Who Killed the American Trolley System

As a follow up to my last post about Electric and Hybrid Cars and morethanreal‘s comment about public transit, I present to you: Who Killed the American Trolley System?

I think many of you have heard this story before, about how many U.S. cities had amazing public transit systems using trolley cars. Then the car and gas companies banded together, bought them out, and systematically dismantled them. I found a good artcle by Rebecca Kroll Choosing Congestion: The Destruction of L.A.’s Trolley System.

In 1936, General Motors joined forces with Firestone Tire and Rubber, Standard Oil, Phillips Petroleum and Mack Truck to form a corporation called National City Lines. The purpose of NCL was to use its immense pool of wealth to buy up trolley tracks and systems in cities across the US, dismantle them, and replace them with diesel bus lines.

I’ve heard this story before, and Wikipedia has a good article on the General Motors streetcar conspiracy that has points for and against. What I didn’t realize is that the movie Who Framed Roger Rabit has plot elements from the conspiracy. I’ll have to watch the movie again.

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