As part of a Washington Post project examining the legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society on its 50th anniversary, the Post’s Katie Zezima is highlighting little known, but important things that came out of the many programs that were created and legislation that was passed.
And of course, there’s a transportation angle.
Yes, I know the headline gives it away, but Johnson believed that a Great Society meant rebuilding the nation’s cities, many of which had fallen into disrepair.
As part of that, Katie’s writes, The Urban Mass Transit Acts of 1964 and 1966 gave federal funds to public agencies that operated regional transit systems, helped public and private transportation companies improve facilities, funded research and development and provided fellowships for young people who wanted to study mass transit.
A prior effort to create a subway system in the District had failed. The legislation that passed in 1965 created a small, 25-mile long system. That system is “is only vaguely recognizable to someone today,” Zachary M. Schrag, a professor of history at George Mason University and author of the book “The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro,” told Katie. He added, “The fact that you were going to design one system for all these folks, the black and white, the suburban and urban, the rich and the poor, represents some of that Great Society ideal that everyone is going to be together.”
The Metro system opened in 1976. Nearly 40 years later, it’s preparing to open a new addition — the Silver Line, which will extend service into Tysons Corner and Reston by the end of the summer and to Dulles International Airport in 2018.
San Francisco’s BART system and Atlanta’s MARTA system also owe their existence to Johnson’s push for a Great Society.