SEARCH BLOG: AUTOMOBILES and ECONOMY
I grew up in Milwaukee at a time when the old electric streetcars were ubiquitous. We had a streetcar stop directly across the street. For 10¢, a person could ride most of the day with transfer slips. Given the inflation rate, that's about $1 or $2... certainly no more than $5.
Recently, there has been a telling of GM's effort to destroy the public transportation system in order to sell cars. Most of the sites telling this story are "pro-environment" and have a definite ax to grind about the automobile.
- Public Transportation - The Great American Streetcar Scandal
- Shocking Facts of GM's History and Current Bankruptcy
- General Motors' Destruction of California Transit Systems
- Great American streetcar scandal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Taken for a Ride - How General Motors (GM) Conspired to Destroy ...
- GM, Public Transportation, and Karma - Page 13 - PriusChat Forums
Streetcars were noisy, rickety, uncomfortable, required waiting 10-20 minutes in all sorts of weather for the next one, often had their power pickup arms slip off the power line creating delays and traffic backups, and were hostage to the routes laid out by the tracks. If one broke down, it became a major operation to move it to a repair facility. As a rider, I experienced all of the "glory" of these vehicles. Sure, they used "clean" electric power to propel them, but that power came from some pretty dirty coal-fired power plants.
This seems to be a case of selective nostalgia.These were replaced by buses that used the same power lines, but were quieter and more comfortable. Subsequently, these were replaced by buses powered by diesel or gasoline engines that offered significantly more flexibility in establishing new routes... at far lower costs than laying new tracks and hoisting new power lines.
The 1950s were a time of expansion in the U.S. and while buses and trolleys were fine for inner cities, they served little practical purpose for a burgeoning population that was enjoying the post WWII industrial and economic boom in the U.S. Many blue collar workers who couldn't afford personal vehicles moved up the economic ladder and getting a car meant more freedom and status. GM didn't need to spend money to destroy a system that was ill-equipped to meet the needs of this expanding, more affluent population. GM only had to provide a variety of vehicles that fulfilled the wants of these customers.
Did GM spend a lot of money to undermine public transportation? Possibly. Was it worth the money? Probably not, since the change was going to happen anyway. Public transportation requires a high population density and a system that restricts alternatives. GM and other automobile manufacturers simply provided a more appealing alternative to the marketplace.
It's pretty much the same thing our government is attempting to do by limiting and sequestering carbon to cool a planet that is managing its climate pretty well by itself. It also requires limiting alternatives... and the free marketplace.
Besides, urban centers have shown that they are capable of using new mass transit effectively... where it makes sense in the marketplace....