Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Carol Atkinson-Palombo, Amy Burnicki

Field of Study

Civil Engineering


Master of Science

Open Access

Open Access


The past several decades have been accompanied by a growing concern regarding the viability of auto-centric planning as it relates to environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Research has shown that dense, multimodal urban development has many benefits over the sprawling land use patterns that are so common today. As there are few modern places that are free of automobile-oriented development, historic cities often act as great sources of this information. Unfortunately, it is difficult to fully explore and understand Pre-Automobile Era cities because of a lack of accessible data.

Through GIS digitization of maps of Hartford, Connecticut around 1920, it was possible to quantify characteristics of an historic American city built for pedestrians and compare it to modern-day development patterns. Initial results show that the trolley system of 1920, while not significantly superior to the modern bus system, was effective in moving residents from their homes to the downtown commercial center and moving people throughout the Greater Hartford region. The 1920 system was also accompanied by more multimodal streets and residential land use development that employed a small-scale, uniform building pattern.

This research is a starting point for developing a more advanced analysis of the significant changes to Hartford’s urban fabric as it has gone from transit-oriented to auto-oriented. It is believed that by using tangible data to describe the urban form of the American city before it was dominated by the automobile, important insights can be gained in the push for safer, more sustainable, and more vibrant places.

Major Advisor

Norman Garrick