Driven to Destruction – The Streetcar Conspiracy


Driven to Destruction is a series outlining how America became so dependent on the personal automobile, and how we must break this dependency if we want to create a sustainable way of life for future generations.

The second installment of Driven to Destruction outlined how advertising trends have created a mystique-based car culture that is very difficult to transform. For 100 years, commercials from auto and oil companies have helped create a national ethos in which the automobile is king. But clever advertising is far from being the only culprit. Our love affair with our cars has also been fueled by the devious actions of a few major corporations – most notably General Motors.

The PBS documentary “Taken For a Ride” describes how the once ubiquitous electric streetcar was driven into the ground by the automobile. It wasn’t a fair fight:

When you’re talking about public transportation in America, for the first part of this century, you’re talking about streetcars. Trolleys ran on most major avenues every few minutes.

In 1922, only one American in ten owned an automobile. Everyone else used rail. At that time Alfred P. Sloan (President, General Motors) said, ‘Wait a minute, this is a great opportunity. We’ve got 90 percent of the market out there that we can somehow turn into automobile users. If we can eliminate the rail alternatives, we will create a new market for our cars. And if we don’t, then General Motors’ sales are just going to remain level.’

Sloan had the idea that he wanted to somehow motorize all the major cities in the country…. More at FireDogLake