106 Iowa L. Rev. 2107 (2021)
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Volume 106, Issue 5 of the Iowa Law Review was dedicated to a Symposium, convened in November 2020, on The Future of Law and Transportation. This Essay introduces the Issue and frames the subject.

Law has played a substantial yet largely uncredited role in shaping, and suppressing, transportation policy debates. Transportation involves tradeoffs and competition for resources—for example, the determination of whose homes are connected by highways and whose destroyed. But it also involves clashes between a particular vision of comfort and convenience—the unimpeded, fast movement of automobiles—and a host of fundamental policy goals, including public safety, racial justice, and climate action. Because legal rules often predetermine the outcome of these conflicts, law has the effect of codifying dubious decisions that were made during the early days of mass automobility and placing the results beyond ready contestation. 

This first-of-its-kind Symposium endeavors to open a legal literature on the past, present, and potential of transportation policy. The scholars who participated eschewed the fashionable transportation technology topics of the day and instead confronted essential and long-deferred legal policy questions. They considered these questions through the lens of multiple substantive areas of law, including land use, tax, traffic, vehicle design, consumer and public finance, and state and local government—all with keen sensitivity to economics, politics, race, and culture as reflected in the law. And in doing so, these legal scholars were joined by colleagues from disciplines where transportation scholarship is more established.

This Issue features an astonishing array of scholarship on the future of law and transportation from some of today’s most promising and distinguished scholars of the nascent subject. No scholarly field can trace its founding to a single publication, but it is hoped that this Issue will endure as a formative volume in the field of transportation law.

“We have gloated too much over the usefulness of the motor car to consider it in its other aspects as a dangerous menace to safety. We put it into reckless hands. We make no effective laws against its misuse.” –New York World Editorial, 1913

“Here are a couple things America got right: cars and freedom.” –Dodge Challenger advertisement, 2010

“In the 50s, the mentality around roads was that they existed for one purpose and that was to move as many cars as you could as fast as you could. And design reflected that. . . . It turns out that we’re better off if our decisions revolve not around the car but around the human being.” –U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, 2021

Thursday, July 15, 2021