J. Douglas Carroll

J. Douglas Carroll

# Summary

J. Douglas Carroll was involved in setting up agencies that would forecast travel at the metropolitan level using the precursor of what would become the four-step model. He began in Detroit (DMATS) in 1953, moved on to Chicago (CATS) in 1955, and then to the Tri-State region of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

# Biography

Doug Carroll was born in 1917 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father was a successful bond broker in St. Paul, but moved his business to Chicago when Doug was about six or seven years old. Doug had two brothers, one older and one younger, with the latter born after the family moved to Chicago. The 1930 census found the family living at 9716 South Longwood Drive. The house was located across the street from Ridge Park, named after the 6-mile long protrusion from the original Chicago Lake bed that provided the residents a vista uncommon in Chicago neighborhoods. The area was characterized as representing “some of the best housing in the city, with homes on large lots including several designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.” (Mayer/Chicago/386)

Carroll’s father continued in bond sales with a downtown office at 208 S. LaSalle. After attending a local high school, Doug went on to Dartmouth College, where he played intercollegiate sports and was said to have been a quarterback on the varsity football team. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1938. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was discharged with the rank of lieutenant in 1945. In 1947 he received a master of city planning from Harvard University, where he went became only the third person to receive a doctorate in city and regional planning from the School of Design.

At the time of Carroll's attendance at Harvard, the design school was under the leadership of architect Walter Gropius. Born in Germany in 1883, Gropius practiced architecture for 10 years before founding the Bauhaus (House of Building) in Berlin in 1919. The ascension of Adolf Hitler and National Socialism forced Gropius out of Germany in 1934, and eventually to Boston and Harvard University. His architectural philosophy was based on creating innovative designs with materials and methods based on the most up-to-date technology. Gropius readily accepted standardization and pre-fabrication, transforming building into a science of precise mathematical calculations. He also brought to the field a firm belief in the application of teamwork in developing a design. In 1945 he founded the Architects Collaborative, a design team that embodied his belief in the value of teamwork. The influence this important theorist and teacher had on the way Carroll and Roger Creighton (also a Harvard Design School graduate) went about developing innovative transportation planning techniques was in full flower during their time at CATS. “Team play is one reason why the transportation study has been so productive in inventing new techniques and so much a discoverer of new knowledge about urban phenomena.” (Creighton/UTP/133)

While at Harvard, Carroll began to publish, which began his long career of writing about the work in which he was involved. These early writings covered issues such as public welfare in Cambridge, the development of the port of Boston, and the status of property tax in the Boston metropolitan area.

After graduating from Harvard, he took a position in Flint, Michigan, where he worked with the city planning commission and was involved in a variety of planning activities dealing with housing and downtown parking. While in Flint, he also began to analyze the home-to-work trip in various segments of the population. He would later use some of the insight he gained in Flint to refine the travel demand forecasting in Detroit and later in the Chicago study. In 1953 he was named director of the Detroit Metropolitan Area Traffic Study (DMATS) that “is usually considered to be the first comprehensive metropolitan transportation study.” (Black/Rational/27)

The Detroit plan was similar in concept to the one that emerged in Chicago in 1962, except DMATS’ was based on an existing land-use plan and did not include transit proposals.

As the Detroit study was winding down in the summer of 1954, the groundbreaking nature of what Carroll and the staff had accomplished did not go unnoticed.

In the Detroit study, Doug Carroll realized that “something substantially different was needed to cope with the difficulties and conflicts which had arisen in urban transportation planning in the preceding decades” and “the problems associated with the current urban transportation planning practice.” (Creighton/UTP/131) He was convinced that the only way to plan transportation facilities for urban area was “as a system.” He reasoned that limited-access expressways decrease the volume on parallel routes and increased the volume on perpendicular routes with access to the expressway, so “an entire system had to be planned as a unit.” “This became the philosophy which permeated the Chicago study.” (Creighton/UTP/131) In the introduction to his book Urban Transportation Planning, Roger Creighton says the following in dispensing credit for influencing what is in his book. “First, the greatest credit should go to J. Douglas Carroll Jr., under whose leadership the transportation studies gained their greatest forward movement.” (Creighton/UTP/introduction xxvi)

# Influence on Urban Transportation Planning

Creighton says CATS shaped urban transportation planning policy for at least 20 years. After CATS, there were in short order the Penn Jersey Study, the Pittsburgh Study, the Seattle Study, the Upstate New York Transportation Studies, the Tri-state Regional Planning Commission and many others. All used the planning process that was initiated in Detroit and brought to a massive state in Chicago. (Creighton/UTP/132)

While it is true there were significant other inputs, “CATS brought it all to full flower with the Schneider assignment process, the Cartographatron displays, and other things.” (Creighton interview 3/11/03) The approach the staff was using was groundbreaking in nature and the Policy Committee was aware of it, which resulted in a minimum of interference from them. Creighton notes that the multi-disciplinary approach used at CATS was an import from Walter Gropius and the Harvard Graduate School of Design, via Detroit. He said the technique of judging the plan by the use of multiple goals was a product of the multi-disciplinary team that included expertise in economics, planning, engineering and operations research. He feels the Policy Committee accepted the approach and the results because they made sense to them. He does not feel the committee had a major role in developing the technique, but it did need to be convinced of the soundness of the technique and process in order to approve it.

Dr. Carroll exhibited substantial control over the outcome of the policy and technical committee meetings. “He was a teacher at heart, and loved to use flip charts and crayons to get his point across to help the staff and committee members to understand a particular technique.” (Caswell interview 4/1/03)

Carroll constantly sold the groundbreaking nature of the study, making it clear that other studies were watching what was happening in Chicago, and by 1959 CATS had begun to send contract staff to work on other studies. Carroll was an early advocate with the state and BPR of making CATS a permanent agency. Roger Creighton acknowledges that Dr. Carroll had a dominant position because of his contract with the state, the backing of the Illinois Department of Highways and the support of BPR. Put another way, Roger said Carroll knew what he wanted to do and had the money and organization to accomplish it. Creighton says that under Carroll's leadership the staff was largely able to operate with a free hand because nobody else had much experience with “computer planning techniques, which we were inventing as they went along.” He went on to say, “It was an idyllic situation for a competent staff, and we went at it with a will and extremely high morale.” (Creighton interview 3/11/03)

Alan Black says Dr. Carroll firmly believed in a rational planning process and thought planning should be made as scientific as possible. Black also said that Cantonese, in his 1980 book, cited Dr. Carroll “as an example of a successful planner who adopted the apolitical technician role.” (Black/Rational/28). Bruce Seeley also cited this apolitical technical role and its earlier incarnations in influencing national transportation policy.

# Source

The Chicago Area Transportation Study: Creating the First Plan (1955-1962)

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