If you haven’t watched the movie “Taken For a Ride”, let me get you up to speed. I believe we are in the midst of yet another public utilities scandal. In 1922 only one American in 10 owned an auto. Rail was the method of transportation. There were efficient, quiet and electric. Alfred P. Sloan (General Motors President) wanted more automobile market share, so he planned to have the buses replace the space where the trolleys ran.
Once that trolley space was gone, folks would then prefer cars over buses, so he bought the largest bus operating company in the country AND he bought the largest bus-production company. Then GM moved to Manhattan. GM acquired interests in NY railways and destroyed the rails between 1926-1936.
GM placed ads showing motorization as the wave of the future (kinda like all the darn natural gas ads you see today). In the mid 1930’s, the GM ads portrayed a trend away from rail when that was NOT the trend (like how the tobacco industry lied about cigarettes being safe). The Yellow Coach buses, a GM subsidiary, replaced the street cars city by city.
A front company for GM was formed called “National City Lines”. Along with GM was Standard Oil of Calif, Mack Truck, Philips Petroleum, and Firestone Tires. Together they financially provided backing for this front company. Roy Fitzgerald was groomed to be president of this company and he was portrayed as a poor farm boy rising through the ranks.
In first killing off the street cars (that USED to be efficient and profitable), they manipulated the street cars so that they were slower and provide less service stops so that they no longer were profitable. The buses then became a growing business and by 1946, the buses controlled public transportation in over 83 cities.
The Justice Dept. investigated the dethroned electric street car system in the huge, public utilities scandal. Due to the lack of anti-trust laws on the books saying “thou shall not destroy street car systems”, they were only able to fine each company $5,000 on a criminal antitrust conspiracy judgement for monopolizing the local transportation field.
I see how today a handful of corporate (big oil and gas) interests try to derail sustainable energy choices (with fracking) and that we (our politicians) have not learned to protect the fate of the majority (our clean air and water) from influential corporate interests. I bet we wouldn’t have all the vehicle pollution problems of today if those rails had flourished and kept expanding!