10000RV: (Public.Spaces) PBS History Detectives
- Aug 29, 2006This below is wonderful (I hope everybody can see the image). Carfree
thinking since long back.
Carlos F. Pardo
De: Richard Layman [mailto:rlaymandc@...]
Enviado el: Lunes, 28 de Agosto de 2006 10:36 p.m.
Asunto: Re: (Public.Spaces) PBS History Detectives
Ad from 1940.
I'm all for beating up on GM, Firestone, and Exxon but they were merely
icing on the cake. Long before their campaign to convert streetcar systems
to bus systems (to sell buses, tires, and gasoline--GM didn't manufacture
streetcars) streetcar systems were on the decline due to the availability of
automobiles generally, and cheaper automobiles specifically (Henry Ford)
which fueled outmigration and deconcentration in earnest beginning in the
Before the Depression interurban systems were going out of business, and
intracity streetcar systems too.
The Depression didn't help.
Neither did the Utility Holding Act, which eliminated cross-subsidy of
streetcar systems by electricity generating companies. Many streetcar
systems created electricity generating companies to run their systems, but
the generating business became much bigger. When forced to make a choice
between owning the electric company or the streetcar company, they chose the
And state and city regulation of streetcar systems and limits on fare
increases underfunded the ability of such systems to invest in their
infrastructure and remain competitive.
Not to mention the fact that they paid franchise fees and taxes, unlike the
roads, which were used by vehicles that competed (gas taxes yes, but not
property, this was a problem too for railroads compared to trucking
WWII led to a revitalization of streetcar usage. No automobiles were
produced during the war. Plus gas rationing--which was instituted not
because of gas supplies, but because of lack of access to rubber for tires
(the Japanese took control of Malaysia from the British). So people rode
But after the war, due to the demand for consumption of consumer goods the
price of streetcars went up greatly (demand for steel, etc.). Buses were
seemingly cheaper to purchase (they had a shorter useful life, and reduced
capacity compared to the average streetcar). So more streetcar lines were
abandoned, even by systems not controlled by GM...
Plus, streetcar service was "too frequent" often every 3 minutes, leading to
congestion. Reducing frequency (headway) even by a couple minutes--from the
need for 20 cars/hour to 15 or 12--would have reduced investment
Plus, the rush to the suburbs, fueled after 1954 by white flight, further
deconcentrated the market for public transit and streetcars.
It is incumbent on those of us demanding better public spaces to be accurate
in the recounting of history. And if you're interested in finding out more,
there was a good discussion of this topic earlier in the year on the H-URBAN
e-list. (It happens that transit is one of my advocacy interests.)
There are two good books about this wrt DC. One quotes from one of the
abandonment hearings for the system in my old neighborhood, although I
haven't tried to track down the actual testimony myself.
John Williams <john@...> wrote:
Tonight's episode of History Detectives looked into the history of
electric streetcar systems and the role of GM et al in eliminating
transit networks in many US communities. They mention the Snell
Hearings and also talk to the author of a new book, "Internal
Combustion: How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to
Oil and Derailed the Alternatives," by Edwin Black."
Interestingly enough, the book will be released Sept. 5th, the day
ProWalk/Pro Bike 2006 starts in Madison. Coincidence? Hmmm...
CLEVELAND ELECTRIC CAR
AIRED: Season 4, Episode 10
THE DETECTIVE: Wes Cowan
THE PLACE: Cleveland, Ohio
A Cleveland man with a passion for trains has long wondered about an
electric street car in his city's transit museum.
He is curious to learn what happened to the city's once extensive and
highly praised electric trolley car network.
Streetcars were once the most popular form of urban transportation in
the country -- by World War I, most cities of more than 10,000 people
had an electric railway system. But by the 1950s, this form of
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