The General Motors Conspiracy to Destroy Public Transportation in the US

Taken for a Ride

Directed by Jim Klein (2014)

Film Review

Taken for a Ride is about a conspiracy initiated by General Motors to destroy America’s public transit system. At a time when only one out of ten Americans owned an automobile, the first president of General Motors Alfred P Sloan started National City Lines (NCL), with the explicit goal of shutting down the country’s popular, world class electric trolley lines.

With the financial support of Standard Oil, Phillips Petroleum, Firestone and Mack Truck, NCL bought up every trolley company in the US s systematically shut them down. This was despite widespread public opposition – the NCL buses that replaced the trolleys were far slower and more polluting than the trolleys.

Once they had a monopoly on city transit, NCL gradually raised fares and cut services until city buses were so unprofitable they had to be taken over by city government.

In 1946, after intensive investigation, the Justice Department filed suit against GM for conspiracy to monopolize public transportation. After finding them guilty, the court fined them a mere $5,000.

GM Also Behind Interstate Construction Conspiracy

In 1932, Sloan also founded the National Highway Users Conference, a consortium of oil and auto companies that would ultimately become the Highway Lobby – for decades the most powerful lobby in Washington. When Eisenhower was elected in 1952, GM president Erwin Wilson became his Secretary of Defense (and convinced of the need for superhighways – to move tanks as Hitler had done in Germany) and Francis DuPont (DuPont was the largest GM shareholder) as the Commissioner of Public Roads. Under Eisenhower, Congress enacted a federal gas tax to pay for the massive federal Interstate highway system his administration created.

There was strong public opposition in many cities to Interstate construction that threatened to displace entire neighborhoods and close down businesses, schools and churches. A national coalition – blocking urban Interstate extensions in 50 cities – but most went ahead as planned.

Sam Alito Exposes GM Conspiracy

In the 1970s, a strong grassroots environmental movement formed to address the growing problem with superhighway gridlock* and auto-related air pollution. A high point of this film is footage of a 1974 Senate Antitrust Committee hearing in which Los Angeles mayor Sam Alito reminds senators of the GM conspiracy to shut down LA’s public transit system.

Following the hearing, Congress relented and allowed cities to use federal gasoline taxes to rebuild their public transport networks. This would enable Washington and San Francisco to build subway systems and Baltimore, Portland, Seattle and other cities to begin plans for light rail (the modern term for electric trolleys) systems.

When this documentary was made in 2014, public transportation was in major crisis in most cities, due to budget cuts stemming from the 2008 global economic crash. At the time, Congress had just passed a bill to build a new national highway network four times the size of the current Interstate system.

Fortunately this plan has been shelved due to federal budgetary problems and the wholesale rejection of the private automobile by the millennial generation.

*Did you ever notice that TV ads never depict their cars stuck in highway gridlock – but on lonely stretches of country road?


17 thoughts on “The General Motors Conspiracy to Destroy Public Transportation in the US

  1. I think Pres. Eisenhower deserves a lot of credit for construction of the interstate highway system, for it is of great value to commerce and freedom of travel as well as military value. Secretary of Defense Charles (Charlie) Wilson was noted for, “What is good for the country is good for General Motors and viva versa.” General Motors was our largest corporation at one time, but it was part of a cabal that worked with other automobile manufacturers to put out products of “planned obsolescence, changes in design and lack of quality that would make one want a new car every two years. Tires would last twelve thousand miles, for example, and breakdowns were common. It was crony American automobile capitalism, although there were many manufacturers with many attractive products; they just not that durable in that age.


    • Eisenhower built the interstate hiway system, to mine and process uranium, for bombs and reactors mostly. Also to deliver nuclear bombs to nevada so they could detonate a couple thousand bombs and irradiate everyone. What a great man!


    • If given my druthers, marblenecltr, I would have preferred to keep the railroads and trolleys. For many Americans (an the number is growing), a private automobile is an unaffordable luxury. Without access to good, affordable public transportation, it’s often impossible for low income people to secure work and child care near to their homes – inner city residents can’t even access fresh healthy food without a car or good public transportation.


  2. There was a (1988) movie loosely based on this “conspiracy”. It was called, of all things, Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
    It couldn’t just be thrown in people faces (we wouldn’t accept that, no matter how true) so it was put into a animated comedy, to hide that truth.


  3. marblenecltr
    on May 13, 2018 at 10:51 pm said:
    “During a cold war against a Communist power that mined uranium for atom bombs and controlled where people would be allowed to travel and when.”

    America had a first strike policy against the soviet Union. The military industrial complex, eisenhower created, ratcheted up nuclear bombs and nuclear bombs to make themselves rich. It was and is pure pathological insanity. The united states detonated a thousand nuclear bombs, open air and radioactively contaminated most of the western united states from the explosions and waste! The western United States, is far more contaminated, than even the nuclear badlands of the filthy old soviet union.

    My High School Science teacher was a nuclear engineer in the US Navy, in the 60s. He came out of the navy distraught, because he saw an accident. I was in his class, in the late 70s. He told us in biology class, that, with each open air detonation, 200,000 people around the world would get leukemia, and there would be unaccountably large numbers of birth defects from it. He was right!

    What silly babblegoop you say about radioactive material on US interstates, being controlled. The US transported massive amounts, of radioactive material, secretely on US insterstates, since the insane atomic age began. It is about to get worse under tump too. They did not care and do not care.
    I am so sick of propaganda nonsense.


  4. There were many,nuclear test victims, in the continental United States. Bombs, waste, uranium ore, uranium, enriched uranium, has been hauled all over american railways and interstaes for decades. 

    Over 900 open air detonations were done in Nevada. The western United States is the most Radionuclide contaminated area, in the world! The thousands of open-air and underground detonations. The massive amounts,of radionuclides. Millions of tons of, uranium waste, bomb-making waste, hi level waste, so-call low level waste. I feel bad for innocents in the Marshal islands and elsewhere but, the united states, is no gleeming citadel of freedom and eco purity. That is what the evil-monkeys, would have you believe. It is the most radioactive shithole in the world. It is getting worst. There are also the hundred or so, rickey old reactors, ready to blowup with their fuel-pools catching fire. Those are mostly east of the mississippi. Trump wants more. Trump wants more nuclear bombs too!
    Massive amounts of those materials, radioisotopes for nuclear medicine, and other radionuclides go across Interstates, every day.


  5. Sorry, stuartbramhall, that I didn’t mention it earlier, I agree with you on the need for efficient public transportation as described by you for everyone, especially the needy and infirm. And don’t forget students of all ages and city dwellers and shoppers with the lack of parking spaces. I have used public transportation A LOT in my life, I see a need for both.


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