GM Killed the Electric car in 1936?

Posted on December 11, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TRUE or conspiracy theory…

Between 1936 and 1950, National City Lines bought out more than 100 electric surface-traction systems in 45 cities, including Detroit, New York, Oakland, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Tulsa, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Seattle and Los Angeles, and replaced them with GM buses. The scandal is rehashed in books like Fast Food Nation; testimony by Government Attorney Bradford Snell to a United States Senate inquiry in 1974 gave the scandal its current prevalence and weight in U.S. popular culture.

Depending on who is telling the story, to one degree or another, the scandal also invokes the Interstate Highway System as an additional culprit, since the system began its initial construction in California after the large-scale dismantling of that state’s trolley network. (Some documentation of the California rapid transit interurban systems — some pieces of which survive as local and semi-local transport systems — is provided by historians such as The Electric Railway Historical Association of Southern California.)

Defenders of auto and highway interests argue that streetcars faded away at the invention of the internal combustion engine and rise of the private automobile, and then the bus. They argue it signaled the obsolescence of the streetcar. At one time, virtually every city over 10,000 in America had at least one streetcar, before the invention of the automobile and the bus. 95% of all streetcar systems were at one time privately owned. According to the CATO Institute, in its study, “A Desire Named Streetcar: How Federal Subsidies Encourage Wasteful Local Transit Systems” it states, “Some supporters of mass transit have perpetuated the story that General Motors conspired to destroy the nation’s transit systems by replacing “efficient” streetcars with ‘dirty’ buses….” The study says this is not true and “has been debunked by numerous books and articles.” It also says,”General Motors did purchase an interest in various transit companies, but its only goal was to sell its brand of buses to companies that were already converting from streetcars to buses. The simplest evidence of this is that General Motors never controlled more than a small fraction of the nation’s transit lines, and it controlled none after 1949. Yet transit companies in many cities not controlled by General Motors, including Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Portland, and Seattle, all converted from streetcars to buses, mostly during the 1950s.”[1]

Read more VIA wikipedia
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