When the United States declared war on Japan in December 1941, over ninety percent of the nation's crude rubber supply was controlled by the Japanese and instantly lost. Almost immediately, the U. S. government took steps to ensure that civilian consumption would not interfere with military exigencies: in January 1942, all new car sales were frozen and by the end of July 1942, gas rationing had been implemented. New York State, where seventy-five percent of the work force depended on personal automobiles to commute between home and work, was particularly hard hit. The New York State War Council responded to the situation in May 1942 by creating the War Transportation Committee to encourage the conservation of vehicles, gasoline, and tires, and to promote the conservation and improvement of transportation in general and mass transportation in particular. The committee concentrated primarily on road and highway transportation, but was also interested in rail and water transportation.
The War Transportation Committee replaced the Highway Traffic Advisory Committee to the War Department. The Highway Traffic Advisory Committee, appointed by Governor Herbert H. Lehman in February 1941, had succeeded the State Traffic Commission. R. C. Georger, who was the secretary of the State Traffic Commission, was named director of the War Transportation Committee. Working through the local war councils, the committee established committees of car owners, businessmen, and representatives from industrial plants and transportation companies to address the transportation issues in each community. Five field representatives, based in Albany, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, assisted local war transportation committees to meet the goals they set for themselves. New York City was handled by the director of Port Development of the Port of New York Authority. Assisting the field representatives, when necessary, were ten traffic engineers from the Highway Department and seven traffic supervisors from the State Police.
Working in conjunction with the Office of War Training, the committee promoted safe and efficient school bus and truck driver training. It also encouraged staggered work hours to relieve congestion; proposed the elimination of some traffic signals and the alteration of others to flashing signals to allow smoother traffic flow; promoted observance of the 35 mile-per-hour speed limit; and encouraged private car owners to car pool. The committee also advocated that car owners conduct timely preventive maintenance and eliminate unnecessary use. Re-routing traffic patterns around war plants was another concern of the committee as well as promoting charter bus use and encouraging the implementation of new bus lines.
The committee ceased operations in October 1945.