feeling that political decisions were usually subjective and self-serving, and an implicit hope that some day technocrats would make the decisions on objective, rational grounds" (35). MacDonald (1988) also points out that, since these urban highway additions could not be included in the largely federally-funded interstate system, more problematic sources of funding had to be (but were not) found. In a textbook based largely on his experience with CATS, Roger Creighton (1970) also suggested the study failed to include all important goals, most notably minimizing community disruption. Black (1990, 36) expands on Creighton’s conclusion by claiming

the major fault of CATS was failing to anticipate the issues that were to become important in transportation planning. The staff often talked about the future, but it was a future that extrapolated the past and maintained the status quo. … No one anticipated such developments as the environmental movement or the energy crisis. Little attention was given to the transportation problems of the poor, minorities, the elderly and handicapped.

In Black’s view, "it would have taken remarkable prescience to foresee these things, so one cannot blame the [CATS] staff much" (36).

Given the all-too-frequent, racially inflected battles for residential space in post-war Chicago, "remarkable prescience" was not required to include diverse understandings of origin, destination, and desire lines in the CATS. But it is not this failure to acknowledge visible and relevant urban problems per se that is our interest. Rather, we argue that the CATS’s participation in a paradoxical post-war understanding of the American individual enabled, even if it did not solely cause, this blindness. The CATS planners assumed that past behavior was the most reliable measure of desire without imagining all the forces, overt and hegemonic, which circumscribed behavior and desire. It was their presumption that they were measuring the activity of free and rational individuals which hoisted the CATS planners on their own petard.

The CATS and the Americanization of a Psychologized Self

In Constructing the Self, Constructing America (1995), Philip Cushman tells an emphatic narrative about the Americanization of Freudian psychoanalysis. He argues that the identification of an individual interiority known as the unconscious became, in corporate capitalist hands, a manipulable entity which changed America. "The unconscious became a vehicle for the single most important cultural dynamic of the twentieth century: the consumerization of American life" (143). Driving this vehicle, captains of industry and advertising transformed a naïve American cultural terrain into a socially influential machine. In the post-war years, this machine became a super power. By Cushman’s reckoning psychoanalysts and therapists helped construct this social control conducted in the name of self-liberation. Their work perpetuated the understanding that an individual’s feelings and thoughts were located "inside the bounded, masterful self, [and] were considered to be products of intrapsychic processes, and not the products of culture, history, or interpersonal interactions" (157). Corporate capitalism, the state, and other structures of social control could influence and manage populations invisibly by creating the impression that individual opinions and desires originated only from within.

We are less interested in Cushman’s chiding of his fellow psychotherapists than we are in the place planning occupies in this history. We argue that the history of Americanized Freudianism helps explain why highway engineers—and, we suspect, transportation planners—relied for their expertise on data, analytic categories and technical studies that were derived from a presumption about measurable desires imputed from the behavior of self-determining rational individuals. A very recent essay by Eli Zaretsky (2000) usefully explicates the irony in the history of Americanized, post-war Fordist Freudianism. Specifically, Zaretsky addresses the paradox that psychoanalysis both underpinned the "cold war project of normalization" and was used to undermine social control and conformity. Although, for Zaretsky, Freudianism was, in the early twentieth century, a revolutionary theory originating from a charismatic individual,

every charismatic sect that survives long enough to become institutionalized eventually becomes rigid, ossified, and text-bound. By the middle of the

1950s, U.S. psychoanalysis had reached this point. Appealing [originally] to the most private and unsocialized dimensions of individuality, it had become an agent of rationalization, a virtual emblem of the organization-man conformity and other-directedness the age so dreaded. When Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World, wished to refer to the mastermind behind his totally administered society, he wrote of "Our Ford" or Our Freud, as for some reason he chose to call himself whenever he spoke of psychological matters." Even insiders, like Anna Freud, admitted that psychoanalysis was not in a "creative Period." "If my father were alive now, he would not want to be an analyst." (345)

While Cushman sees a linear development in the institutionalization of Freudianism via the marriage of American psychoanalysis and consumerism, Zaretsky asserts an on-going complex intertwining of revolutionizing charisma and stabilizing rationalism at work in American social and personal life. Charismatic Freudianism has "become part of our character, our culture, and the inherited archive of our memory" (354).

What we find in the CATS and its authors is an inevitable and highly noteworthy participation in this post-war paradox of self-determining individual interiority and rational social control. It was in the very air they breathed as they worked to fulfill the expectations of their governmental employers and, in the process, help establish a new discipline. If, for a moment, we take apart the two strands of the paradox that Zaretsky sees as inextricably woven together, we can see that while the assumption of rational individuals making free choices undergirds the CATS explicit method and conclusions, the idea of a persistent revolutionary interiority of individuals contributes to our interpretation of the CATS’ failure in implementation. To understand the ironic methodological influence and practical failure of the CATS plan, we must interpret their short-sightedness not simply as a failure to see human diversity under their urban noses, but also and primarily as a failure to see the paradox in their own ideological assumptions about what a human/self/citizen/consumer/driver is.

People in Motion: Japanese Americans and American Indians Moving into and within Post-war Chicago

Just as our choice to focus on the CATS is driven by its pole position in rationalist urban transportation planning, our choice to focus on the policies governing Japanese Americans’ and American Indians’ movement is predicated on there being overt, rationalist plans for these specifically designated groups in the first place. An explication of the history and the assumptions of these latter two policies enables us to illustrate the paradoxical, post-war philosophy of self and social control in the atmosphere the CATS shared with them. These two policies further serve an understanding of CATS by offering their own ideas about origins, destinations and desires as they affect movement of people into and within Chicago. Finally, subsequent oral history projects with Japanese Americans and American Indians in Chicago provide valuable individual responses to these resettlement and urbanization policies as they were lived. The assumptions of self inherent in these stories make more visible the definitions of self operating in the two federal policies and, we argue, in the CATS.

We begin with the post-war resettlement of Japanese Americans, a policy and process documented in People in Motion (PIM), a government study ordered by Congress in 1947 and conducted through 1949 by the War Agency Liquidation Unit (formerly the War Relocation Authority [WRA]) with the considerable assistance of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). The census of 1940 determined that there were 126,947 Japanese-descended persons living in the U.S., 88.5 percent of them in the three Pacific states. Only 390 Japanese-descended persons lived in Chicago. By 1946, however, 15-20,000 lived in Chicago, a number second only to Los Angeles County (PIM 1949). By 1949, 45 percent of Japanese-descended persons lived east of California, Oregon, and Washington. From evacuation to post-war resettlement, the government did what it could—short of continuing the West Coast ban indefinitely—to disperse Japanese-descended people across the U.S. and within the city of Chicago. By 14 September 1945, for example, The Manzanar Free Press, one internment camp newspaper, was advertising 38,000 jobs in Chicago.

Dillon S. Myer, Director of the WRA from 1942-46, articulated the ideological assumptions at work in the resettlement process, which began even before the war had ended. Myer asserted,

dispersal is healthy for the nation and for the Nisei [the children of Japanese immigrants or the so-called second generation]….He [sic] has taken his place in many pursuits and many surroundings foreign to the familiar Western States….The dutiful son became a responsible adult. The Nisei became an individual; a mature self-confident, tax-paying man who depended upon his own decisions. (PIM 31)

The government’s stated desire was to break the influence of Issei (immigrant or first generation) men, as it had existed before internment, in extended families and ethnically-based organizations located in Little Tokyos of West Coast cities. Thus Myer set in binary opposition "the dutiful son" and "a responsible adult" and defined the latter as a "self-confident, tax-paying" "individual." But even as he did so, he expected these Nisei individuals to accept easily the social control of dispersal decided upon by the WRA in consultation with various forces of the federal government and local agencies.

The PIM researchers found in Chicago the enactment of the WRA’s goals. There, according to PIM, Nisei established nuclear families in available housing and worked hard at available jobs, rarely finding time for leisure (145-57). The WRA was especially pleased to report that the Chicago Resettlement Committee made no attempt to regulate Japanese American activity or to serve directly any destitute Japanese Americans’ needs for relief. "It is noteworthy…that the few cases of hardship which have come to [the Resettlement Committee’s] attention have been referred to regular welfare channels" (PIM 205). Although owning and running boarding houses was a major source of Japanese-controlled business in post-war Chicago, the PIM study concluded that Nisei were dependent for jobs, for housing rentals and purchases, as well as for social services on the "general community" and not on "Japanese" (PIM 47, 49)

Meanwhile, the West Coast did reopen to Issei and Nisei in December 1944, and by 1949, 55% of Japanese Americans had returned there. According to those JACL Nisei who conducted many of the interviews for PIM, it was the most "conservative" Japanese Americans who did so. "Conservative" designated a desire to reestablish Little Tokyos in western cities where Japanese were "dependent" upon Japanese and not the "general community." Issei were, however, thwarted in that desire. The U.S. Attorney General, for example, refused to unfreeze Japanese Association funds (PIM 204). Now older and, in many cases, jobless, Issei did not reestablish their pre-war role as taxpayers but instead entered the general welfare rosters. As one Seattle Issei observed, "The government apparently feels that we Issei have no rights in this country. As things stand, we are helpless to do anything to help the people of the community" (PIM 204).

The federal government again called upon Dillon S. Myer when new policy encouraged the movement of American Indian people into designated urban areas. In the spring of 1950 he became the Commissioner for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to implement the proposed termination and relocation policy that was to get the government out of the Indian business for good by making Indian people assimilated citizens. Consistent with his goals for the Nisei, Myer supported the immediate assimilation of Indians. In early 1952, as Myer was trying to dissolve specifically Indian schools, clinics, and hospitals, the first relocatees under the new policy arrived in Chicago (Fixico 1986, 63-64, 72, 125).

The policy governing the urbanization of American Indians derived from a Presidentially-appointed commission headed by Herbert Hoover in the immediate post-war years. Having been educated and become wealthy as an engineer, Herbert Hoover earned fame—some say the presidency--for his organization of efforts to serve the needs of masses, first Belgian refugees in the teens and then 1927 flood evacuees in the Mississippi Delta region (Barry 1997). Hoover’s correspondence from 1947, which sought appropriate individuals to form a task force to advise the Commission on Indian affairs, reveals the ideological assumptions about self and citizen circulating among influential men of the time. R. L. Wilbur (1947) of Stanford University, for example, includes in this correspondence the assertion that " the principal thing is to make the Indian a self-sustaining independent American citizen, with his own resources, and to get him out of the prison of the reservation."

Three of twelve members voted against the Commission’s 1949 Final Report: Vice Chairman Dean Acheson, because as "a novice" he felt the need to "pause before endorsing a recommendation to assimilate the Indian and to turn him, his culture, and his means of livelihood over to [individual] State control"; James H. Rowe, Jr., for the same reason and because insufficient thought had been given to 50 million acres of Indian land; and James Forrestal, because the recommendations disregarded dissenters to "forced assimilation" which most of the recommendations were contingent upon (U.S. Commission on Reorganization of the Executive Branch of the Government Reports 11-19, 1949, 77-80). Dissenters notwithstanding, Dillon Myer was among the policy-making majority in believing that individual Indian citizens would be freed by the rationalist social control outlined by the Hoover Commission.

Chicago was chosen as one of two relocation centers in 1951; the other was Los Angeles (Gallagher et al, 1989, 165). While in 1940 there were only 624 self-identified Indian people in Illinois, and only 775 in the Chicago of 1950, by 1960, due in large part to the relocation program, there were 5,329 in the city (Chicago Native American Demographic Profile 1990). These in-migration numbers are striking; however, Elaine Neils’s 1971 study of American Indians’ relocation to Chicago in the 1950s asks us to understand this resettlement within the historical context of Indian movement. To do so is to see a pattern of travel out from and back to the homeland, that is, the reservation (pp. 125-26). As was the case with Japanese Americans’ supposed freely chosen resettlement in Chicago, the relocation of American Indians to the city should also be understood as a migratory movement that was dual or multi-directional and frequently unresolved. These multi-directional desires affect movement inside as well as into the city. Definitions of home and work, origin and destination and desire imputed from behavior assumed to be rational and productively driven are bound to founder on desires that are geo-historically rooted, politically fraught and personally complex. To mine this bedrock of geo-historically rooted desires, it is necessary to consider the complexity of lives as actually lived; that is, to attend carefully to personal memories which reveal individuals trying to negotiate the unacknowledged paradox of self inherent in post-war plans and policies.

Voices of Desire in Chicago

In Tribalism in Crisis: Federal Indian Policy, 1953-61, Larry Burt (1982) asserts that many Indians moved into and through Chicago and other cities for reasons quite separate from the government relocation policy. As complex as were the CATS, the WRA resettlement plan and the BIA relocation policy, their geo-historical contexts, and the ideologies underpinning them, human behavior was yet more complex. It functioned in excess of those plans. Burt argues that historians and other scholars have no choice but to break away from the policy framework and past disciplinary practices if they want to understand Indian urbanization and, we would infer, Japanese American resettlement, and the CATS. The examination of oral histories is among the alternatives he recommends.

As additional, qualitative information, memories recorded in oral interviews provide scholars more than personal experiences and feelings or data to convert back into numbers. Inherent in each personal narrative are interpretations of concepts--and sometimes policies—and assumptions about what an individual self is, can be, and should do. Such interviews can serve not only the study of American minorities such as the Lakota or Athabascan, but any aspect of public planning and policy. In closing our argument for acknowledging the Americanized Freudian paradox prevalent in the post-war period and evident in the CATS, we turn to two oral histories addressing post-war Chicago. One is from the Japanese American National Museum’s Chicago Re-Generations Oral History Project of 1998 and the other is from the Chicago American Indian Oral History Pilot Project of 1984.

In an interview with Pat Aiko Amino, a post-war Nisei migrant, conducted 30 March 1998 by Mary Doi, we find a definition of desire lines not stored in the Cartographatron; rather, we find in her words a more necessarily nuanced negotiation of economic efficiency than the CATS planners posit. What constitutes rational choice of movement in an often irrational—in this case, racially irrational--environment is a question Mrs. Amino answered daily but the CATS planners did not acknowledge. Speaking of where she and her Japanese American teen-aged friends hung out, she says, "It wasn’t a nice area but we liked it because we were accepted there. I guess you go where you’re accepted mostly, you know" (23, emp. added). The simplicity of this statement belies its profundity for it defines what motivates movement throughout the whole of Pat Amino’s post-war experience in Chicago as she narrates it: avoidance of prejudice and rejection when seeking both places of residence (CATS’s origins) and places of employment (CATS’s destinations).

Even when she is narrating a story of her mother’s conventional struggle to find work close to home, her mother’s desire for acceptance complicates, we see, her pursuit of efficient travel between origin (home) and destination (work).

"My mom went to work at General Mailing, of course, far but she went every morning….Alan Hagio, James Nisimura, and one other person started General Mailing. They got lots of contracts from, like Life Magazine….It was at 26th and Indiana, very far compared to where we lived [2328 North Seminary]….She would take a bus. Oh yes, we were bus people. Maybe they were streetcars then, first. But, anyway, public transportation." (24)

Later Mrs. Amino returns to the topic of her mother’s employment.

"I would say about four years at General Mailing, then she went to Curt Tech….It was closer to home. That’s one of the reasons she started there. It was on Irving Park and Ashland." (40-41)

When Mary Doi asks if there were other Japanese American women working there, Mrs. Amino responds, "Oh yes, yes, it was all Issei ladies" (41). Acceptance and a familiar cohort remained a necessary and sufficient condition of any efficiency-defined desire line.

As a young Nisei, Mrs. Amino was no less dependent on other Japanese Americans for housing, work, and especially social activity than her Issei mother. She narrates with delight her memories of the many clubs formed by Japanese American high school and post-high school "girls" and of dances and basketball games they held at the Olivet Institute, a Japanese American safe haven on the near North Side.

Trips outside the city constitute a small proportion of total trips in the Chicago study area as mapped by the CATS planners. For relocated and dispersed Japanese Americans, however, a primary negotiation of desired movement is, in fact, not on the scale of the city. Instead, superimposed on the routine of day-to-day travel is the memory of, desire for, the ever-pending decision about, the West Coast. When in 1947 or 1948, Pat Amino decided to drive to California with newly married friends, she maps racial prejudice on a national scale. "Prejudice was rampant then, especially going further west, you know" (41). This rejection notwithstanding, Mrs. Amino goes back again and again, imagining these originary points of departure as destinations for retirement and closure. When asked about moving out West, Mrs. Amino replies, "Everybody moved. We’re toying with the idea because we have two children out there….I hate to move, but, you know, you go where your grandchildren are" (63-64). In retirement, more free of economically defined productivity and rationality, Mrs. Amino reasserts an economically radical definition of self that PIM and, we argue, the CATS, was designed to eradicate or, at best, ignore—communal identification and extended family loyalty.

Mrs. Frank Fastwolf, a college-educated Oglala woman of 62 when interviewed in 1984, says of post-war relocation, "They placed us so that we never lived together. Most wanted to live out in the suburbs. They put us on the southside [sic], others on the northside. That was their policy, to scatter us out over the city" (#006, p.7). By the standards of Dillon Myer and the Hoover Commission, the Fastwolfs were enormously successful, isolated in their new urban environment. As relocatees, they engaged in productivity, moving daily between their self-owned home and work, home and school, exactly as the CATS assumed for all Chicagoans. And yet an insinuating tale of trauma runs through their success story belying their struggle with the paradox of self at work in the policies and plans that sought to define their American individualism. Frank Fastwolf was a boiler man able to afford a house for his family on the South Side soon after they arrived in 1955, but in 1960 they moved to the North Side. Mrs. Fastwolf explains the move in racial terms. "The blacks started moving in. We lived on 73rd Street. It seemed like a nice place at the time, but the neighborhood seemed to change over night. Frank couldn’t stand it" (8). Mr. Fastwolf, whom his widow described as a ‘real Indian" who accompanied his family only to the Indian Center on N. LaSalle and to the weekly pow-wows there, was, according to his widow, motivated to buy a house near the Indian Center not by feeling isolated on the South Side but by the entry of African Americans into his neighborhood.

Mrs. Fastwolf never mentions her white neighbors in any Chicago neighborhood, but she does say of her husband that he drank because of the "pressure and this feeling of inferiority," this despite the fact that they owned a series of houses in the city, a sign for her that life was good, better than it could have been on the reservation (p.11 then 9). Of her children, Phyllis Fastwolf says, "They were to be raised among white people, they were to be raised believing that they had to be respected by other people for what they were. It meant getting them an education" (11). However, she later observes, "I’m sixty-two now, at this state of my life I would rather be an Indian. When I look back, I see how badly I wanted to be white. I wanted to own our house, I wanted the brand new car" (12). Not surprisingly, Mrs. Fastwolf defined a desirable, self-determining, self-respecting, other-respected individual in racial terms. To move productively between an owned home and good job or decent school in an owned automobile, an individual needed to desire a self understood as white.

But Frank Fastwolf was a "real Indian," and in retirement, the widowed Mrs. Fastwolf "would rather be an Indian." Implied in these desired Oglala selves was not only the memory of the reservation but also culturally specified community centers and neighborhoods within the city. Before his death, her husband had returned regularly to Pine Ridge (their reservation in South Dakota)—sometimes with his family—but he always came back to Chicago where his only familial or communal activity was the pow wows at the Indian Center on the North Side (11). From his widow’s words we gather that Mr. Fastwolf died before he could act on his desire to retire at Pine Ridge after he had lived out his years as an urbanized economizing man juggling the paradox of rational self and real Indian.

Given their economic success, we surmise that neither the Aminos’ nor the Fastwolfs’ desire for communal identification and extended family loyalty could have been imputed from their quotidien behavior within Chicago.That daily behavior, rooted in a post-war psychology of free choice rationally controlled by PIM , the Hoover Commission Task Force Report and numerous other mid-century forces inevitably gave back to the CATS planners an echo of the very desires their expertise helped create.Acknowledgment of the desire lines actually embedded in the stories of Pat Amino, Phyllis Fastwolf, and innumerable others would, we believe, make more feasible, more reasonable, any instrumentally rationalist plan to move large numbers of people, regardless of scale.


We have interpreted the Chicago Area Transportation Study of the late-1950s as manifesting a central paradox of American individualism, and we have done so by juxtaposing the CATS study against two major governmental efforts to relocate Japanese-Americans and American Indians in the late-1940s and 1950s. While highway engineers and the CATS’ planners claimed to be basing their sophisticated technical work on the presumed existence of self that possessed a unique interiority that was susceptible to self-reflection, rational thought, and rebellion – to be, as one highway engineer put it, supplying the public with "the facilities that the public desires, and not what he [the engineer] thinks they should desire" -- they were, in practice, working to control individual behavior by presuming a narrowly consumerist (or economizing) self; that is, a self that would make trips "for profitable purposes."

Not transportation planners ourselves, we suggest with some modesty that transportation (and other highly-technical modes of planning) could adopt a fuller and richer understanding of the ideologies, constraints, and experiences constructing self and human behavior than is presently the case. As a practical matter, we would suggest that it is not sufficient to rely exclusively or even preeminently on sophisticated transportation modeling when preparing new transportation plans. Rather, such modeling should be complemented by efforts to solicit personal narratives from individual citizens, to hear the desires of such people as actually expressed in their own voices, and to take seriously their own complex interpretation of experiences and desires. Rather than simply impute desires from easily measured behavior, transportation planners should take into account the multiple ways in which origins, destinations, and hence desire lines are produced and circumscribed by a variety of forces, overt and hegemonic. (Pat Aiko Amino points to one when she says, "I guess you go where you’re accepted mostly, you know;" that is, avoid prejudice and rejection in choice of both home and destination.) Issues of the type Black (1990) claims the CATS planners failed to anticipate (and which "it would have taken remarkable prescience to foresee") can, we suggest, actually become part of the planning process. Moreover, the planners own lines of desire can become a reasonable topic of public scrutiny.

Those influenced by the CATS planners’ mode of planning should take to heart its practical failure. Not a consequence of "just politics" or even just blindness to human diversity, CATS failure and others of its kind need to be interpreted within the many assumptions that produced it. Definitions of home and work, origin and destination, and desire that are imputed from behavior which is simply assumed to be economically rational are bound to founder on desires that are – as the policy and personal histories of Japanese-Americans and American Indians demonstrate – geo-historically rooted, politically fraught, and personally complex.


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James A. Throgmorton,
Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, The University of Iowa

Barbara Eckstein,
Associate Professor of English, The University of Iowa

Last updated 21st November 2000