The Great American Streetcar Scandal

The internet always loves a good conspiracy, even more so when it’s true. A lot of people in the US realize that public transportation isn’t where it should be, especially when compared to other countries. Yet, it seems few know that there was a massive conspiracy to tear down the infrastructure of the public transportation industry by General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California, and Phillips Petroleum. Their intention was to force citizens to buy cars and persuade the government to pay for the maintenance and construction of roads instead of focusing on public transportation.

These companies bought out entire streetcar systems in 45 major U.S. cities and proceeded to dismantle the tracks, trolleys, and overhead wires already in place. Of course, justice was served; General Motors was convicted in 1947 on federal antitrust charges. The executives were charged one dollar each for destroying what could have been the greatest public transportation system in the world. We have seen the costs of foreign dependency on oil, the costs of maintaining and building millions of miles of roads and then getting stuck bumper to bumper on them, and the negative health effects of automobile emissions. We are at a point where we have the information and the technology to make a dramatic shift to the future that we want, or we can maintain the status quo.

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