A Streetcar Named Deceit…

Some time during the next 30 years, there will probably be some type of local mass-transit that runs on electricity, much like trolley cars and streetcars did sixty years ago.  It will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build.  When this system is finally in place, we will be exactly where we once were, with little to show for over 100 years of “progress” in transportation.
The blame rightfully belongs to those bankrupt geniuses at General Motors.
In the 1950s, there were electric trolley operations in Galveston, Houston, Baytown, Pasadena, South Houston, and many smaller towns in the vicinity.  The same was true in all of the populated areas of the United States.  All cities and even most small towns had electric streetcars.
You could hop on a trolley car for a nickel and ride nearly anywhere in town. The cars of that era were wonderful even by today’s standards. They didn’t pollute the air. They were comfortable, attractive, roomy, reliable, and safe.
There were between 1,200 on 1,500 such systems operating in the United States.
So, where did they go?  Did people just stop riding them because cars and gas were so cheap?
Did they become not economically viable for some reason? Were they costing more than they were worth?  Did they fall to the budget axes?
No. Streetcar systems were popular and economical in every city where they existed, right up to their last day of service.  The people who relied on them never wanted to see them go. But there were those who wanted to see the end of the trolley, and who were willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to see it happen.
Starting in the 1920s, General Motors and others hatched a scheme to replace rail transportation with road transportation.  The key players included Firestone, Shell, Mack Trucks, and other large corporations who had a vested interest in seeing rail traffic moved to highways.
City by city, they used straw corporations to buy up local trolley systems. The largest of these was a newly-formed company called National City Lines, which bought the streetcar lines in over 80 cities.  National City was directly funded and financed by GM and their partners.
National City Lines would buy a streetcar line, then start dismantling it, replacing the trolleys with buses, Of course those buses were General Motors buses, with Firestone tires on them.  They filled up with Shell gasoline.  In some cities, where the lines could not be bought, GM simply bought off local politicians by giving them new Cadillacs in exchange for supporting a switch to bus service.  In other instances, the company paid analysts and “experts” to publicly encourage the switch to gas power as a more efficient way to move people and freight. It never was.
The scheme was hatched in the early 1920s in Detroit. In 1921, General Motors lost a whopping $65 million – about $1 billion in today‘s money.  The company was on the brink of complete ruin.  The financial gurus at GM advised that the automobile market was saturated.  Everyone who wanted or needed a car already had one. In those days, only one person in ten owned a car, and most people – over 90% – traveled by rail,  In fact, local rail service was the primary competition for General Motors and the auto industry as a whole.  If rail transportation could somehow be made to disappear, people would be forced to either buy a car or ride a bus.
The following year, GM mastermind Alfred P Sloane Jr. formed a special group at General Motors for the express purpose of  replacing railways with cars, trucks, and buses.
General Motors used a variety of measures, including freight leverage. GM, for decades, was the nation’s largest shipper of freight over railroads. By wielding freight traffic as a club, GM was able to persuade railroads to abandon their electric rail subsidiaries. Among these was the Southern Pacific Railroad, owner of Los Angeles’ Pacific Electric, the world’s largest trolley operator, with 1,500 miles of track in southern California. Back then, you could live well in Los Angeles without a car. The streetcars went everywhere. Another victim was the New York Central Railroad, owner of the New York State Railways, 600 miles of street railways and interurban lines in upstate New York. Another was the New Haven Railroad, owner of 1,500 miles of trolley lines in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  All were coerced into converting their passenger lines over to buses.  This was before air conditioning, and those buses were cramped, hot, and smelly contraptions that often broke down.  The trolleys were open-air vehicles, and quite roomy. For the passengers, it was a giant step backwards.
As the largest depositor in the nation’s leading banks, GM also used financial leverage over the electric railways, which relied heavily on those banks to supply their capital needs. According to U.S. Department of Justice documents, officials of GM visited the banks used by railways in Houston, Galveston, Philadelphia, Dallas, Kansas City and other locations, and, by offering them millions in additional deposits, persuaded their rail clients to convert to motor vehicles.
Where these measures failed, GM formed holding companies to buy up and motorize the railways directly. Thus, it helped create, organize, and finance United Cities Motor Transit as a wholly owned GM subsidiary, as well as Greyhound, Rex Finance, Omnibus Corporation, National City Lines, Pacific City Lines, American City Lines, City Coach Lines, Manning Transportation and numerous other concerns, which acquired rail systems across the country, including those in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, San Diego and Oakland.
With officials of Greyhound and National City, it helped acquire and dismantle the $50 million North Shore Line, the fastest electric service in the world, providing Wisconsin’s lakeshore cities and Chicago’s northern suburbs with high-speed access to the downtown loop. Working with a pack of notorious gangsters, General Motors helped purchase and scrap the excellent system of street railways serving Minneapolis-St. Paul.
And where rail systems were publicly owned and could not be bought, like the municipal railway of St. Petersburg, Florida, GM bribed their officials instead, according to FBI files.
GM admitted, in court documents, that by the mid-1950s, its agents had canvassed more than 1,000 electric railways and that, of these, they had motorized 90 percent, more than 900 systems.
Since this conspiracy destroyed a very efficient and beneficial industry, there was antitrust action taken – but all that came of the proceedings were fines of $5,000 for each company involved and a fine of $1 for the treasurer of GM, who oversaw much of National City Lines’ operations.
So now you know why you have to sit in gridlocked traffic on the freeway, Now you know why an efficient and economical public service was done away with and replaced with a less-efficient form of transportation.  Now you know why those poor bastards in New York City have to chase down taxicabs to go anywhere. And now you know why we have to go back to square one and start over at the same place we were 65 years ago to fix our public transportation.
All because some greedy motherfuckers decided that what was good for America was NOT good for General Motors.  It ranks as one of the most Machiavellian plots in the long and sordid history of corporate America.  And it’s going to cost billions just to get back to where we were.
Now that you know the truth, that’s one more person they’ll someday have to kill…           GATOR

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