General Motors streetcar conspiracy

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Pacific Electric Railway 'red car' streetcars stacked in an LA junkyard in 1956. Although folklore firmly connects the "Red Cars" with these allegations, the PE was never owned by the NCL firms.

The General Motors streetcar conspiracy (also known as the Great American streetcar scandal) refers to convictions of General Motors (GM) and other companies for monopolizing the sale of buses and supplies to National City Lines and its subsidiaries, and to allegations that this was part of a deliberate plot to purchase and dismantle streetcar systems in many cities in the United States as an auto marketing ploy.

Between 1938 and 1950, National City Lines and Pacific City Lines—with investment from GM, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California, Phillips Petroleum, Mack Trucks, and the Federal Engineering Corporation - a Standard subsidiary — gained control of transit systems in a number of cities. Conspiracy theorists put the number as high as 100, but reliable sources suggest that National had already acquired 20 city systems and two interurbans by the end of 1937,[1] and these should be subtracted from the 46 systems mentioned in the case,[2] and adjusted to reflect the splitting of the Elgin-Aurora line into two systems. Systems included St. Louis, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Oakland. NCL often converted streetcars to bus operations in that period, although electric traction was preserved or expanded in some locations. Other systems, such as San Diego's, were converted by outgrowths of the City Lines. Several of the companies involved were convicted in 1949 of conspiracy to monopolize interstate commerce in the sale of buses, fuel, and supplies to subsidiary companies, but were acquitted of conspiring to monopolize the transit industry.

Some suggest that this program played a key role in the decline of public transit in cities across the United States; notably Edwin J. Quinby, who drew widespread attention to the program in 1946[dubious ], and then Bradford C. Snell, an assistant attorney for the United States Senate's anti-trust subcommittee, whose controversial 1974 testimony to a Senate inquiry brought the issue to national awareness. Both Quinby and Snell argued that the deliberate destruction of streetcars was part of a larger strategy to push the United States into automobile dependency. Others say that independent economic factors brought about changes in the transit system, including unrealistic capitalization such as watered stock, fixed fares during inflation, changes in paving and automotive technology, the Great Depression, the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, labor unrest, market forces including the inability of declining industries to attract new capital, rapidly increasing traffic congestion, the Good Roads Movement, urban sprawl, taxation policies that favored private vehicle ownership, wide diffusion of driving skills, and general enthusiasm for the automobile.[3]

With hindsight a number of more recent studies have questioned that the alleged conspirators had a significant impact on the decline of the streetcar system, rather, they were setting themselves up to take advantage of the decline as it occurred. Guy Span, a noted writer on the subject has suggested that Snell and others fell into simplistic conspiracy theory thinking, bordering on paranoid delusions[n 1] stating:

Clearly, GM waged a war on electric traction. It was indeed an all out assault, but by no means the single reason for the failure of rapid transit. Also, it is just as clear that actions and inactions by government contributed significantly to the elimination of electric traction."[n 2]

In 2010 CBS's Mark Henricks reported:[4]

There is no question that a GM-controlled entity called National City Lines did buy a number of municipal trolley car systems. And it's beyond doubt that, before too many years went by, those street car operations were closed down. It's also true that GM was convicted in a post-war trial of conspiring to monopolize the market for transportation equipment and supplies sold to local bus companies. What's not true is that the explanation for these events is a nefarious plot to trade private corporate profits for viable public transportation.

Only a small handful of U.S. cities have surviving effective rail-based urban transport systems based on streetcars or trams, including Newark, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Boston; others are re-introducing them. The story has been explored several times in print, film and other media, notably in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Taken for a Ride and The End of Suburbia.

History[edit]

Background[edit]

In the later half of the19th century, transit systems were generally rail-based, first using horsecars and later cable cars or trams powered by electricity. Horse omnibuses and even steam omnibuses operated as well in some areas into the next century. At one time, nearly every city in the U.S. with a population over 10,000 had at least one streetcar company; nearly all were privately owned and were later dismantled.[citation needed]

Early years[edit]

John D. Hertz, a pioneer of both taxi operators and bus services, formed the The Omnibus Corporation in 1926 by with "plans embracing the extension of motor coach operation to urban and rural communities in every part of the United States" and that said that "it was not the purpose of the corporation to enter into competition with street car companies or railroads, but to work with them for the rehabilitation of street car companies or parts of railroads in sections where the service was now inadequate."[5] Omnibus owned the Chicago Motor Coach Company, which Hertz had founded to operate buses in Chicago,[6] and the Fifth Avenue Coach Company in New York.[7] That same year, the Fifth Avenue Coach Company acquired a majority of the stock in the struggling New York Railways Corporation.[8] General Motors appointed Hertz to its main main board by 1927 when the company acquired a controlling share of the Yellow Coach Manufacturing Company, a successful bus and coach manufacturer also founded by Hertz.[9] While conspiracy theorists focus on the involvement of Hertz, the lines affected were confined to Manhattan, and were subject to intense political and economic pressure from the city government.

In 1932, GM formed a new subsidiary—United Cities Motor Transport (UCMT)—to finance the conversion of streetcar systems to buses in small cities. UCMT purchased several smaller systems within Michigan and Ohio before being censured by the American Transit Association after approaching the city of Portland, Oregon with a similar proposal. UCMT was dissolved in 1935.[10]

The Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 caused great difficulties for the streetcar operators by making it illegal for a single private business to both provide public transport and supply electricity to other parties.

The New York Railways Corporation converted streetcars to buses in 1935 and 1936, with the new bus services being operated by the New York City Omnibus Corporation, which shared management with The Omnibus Corporation. running generally at a profit.[11] This contrasted severely with its predecessor, which had been bankrupted and reorganized at least twice.

National City Lines, Pacific City Lines, American City Lines[edit]

In 1936 National City Lines (NCL), was reorganized into a holding company.[12] It had grown out of small bus operations started in 1920 by E. Roy Fitzgerald and his brother.[13] NCL raised funds to purchase transportation systems in cities "where streetcars were no longer practicable" and to replace them with buses. Investors consisted of Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California (now Chevron Corporation), Phillips Petroleum (now part of ConocoPhillips), GM, Mack Trucks (now a subsidiary of Volvo), and the Federal Engineering Corporation.[n 3]

NCL acquired the Los Angeles Railway (aka the "Yellow Cars") in 1945 and converted many lines to bus routes. All of these routes, however, had been planned for conversion in 1940, and many of the lines were replaced with trolleybuses,[14] some were originally intended for Oakland, but others purchased specifically in 1948.[14] The LATL did however make the last major new purchase of streetcars, and kept an additional line electrified, which was only converted 20 years later by the public authority that later purchased the system.[14]

Pacific City Lines (PCL) also formed in 1938, was to purchase streetcar systems in the western United States.[n 3] In 1941, PCL attempted a hostile takeover of the Key System, which operated electric trains and streetcars in Oakland, California.[15] By 1946, PCL had acquired 64% of the stock in the Key System which operated electric trains and streetcars in Oakland, California. PCL merged with NCL in 1948.[n 4]

American City Lines (ACL) which had been organized to acquire local transportation systems in the larger metropolitan areas in various parts of the country in 1943, was merged with NCL in 1946.[n 3] By 1947, NCL owned or controlled 46 systems in 45 cities in 16 states.[n 5]

The involvement of General Motors and others in these holding companies was not made public at the time. In addition, both National City Lines and Pacific City Lines were incorporated in Delaware, a state which does not require companies to disclose information about directors or shareholders, and which also offers low corporation tax and other incentives to businesses that incorporate there.[16]

Edwin J. Quinby[edit]

In 1946, Edwin Jenyss Quinby, a serving naval commander,[17] founder of the Electric Railroaders' Association in 1934 (which lobbied on behalf of rail users and services),[18] former employee of North Jersey Rapid Transit (which operated in New York) published a 24-page 'expose' on the ownership of National City Lines addressed to "The Mayors; The City Manager; The City Transit Engineer; The members of The Committee on Mass-Transportation and The Tax-Payers and The Riding Citizens of Your Community". It began, "This is an urgent warning to each and every one of you that there is a careful, deliberately planned campaign to swindle you out of your most important and valuable public utilities–your Electric Railway System".[n 6] It was his agitating that led the Federal Authorities to prosecute GM and the other companies.[n 7]

He also question who was behind the creation of the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, which had caused such difficulty for street car operations,[n 8] He was later to write a history of North Jersey Rapid Transit.[19]

Court cases, conviction and $1 fine[edit]

On April 9, 1947, nine corporations and seven individuals (constituting officers and directors of certain of the corporate defendants) were indicted in the Federal District Court of Southern California on counts of "conspiring to acquire control of a number of transit companies, forming a transportation monopoly" and "conspiring to monopolize sales of buses and supplies to companies owned by National City Lines"[n 9] which had been made illegal by the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act.

In 1948, the venue was changed from the Federal District Court of Southern California to the Federal District Court in Northern Illinois following an appeal to the United States Supreme Court (in United States v. National City Lines Inc.)[20] which felt that there was evidence of conspiracy to monopolize the supply of buses and supplies.[n 10]

The San Diego Electric Railway was sold to Western Transit Company, which was owned by a J. L. Haugh, Oakland, for $5.5 million in 1948.[21] Jessie Haugh was also president of Key Systems which later purchased Pacific Electric Railway. The financial arrangements were not public at the time.[15] In the same year the Baltimore Streetcar system was purchased by NCL and started converting the system to buses.[22]

In 1949, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California, Phillips Petroleum, GM and Mack Trucks were convicted of conspiring to monopolize the sale of buses and related products to local transit companies controlled by NCL and other companies; they were acquitted of conspiring to monopolize the ownership of these companies. The verdicts were upheld on appeal in 1951.[n 10] Bradford Snell, a Senate antitrust attorney later complained that:

"The court imposed a sanction of $5,000 on GM. In addition, the jury convicted H.C. Grossman, who was then treasurer of GM. Grossman had played a key role in the motorization campaigns and had served as a director of Pacific City Lines when that company undertook the dismantlement of the $100 million Pacific Electric system. The court fined Grossman the magnanimous sum of $1."[n 11]

What Snell failed to mention was that the court explicitly explained the low fine: describing the violation as one which could only be tested by a court; as neither a matter of "outright lawlessness or brazen price-fixing;" and, most tellingly, a case which could easily have gone either way, in the trial judge's opinion,: "I am very frank to admit to counsel that after a very exhaustive review of the entire transcript in this case, and of the exhibits that were offered and received in evidence, that I might not have come to the same conclusion as the jury came to were I trying this case without a jury." [23]

According to Snell, GM's own testimony had shown that by the mid-1950s, "its agents had canvassed more than 1,000 electric railways and that, of these, they had motorized 90%—more than 900 systems."[n 12]

Jesse Haugh, who operated Metropolitan Coach Lines and was a former executive of PCL, had previously purchased San Diego Electric Railway though a separate company in 1948. The remaining streetcars were converted to buses by 1950. The struggling Pacific Electric Railway was purchased by Metropolitan Coach Lines in 1953 and was taken into public ownership in 1958 after which the last routes were converted to bus operation. Though federal anti-trust action was taken against NCL, the damage was already done and Los Angeles was 'in love with the automobiles'.[24] Haugh sold the bus-based San Diego system to the city in 1966.[25]

Urban Mass Transportation Act and 1974 Antitrust hearings[edit]

The Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 created the Federal Transit Administration with a remit to "conserve and enhance values in existing urban areas" noting that "our national welfare therefore requires the provision of good urban transportation, with the properly balanced use of private vehicles and modern mass transport to help shape as well as serve urban growth." Funding for transit was increased with the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1970 and further extended by the 1974 National Mass Transportation Assistance Act which allowed funds to support transit operating costs as well as construction costs.

In 1970, Harvard Law student Robert Eldridge Hicks began working on the Ralph Nader Study Group Report on Land Use in California to report the wider conspiracy to dismantle U.S. streetcar systems. These allegations were first published in Politics of Land: Ralph Nader's Study Group Report on Land Use in California.[26]

In 1972 Senator Philip Hart introduced into congress the 'Industrial Reorganization Act', with an intention to restructure the US economy to restore competition and address antitrust concern.[27] As part of the preparations for the fourth session of this Act, which were to focus on ground transport industries, Bradford Snell, a former scholar with the Brookings Institution and attorney with Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro[n 13] and assistant Council of the Subcommittee of Antitrust and Monopoly of the Senate,[n 14] prepared a controversial and disputed paper, titled "American ground transport: a proposal for restructuring the automobile, truck, bus, and rail industries"[n 15] together with an accompanying statement.[28] The paper, authored earlier with support from the Stern Fund, was described as the centrepiece of the hearings,[29] The paper, that was published and distributed in February 1974. It was published in a Senate binding, implying that this contents were the considered views of the Senate, a mistake for which the chair of the committee apologized.[n 16] He also In it Snell claimed that:

  • General Motors as 'a sovereign economic state' and claimed that the company played a major role in the displacement of rail and bus transportation by buses and trucks.[n 17]
  • the GM President and CEO Alfred P. Sloan established a special unit within the corporation charged with the task of replacing the US electric railways with cars, trucks and buses in 1922. [n 18]

At the hearings in April 1974:

  • San Francisco mayor and antitrust attorney Joseph Alioto testified that "General Motors and the automobile industry generally exhibit a kind of monopoly evil", adding that GM "has carried on a deliberate concerted action with the oil companies and tire companies...for the purpose of destroying a vital form of competition; namely, electric rapid transit". Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley also testified, saying that GM—through its subsidiaries (namely PCL) "scrapped the Pacific Electric and Los Angeles streetcar systems leaving the electric train system totally destroyed".[n 19]
  • However, George Hilton, a professor of economics at UCLA and noted transit scholar rejected Snell view stating that:[30][n 20] "I would argue that these [Snell's] interpretations are not correct, and, further, that they couldn't possibly be correct, because major conversions in society of this character — from rail to free wheel urban transportation, and from steam to diesel railroad propulsion — are the sort of conversions which could come about only as a result of public preferences, technological change, the relative abundance of natural resources, and other impersonal phenomena or influence, rather than the machinations of a monopolist."
  • GM published a rebuttal the same year titled "The Truth About American Ground Transport".[31][32]

Since 1980[edit]

To this day, the main streets of many smaller communities, such as Pennsylvania Route 18 in Beaver Falls, are noticeably wider than roads built for similar newer communities, due to their being constructed to accommodate streetcars as well as general traffic.

The 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, references the scandal, masked and set in Los Angeles.[n 21] Scriptwriters Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman explained: "the Red Car plot, suburb expansion, urban and political corruption really did happen. In Los Angeles, during the 1940s, car and tire companies teamed up against the Pacific Electric Railway system and bought them out of business. Where the freeway runs in Los Angeles is where the Red Car used to be."[33] The story was told again in 1996 in the documentary, Taken for a Ride and then in 2004 in the film The End of Suburbia.

Snell responded to an article in The New Electric Railway Journal in 1995 in which it had be suggested that streetcars were replaced naturally with an emotive piece which started "The electric streetcar, contrary to Van Wilkin's incredible naïve whitewash, did not die a natural death: General Motors killed it. GM killed it by employing a host of anti-competitive devices which, like National City Lines, debased rail transit and promoted auto sales."[n 22] He also claimed that *in 1920, 90% of all trips were via rail using 1,200 separate electric street and interurban railways with 44,000 miles (71,000 km) of track, 300,000 employees, 15 billion annual passengers, and $1 billion in income and that only one in 10 Americans owned an automobile[n 23]

The accuracy of significant elements of Snell's 1974 testimony was challenged in an article published in Transportation Quarterly in 1997 by Cliff Slater.[n 24]

In recent decades, many American cities have started reconstructing new streetcar systems, light rail, and other public transport systems. By way of example, Los Angeles has recently opened a number of streetcar lines: Blue Line (1990),[34] Orange Line (2005)[35] and Expo Line (2012),[36][37] all of which have high usage and largely run along routes previously used by Pacific Electric Railway (Red Car) services.[35]

Other factors[edit]

Others factors have been cited as reasons for the decline of streetcars and public transport generally in the USA.

Robert Post notes that the ultimate reach of GM's conspiracy extended to approximately 10% of US transit systems.[38] The conspiracy did, however, impact to some extent on all five of the largest current metropolitan areas in the USA.

Guy Span argues that actions and in-actions by government was one of many contributing factors in the elimination of electric traction.[n 2] Cliff Slater suggested that the regulatory framework in the USA actually protected the electric streetcars for longer than would have been the case if there was less regulation[n 25] The following regulations and regulatory changes have been linked to directly to the decline of the streetcars:

  • Difficult labor relations, and tight regulation of fares, routes, and schedules took their toll on city streetcar systems.[39]
  • The Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 prohibited regulated electric utilities from operating unregulated businesses, which included most streetcar lines. The act also placed restrictions on services operating across state lines. Many holding companies operated both streetcars and electric utilities across several states; those that owned both types of businesses were forced to sell off one.[40] Declining streetcar business was often somewhat less valuable than the growing consumer electric business, resulting in many streetcar systems being put up for sale.[41] The independent lines, no longer associated with an electric utility holding company, had to purchase electricity at full price from their former parents, further shaving their already thin margins.[42] The Great Depression then left many streetcar operators short of funds for maintenance and capital improvements.[n 26]
  • The Dual Contracts signed by operators in New York City restricted their ability to increase fares at a time of high inflation; however, these contracts also allowed the city to operate them.[43]

Different funding models have also been highlighted:

  • Streetcar lines were built using funds from private investors and were required to pay numerous taxes and dividends. By contrast, new roads were constructed and maintained by the government from tax income.[44][45]
  • By 1916, street railroads nationwide were wearing out their equipment faster than they were replacing it. While operating expenses were generally recovered, money for long-term investment was generally diverted elsewhere.
  • The U.S. government responded to the Great Depression with massive subsidies for road construction.[44]
  • Later construction of the Interstate Highway System was authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 which approved the expenditure of $25 billion of public money for the creation of a new 41,000 miles (66,000 km) interstate road network.[45] Streetcar operators were occasionally required to pay for the reinstatement of their lines following the construction of the freeways.[46]
  • Federal fuel taxes, introduced in 1956 was paid into a new Highway Trust Fund which could only fund highway construction (until 1983 when some 10% was diverted into a new Mass Transit Account).[39]

Other issues which made it harder to operate viable streetcar services include:

  • Suburbanization and urban sprawl, exacerbated in the USA by white flight, created low-density land use patterns which are not easily served by streetcars, or indeed by any public transport, to this day.[47][48]
  • increased traffic congestion often reduced service speeds and thereby increased their operational costs and made the services less attractive to the remaining users.[49][50][51]
  • More recently it has been suggested that the provision of free parking facilities at destinations and in the center of cities loads all users with the cost of facilities enjoyed only by motorists, creating additional traffic congestion and significantly affects the viability of other transport modes.[52]

Myths and mysteries[edit]

Facts emerged slowly, hindering understanding of events that occurred during the transition from rail to automotive transportation.

Some of the specific cases which have been clarified over the years include:

  • According to Snell's testimony, the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad line in New York was profitable until it was acquired and converted to diesel trains.[n 27] In reality, the line was in financial difficulty for years and filed for bankruptcy in 1935.[53] Ironically, the rail company itself was indicted in 1914 on a charge of "conspiracy to monopolize interstate commerce by acquiring the control of practically all the transportation facilities of New England".[54]
  • "GM killed the New York street cars".[n 27] In reality, the New York Railways Company entered receivership in 1919,[55] 6 years before it was bought by the New York Railways Corporation with funding from GM and others.[citation needed]
  • "GM Killed the Red cars in Los Angeles".[n 27] In reality, Pacific Electric Railway (who operated the 'red cars') was hemorrhaging routes as traffic congestion got much worse with growing prosperity and car ownership levels after the end of World War II, long before GM became involved in 1953.[n 28] A more compelling case, however, exists that GM's actions precipitated the demise of the Los Angeles Railway (or 'Yellow Cars') that served the central urban area.[56]
  • The Salt Lake city system is mentioned in the 1949 court papers. However, according to one source, the city's system was only purchased by National City Lines in 1944 at a time when all but one route had already been withdrawn, and the withdrawal of this last line had been approved three years earlier.[57] (In 1953, National City Lines became part of the Utah Transit Authority.)

Relevant actors[edit]

The businesses and people in this section have all been referenced by one other external sources in relation to the 'streetcar scandal'.

Holding companies for transport operators
  • National City Lines (1920-?) Main holding company for public transport operators
  • The Omnibus Corporation (1925–1954) Started by John D. Hertz, who was a director of GM[58] Also known as the 'Omnibus Corporation of America'
  • New York City Omnibus Corporation (1926–1962) Shared management with The Omnibus Corporation[n 29] Later known as 'Fifth Avenue Coach Lines'
  • United Cities Motor Transport (1932?-1934?) Was 'censored by the American Transit Association for its obviously self-serving role'.[n 30]
  • Pacific City Lines (1937–1948) Merged into National City Lines in 1948[59]
  • American City Lines (1943–1946) Merged with National City Lines 1946.[59]
Personnel
Manufacturing companies

In addition to the six business indicted in 1947:

Finance organizations
Training
Advocacy groups
Affected transit lines

Cultural impact[edit]

The removal of streetcars from cities has been associated with the decline of the character of urban cores, as economic, residential and cultural life dispersed from a central core. As Martin Melosi wrote, "through deconcentration of business functions; the weakening of the core as a magnet for social and cultural life; and the dispersal of population into the suburbs."[62]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ruggles, C. O. 1878-1958., C.O. "Problems in public utility economics and management,". Hathitrust.org. McGraw Hill. Retrieved 2014-11-19. 
  2. ^ US Senate subcommitte on Anttrust. "Industrial Reorganization Act Hearinfs". Hathitrust.org. Retrieved 2014-11-18. 
  3. ^ See elsewhere in this article for cited sources for all of these claims, notably in the 'other factors' section
  4. ^ Henricks, Mark (2010-09-02). "The GM Trolley Conspiracy: What Really Happened". CBS News. 
  5. ^ "American Motor Coach Part III, American Motor Bus, Gas-Electric Motorbus, Stanley L. Conklin, Roland R. Conklin". Coachbult.com. 
  6. ^ "CTA Marks 50 Years as Chicago's Major Public Transit Provider". Chicago Transit Authority. 2002-10-01. Retrieved 2012-04-29. 
  7. ^ "Guide to the Fifth Avenue Coach Company Collection 1895-1962". New York History Society. In 1954, after acquiring the Hertz car rental business, the Omnibus Corporation sold the assets of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company to the New York City Omnibus Corporation, which was renamed Fifth Avenue Coach Lines in 1956. 
  8. ^ "Coach line ready to rip up car tracks in a wide bus plan; Fifth Av. Company Promises Quick Start if the city Approves Project.". The New York Times. 24 May 1926. 
  9. ^ "Hertz". Coachbuild. 
  10. ^ The automobile age. p. 365. ISBN 978-0-262-56055-9. 
  11. ^ Securities and Exchange Commission. 1945. p. 238. The New York Omnibus Corporation, successor to the New York Railways Corporation commenced the operation of bus route in 1936. In all but one year since then it has been profitable 
  12. ^ Ruggles, C.O. "Problems in public utility economics and management". Hathitrust.org. McGraw Hill. Retrieved 2014-11-19. 
  13. ^ Louis Guilbault. "The Conspiracy Revisited Rebutted". 
  14. ^ a b c "Los Angeles Transit Lines - The Trolley Bus in Los Angeles". Electric Railway Historical Association of Southern California. Retrieved 2014-10-17. 
  15. ^ a b "General Motors' Destruction of California Transit Systems". Modern Transit Society. Retrieved 2014-04-21. 
  16. ^ "UNITED STATES of America v. NATIONAL CITY LINES, Inc., et al 1955". The first group, hereafter called collectively the City Lines defendants, was composed of National City Lines, Inc. (hereafter National), a Delaware corporation and holding company for some forty-six local public transportation companies in sixteen states, Pacific City Lines, Inc. (hereafter Pacific), also a Delaware corporation 
  17. ^ Quinby, Edwin, J. (1946). "Quinby's Warning". I am at present on active duty in the Navy with the rank of Commander. 
  18. ^ Suburbanizing the masses: public transport and urban development in historical perspective. Ashgate Publishing Ltd. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-7546-0775-5. Retrieved 2011-04-08. 
  19. ^ "Interurban interlude: A history of the North Jersey Rapid Transit Company". 
  20. ^ "United States v. National City Lines , 334 U.S. 573 (1948)". FindLaw. 1948. 
  21. ^ a b Holle, Gena (2002). "Transit in San Diego: ASCE Anniversary Project". The Journal of San Diego History 48 (1). 
  22. ^ "A Brief History of Baltimore Streetcars". In 1949, the National City Lines holding company gained control of BTCO. The NCL has long been accused of being a major player in the so-called “General Motors streetcar controversy”, in which front organizations for bus manufactures, tire companies and oil suppliers acquired and dismantled streetcar systems in order to replace them with buses. Soon after the NCL takeover, BTCO began to replace streetcar and trolleybus lines with conventional buses. The 1950s saw decline of the once extensive system, as NCL cut back on service and car maintenance. [dead link]
  23. ^ Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust. "The Industrial reorganization act [microform] : hearings, Ninety-third Congress, first session [-Ninety-fourth Congress, first session], on S. 1167.". hathitrust.org. US Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2014-12-18. 
  24. ^ "Book Review: Los Angeles Railway Yellow Cars". By the end of World War II, the Huntington estate sold its majority interest to Chicago-based National City Lines. LARY became the Los Angeles Transit Lines, and bigger changes were in store. Many lines were converted to bus operation through the late forties and fifties. Never mind that NCL was partially owned by bus (GM), tire (Firestone), and gasoline (Standard Oil) suppliers. Though Federal anti-trust action was taken against NCL, the damage was already done. Los Angeles was officially in love with the automobile. 
  25. ^ "Transit in San Diego: ASCE Anniversary Project". By 1963 Haugh said he'd be out of business within two years if things didn't improve, and suggested a public takeover of the transit system. The City Council of San Diego presented a ballot proposition that provided for city ownership of San Diego Transit. Upon voter approval in 1966, the city paid Haugh $2 million for the bus company 
  26. ^ pp. 410–12, compiled by Robert C. Fellmeth, Center for Study of Responsive Law, Grossman Publishers
  27. ^ "The Industrial Reorganization Act: An Antitrust Proposal to Restructure the American Economy". 
  28. ^ Snell, Bradford (1974-02-26). "Statement of Bradford C. Snell Before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly". Hearings on the Ground Transportation Industries in Connection with S1167. S.C.R.T.D. Library. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  29. ^ Wood, John C. (2003). Alfred P. Sloan: Critical Evaluations in Business and Management. p. 385. ISBN 0415248329. The centrepiece of the hearings was a study written by Bradford C. Snell 
  30. ^ "Be Careful How You Refer to the So-Called 'Great American Streetcar Scandal'". The strongest rebuttal came from transit scholar George Hilton (on whose work Snell had ironically relied) in his own 1974 Senate testimony" 
  31. ^ The truth about "American Ground Transport"--a reply by General Motors. OCLC 13880706. 
  32. ^ "GM and the Nazis--Part Four: How Will History Remember General Motors’ Collaboration with the Nazis?". But following the release of the Snell report, the automaker then created its own 88-page rebuttal report titled, “The Truth About American Ground Transport,” 
  33. ^ Robert Zemeckis, Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, Ken Ralston, Frank Marshall, Steve Starkey, DVD audio commentary, 2003, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
  34. ^ "History of the Pacific Electric Railway". Rails west. Retrieved 2012-12-19. 
  35. ^ a b Wetzel, Tom (2009). "What explains the demise of the Pacific Electric Railway?". Retrieved 2012-12-19. 
  36. ^ "Expo Line Flyover". Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society. 2011-06-20. Retrieved 2012-12-19. 
  37. ^ Lemarchand,Richard (2012-09-18). "Pacific Electric Railway Company ticket, etched into Expo Line platform". Flickr. Retrieved 2012-12-19. 
  38. ^ Post, Robert C. (2007). Urban Mass Transit: The Life Story of a Technology. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-313-33916-5. 
  39. ^ a b Susan Hanson, Genevieve Giuliano (2004). The Geography of Urban Transportation (3rd ed.). Guilford Press. p. 315. ISBN 1-59385-055-7. 
  40. ^ National Capital Trolley Museum. "Regional History". Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  41. ^ Van Wilkins (Summer 1995). "The Conspiracy Revisited". The New Electric Railway Journal. ISSN 1048-3845. Retrieved 2011-05-27. 
  42. ^ Jonathan Kwitny (1981). The Great Transportation Conspiracy: A juggernaut named desire. Harper's. p. 14. 
  43. ^ "Beyond the IRT". Public Broadcasting Service. The Dual Contracts doubled the size of the current system, pushing Manhattan's population northward and fostering residential growth in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. The new lines connected the beaches of Coney Island with the theaters of Times Square, and the citizens of Queens with the shopkeepers of Manhattan. But the terms of the contracts, particularly the fares and how they would be divided, would later cripple the system and threaten its continued growth. 
  44. ^ a b "Federal Highway Aid and the Depression". The annual federal highway allotment to the states, which stood for a number of years prior to 1931, at $75,000,000, was increased to $125,000,000 for the fiscal years 1931, 1932, and 1933. These sums were further augmented by emergency appropriations totaling $200,000,000, the large additional funds for road building being advanced as a means of giving work to unemployed men in every state. 
  45. ^ a b "The Cracks are Showing". The Economist. 2008-06-26. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2008-10-23. (subscription required)
  46. ^ "Part 5: The Ending of an Era in Detroit and The México City Sale". The PCC Era in Detroit. Detroit Transit History. 2009-03-30. Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  47. ^ Cities and Suburbs. 2009. p. 49. ISBN 9781134004096. Massive federal highway spending opening up rural land and kept residential land prices relatively low… The federal highway construction program, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, not only connected cities, but it also allowed commuters to travel the interstate highways into the cities from the nearby suburbs… Race also played a significant role in suburban expansion. In selected inner-city neighborhoods Blacks moved into the housing market. The resultant White flight to the suburbs was reinforced by urban renewal and integration of the school system. 
  48. ^ "Urban density is more cost-effective than urban sprawl". UITP. In low-density areas the car dominates the choice of transport, and the cost of providing public transport in high. In these sprawling cities almost all journeys are made by car 
  49. ^ "1922 Los Angeles: Unprecedented Growth, Congestion And A Plan For Relief". Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library. He concludes that the downtown street area is insufficient for present traffic, street area is inefficiently used, outlets for traffic are insufficient, and that increasing efficiency is practically impossible due to the railway systems in operation at the time. He goes on to discuss the 2nd Street Tunnel project, the opening of 5th Street, the Pacific Electric tunnel, and plans for a Union Passenger Station. 
  50. ^ John M Terrass (1922). "Study and Plan of Relief of the Street Traffic Congestion in the City of Low Angeles". University of California, Institute of Transportation and Traffic Engineering. p. 1. Traffic congestion, in the City of Los Angeles, has increased rapidly in the passed five years. Many complaints have been made by both the people and the public utilities which are directly affect by traffic congestion. Chief Engineer H.Z.Osborne, of the Los Angeles board of Public Utilities, in a discussion of traffic conditions, estimated the present yearly losses due to congestion, as being $8,365,800 
  51. ^ "Pacific Electric Railway (1901-1965)". Although the railway owned extensive private rights-of-way, usually between urban areas, much of the Pacific Electric trackage in urban areas such as downtown Los Angeles west of the Los Angeles River was in streets shared with automobiles and trucks. Virtually all street crossings were at-grade, and increasing automobile traffic led to decreasing Red Car speeds on much of its trackage. At its nadir, the busy Santa Monica Boulevard line, which connected Los Angeles to Hollywood and on to Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, had an average speed of 13 miles per hour (20.9 km/h) 
  52. ^ "U.S. Parking Policies: An Overview of Management Strategies". Minimum parking requirements subsidize driving by shifting the costs of car use onto development and the non-driving public.. There is a growing realization that the dysfunction caused by poorly conceived parking policies is a major impediment to creating an effective and balanced urban transportation system 
  53. ^ "New Haven Railway files for bankruptcy". Montreal Gazette. 1935-10-24. 
  54. ^ "Indict 21 in deals of the New Haven Line". New York Times. 1914-11-03. 
  55. ^ "U.S. Court Makes Hedges Receiver for N.Y. Railways". New York Times. 1919-03-21. p. 1. 
  56. ^ "Finding Aid for the Los Angeles Railway Corporation Legal Records and Correspondence". the controlling interest remained part of the Huntington estate until 1945 when the Fitzgerald Brothers purchased those shares. LARy became part of the National City Lines, was renamed the Los Angeles Transit Lines, and eventually the streetcars were phased out, replaced by motor buses. 
  57. ^ "Salt Lake City Streetcars". 
  58. ^ "Coachbuilt". Omnibus Corporation of America, which had a web of interlocking directors and managers with GM 
  59. ^ a b James J. Flink (1990). The automobile age. MIT Press. p. 365. ISBN 0-262-56055-0. 
  60. ^ "Book Review: Los Angeles Railway Yellow Cars". By the end of World War II, the Huntington estate sold its majority interest to Chicago-based National City Lines. LARY became the Los Angeles Transit Lines, and bigger changes were in store. Many lines were converted to bus operation through the late forties and fifties. Never mind that NCL was partially owned by bus, tire, and gasoline suppliers. Though Federal anti-trust action was taken against NCL, the damage was already done. Los Angeles was officially in love with the automobile. 
  61. ^ "Metropolitan Coach Lines". Metropolitan Coach Lines was incorporated in California on May 18, 1953; Haugh capitalized it at $8.5 million, $7.2 million of which was to cover the purchase price of the Pacific Electric assets and the remainder was for organizational expenses and working capital. The sale was completed on October 1, 1953, with PE’s entire passenger operating rights and all facilities and property related to the bus lines being turned over to Metro. These included the Pasadena, Ocean Park and West Hollywood garages, Macy Street shops, servicing and storage locations at Van Nuys, Sunland, Long Beach (Morgan Avenue) and Echo Park Avenue, stations at Pomona, Riverside and Whittier, and 695 buses. 
  62. ^ Martin V. Melosi, "The Automobile Shapes The City" at site, "Automobile in American Life and Society." ca. 2004-2010 http://www.autolife.umd.umich.edu/Environment/E_Casestudy/E_casestudy3.htm

Footnotes[edit]

The following notes are linked to the 'citations' shown below. Click on the author and date to the taken to the correct source link. Click on the source link to access the external resource.

  1. ^ Guy Span (2003a) "One of the most recent villains is Bradford C. Snell, a researcher whose delusions of paranoia seem nearly limitless (at least in print) ... Snell’s 1974 report goes on to craft a plausible case for a vast conspiracy to destroy clean, economic, and user-friendly streetcars"
  2. ^ a b Guy Span (2003b) "Clearly, GM waged a war on electric traction. It was indeed an all out assault, but by no means the single reason for the failure of rapid transit. Also, it is just as clear that actions and inactions by government contributed significantly to the elimination of electric traction."
  3. ^ a b c United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (1951), para 9 "In 1938, National conceived the idea of purchasing transportation systems in cities where street cars were no longer practicable and supplanting the latter with passenger buses. Its capital was limited and its earlier experience in public financing convinced it that it could not successfully finance the purchase of an increasing number of operating companies in various parts of the United States by such means. Accordingly, it devised the plan of procuring funds from manufacturing companies whose products its operating companies were using constantly in their business."
  4. ^ Guy Span (2003b) "National City Lines and Pacific City Lines merged in 1948 and continued their practice of 'bustitution.'"
  5. ^ United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (1951), para 6 "At the time the indictment was returned, the City Lines defendants had expanded their ownership or control to 46 transportation systems located in 45 cities across 16 states."
  6. ^ Guy Span (2003b)
  7. ^ Guy Span (2003b) "Quinby’s charges would finally bestir the government to begin an investigation into National City Lines and its owners and subsidiaries and suddenly the opposition changed their tactics (in a clear admission of guilt)... Thanks to Quinby’s warning, the Feds eventually took GM to trial and convicted them not for ripping out streetcar lines, but rather for controlling these companies to monopolize sales of its products, a violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act."
  8. ^ Guy Span (2003b). "No one sought an answer to Quinby’s most penetrating question (referring to the 1935 Public Utility Holding Company Act), "Who Is Behind This Campaign To Separate The Obviously Economical Combination Of Electric Railway And Its Power Plant?""
  9. ^ United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (1951), para 1, "On April 9, 1947, nine corporations and seven individuals, constituting officers and directors of certain of the corporate defendants, were indicted on two counts, the second of which charged them with conspiring to monopolize certain portions of interstate commerce, in violation of Section 2 of the Anti-trust Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 2."
  10. ^ a b United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (1951) "We think the evidence is clear that when any one of these suppliers was approached, its attitude was that it would be interested in helping finance City Lines, provided it should receive a contract for the exclusive use of its products in all of the operating companies of the City Lines, so far as buses and tires were concerned, and, as to the oil companies, in the territory served by the respective petroleum companies. It may be of little importance, but it seems to be the fact, at least we think the jury was justified in inferring it to be the fact, that the proposal for financing came from City Lines but that proposal of exclusive contracts came from the suppliers. At any rate, it is clear that eventually each supplier entered into a written contract of long duration whereby City Lines, in consideration of suppliers' help in financing City Lines, agreed that all of their operating subsidiaries should use only the suppliers' products."
  11. ^ Snell, Bradford C. (1974) p. 103 "The court imposed a sanction of $5,000 on GM. In addition, the jury convicted H.C. Grossman, who was then treasurer of GM. Grossman had played a key role in the motorization campaigns and had served as a director of Pacific City Lines when that company undertook the dismantlement of the $100 million Pacific Electric system. The court fined Grossman the magnanimous sum of $1"
  12. ^ Snell, Bradford (1995) "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."
  13. ^ Slater, Cliff (1997)
  14. ^ US Senate (1974) Page 2399
  15. ^ Snell, Bradford C. (1974)
  16. ^ US Senate (1974) Pages 2325 to 2326
  17. ^ Snell, Bradford C. (1974) "it demonstrates General Motors to be a sovereign economic state, whose common control of auto, truck, bus and locomotive production was a major factor in the displacement of rail and bus transportation by cars and trucks"
  18. ^ Snell, Bradford (1995) "Sloan established a special unit within the corporation which was charged, among other things, with the task of replacing the US electric railways with cars, trucks and buses".
  19. ^ Slater, Cliff (1997), "Mayor Alioto, himself a nationally prominent antitrust attorney, congratulated Snell on the "excellence" of his "very fine monograph." Alioto testified that, "General Motors and the automobile industry generally exhibit a kind of monopoly evil" and that GM "has carried on a deliberate concerted action with the oil companies and tire companies...for the purpose of destroying a vital form of cotric rapid transit. ... Mayor Bradley also testified, in absentia, saying that General Motors, through its American City Lines and Pacific City Lines affiliates, "scrapped" the Pacific Electric and Los Angeles streetcar systems to "motorize" Los Angeles. After GM was through, the 'electric train system was totally destroyed.'"
  20. ^ US Senate (1974) Page 2204
  21. ^ Bianco, Martha (1988)
  22. ^ Snell, Bradford (1995)
  23. ^ Snell, Bradford (1995) "90% of all trips were by rail, chiefly electric rail; only one in 10 Americans owned an automobile. There were 1,200 separate electric street and interurban railways, a thriving and profitable industry with 44,000 miles of track, 300,000 employees, 15 billion annual passengers, and $1 billion in income. Virtually every city and town in America of more than 2,500 people had its own electric rail system."
  24. ^ Slater, Cliff (1997)
  25. ^ Slater, Cliff (1997), "The issue is whether or not the buses that replaced the electric streetcars were economically superior. Without GM's interference would the United States today have a viable streetcar system? This article makes the case that under a less onerous regulatory environment, buses would have replaced streetcars even earlier than they actually did."
  26. ^ Guy Span (2003b) "And once separated from their subsidies, many died on their own at the end of the depression, without any further assistance from GM."
  27. ^ a b c Snell, Bradford (1995) "Members of GM's special unit went to, among others, the Southern Pacific, owner of Los Angeles' Pacific Electric, the world's largest interurban, with 1,500 miles of track, reaching 75 miles from San Bernardino, north to San Fernando, and south to Santa Ana; the New York Central, owner of the New York State Railways, 600 miles of street railways and interurban lines in upstate New York; and the New Haven, owner of 1,500 miles of trolley lines in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In each case, by threatening to divert lucrative automobile freight to rival carriers, they persuaded the railroad (according to GM's own files) to convert its electric street cars to motor buses -- slow, cramped, foul-smelling vehicles whose inferior performance invariable led riders to purchase automobiles."
  28. ^ Guy Span (2003a) "Snell’s report can also be misleading (apparently intentionally so). Snell says: "In 1940, GM, Standard Oil and Firestone assumed an active control in Pacific (City Lines)… That year, PCL began to acquire and scrap portions of the $100 million Pacific Electric System (of Roger Rabbit fame)." This statement implied that PCL was getting control of Pacific Electric, when, in reality, all they did was acquire the local streetcar systems of Pacific Electric in Glendale and Pasadena and then convert them to buses. Many superficial readers jump on this statement as proof that GM moved in the Red Cars of the Pacific Electric. The ugly little fact is that PCL never acquired Pacific Electric (it was owned by Southern Pacific Railroad until 1953).
  29. ^ Guy Span (2003a)
  30. ^ Guy Span (2003b), "GM (significantly) formed a new subsidiary, United Cities Motor Transport (UCMT) and looked around to gobble up transit companies to replace its equipment with GM buses."
  31. ^ Guy Span (2003a) "The real villain of this piece was a Tammany Hall hack mayor, John F. Hylan, supported by the Hearst Papers. William Randolph Hearst had been supporting a populist campaign against the so-called "Traction Trusts" for years and his crony was probably just following orders."
  32. ^ Guy Span (2003b) "So let’s not forget the words of Charlie Wilson when asked if there were a conflict with his former employer (GM) on his possible appointment to Secretary of Defense in 1953. He replied, "I cannot conceive of one because for years, I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.""
  33. ^ Guy Span (2003b) "According to Freedom of Information Act (F.O.I.A.) documents, the transit system’s bank would get a visit from GM promising deposits if the bank would lean on the transit company to not buy more streetcars. Converting to bus was easy, with the local banks assistance and, of course, easy financing from GMAC (General Motors Acceptance Corporation)."
  34. ^ Guy Span (2003b) "City planning was a relatively new field in the 1930s and few accredited institutions taught the subject. However, one such accredited institution did and it was GMI (General Motors Institution which took over the Flint Institute of Technology in 1926). And you can imagine what the fledgling city planners learned: traffic engineering (buses are good; railways are bad)."
  35. ^ Guy Span (2003b) "Outstanding systems like the Chicago North Shore Line (which operated from the northern suburbs into Chicago on the elevated loop until 1962) were allowed to go bankrupt and be scrapped."
  36. ^ Snell, Bradford (1995) "Indeed, in San Francisco and Seattle, it arranged for one of its former regional bus managers, the ex-president of its United Cities subsidiary, to become manager and transit czar. In northern New Jersey, Atlanta, Kansas City, Denver, Dallas, and Houston, it relied on banking connections to facilitate abandonment; in Chicago and Milwaukee, it relied on Greyhound, Omnibus, City Coach, and National; in Portland, on United Cities, Pacific Cities and Manning Transportation; in Miami, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, and Pittsburgh, on freelance agents and former GM and National officials; in New Orleans and Indianapolis, on gifts to high-placed executives; in Minneapolis, on unprincipled gangsters."

Citations[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Adler, Sy (1991). The Transformation of the Pacific Electric Railway: Bradford Snell, Roger Rabbit, and the Politics of Transportation in Los Angeles 27 (1). Urban Affairs Quarterly.  rejects conspiracy theory
  • Bottles, Scott L (1987). Los Angeles and the Automobile. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-05795-3. 
  • Black, Edwin (2006). "10". Internal Combustion: How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternatives. St. Martins Press. 
  • Fellmeth, Robert C. (1973). Politics of Land: Ralph Nader's Study Group Report on Land Use in California. Grossman Publishers. pp. 410–14. 
  • Fischel, W.A (2004). An Economic History of Zoning and a Cure for its Exclusionary Effects. Urban Studies 41 (2). pp. 317–40. 
  • Goddard, Stephen B. (1994). Getting There: The Epic Struggle between Road and Rail in the American Century. Basic Books. 
  • Hanson, S. and Giuliano, G. editors (2004). The Geography of Urban Transportation, Third Edition. The Guilford Press. ISBN 1-59385-055-7. 
  • Hicks, Robert Eldridge (1973). Politics of land: Ralph Nader's study group report on land use in California. Grossman Publishers. pp. 410–412, 488. ISBN 0-670-56326-9. 
  • Hilton, George W; Due, John F (1960). The Electric Interurban Railways in America. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-4014-3. 
  • Hilton, George W. What Did We Give Up With the Big Red Cars?. 
  • Jaffe, Eric. "Be Careful How You Refer to the So-Called 'Great American Streetcar Scandal'". 
  • Kwitny, Jonathan (1981). The Great Transportation Conspiracy: a juggernaut named desire. Harper's. pp. 14–15, 18, 20, 21. 
  • Kunstler, James Howard (1994). The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape. Free Press. ISBN 0-671-88825-0. 
  • Lewis, John E. The Mammoth Book of Conspiracies. Constable & Robinson Ltd. pp. 152–62. ; rejects conspiracy theory
  • Norton, Peter D. (2008). Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-14100-0. 
  • Thompson, Gregory Lee (1993). The Passenger Train in the Motor Age: California's Rail and Bus Industries, 1910–1941. Ohio State University Press, Columbus, OH. ISBN 0-8142-0609-3. 

External links[edit]