The Highway Lobby

by Ralph Nader

Ever since the first public transit — a ferryboat near Boston in 1630 — got underway, a Broad variety of carriers have emerged — buses, trolleybuses, vanpools, jitneys, heavy and light rail, cable cars, monorails, tramways and automated guideway transit. Rarely did these transports ever attract private investment — that was reserved for The Car on publicly funded and maintained highways.

In the year 2000 Americans took 9.4 billion trips on public transportation, an increase of 3.5% from 1999. But in 1946 Americans recorded 23.4 billion trips which is still unsurpassed even though the population was only half of what it is today. What happened to account for the decline of public transit, which is safer, more efficient, less polluting, and reduces highway congestion, while stimulating nearby economic development?

The major answer to this question is the long-standing opposition of The Highway Lobby — the auto, oil, tire and cement industries. You don’t hear much these days about “The Highway Lobby” as such. The reason is that it has done its destructive job which is to make America an occasion for ribbons of crowded highways carrying millions of motor vehicles as the only “practical and direct” way to get around on the ground.

At times the lobby has to resort to crime to achieve its assaults on public transit, while at other periods, it just used its money, muscle and propaganda with state and Washington lawmakers. Twenty eight crimes were committed by General Motors and its oil and tire company co-conspirators in the Thirties and Forties leading to their convictions in federal district court in Chicago during the late Forties. The U.S. Justice Department’s charge, upheld in court, was that these large companies, in order to eliminate their major rivals — the trolley industry — bought up these firms, tore up the tracks in and around 28 major cities in the U.S., including the biggest one in Los Angeles, and lobbied legislators to build more and more highways to sell more and more vehicles, gasoline and tires. Earlier, GM tried to pressure banks to reduce credit to these trolley companies and when that did not succeed sufficiently, the conspiracy to buy out their competitors and shut them down was hatched.

This is more than corporate crime history. Everyday, today, tomorrow and the next day, millions of Americans find themselves on clogged, bumper to bumper commutes because there is no convenient mass transit or no mass transit at all where they live and work.

Lots of people have little or no idea of all the flexible and super-modern modes of public transit that reach all the way toward something called “personal public transit” which would allow you and fellow passengers to call up a monorail car to take you to your destination in some future resurgence of public transit technology.

First, change must replace the dominant highway lobby imagery with sleek public transit imagery. For example, have you ever seen a television advertisement for a new car stuck in congested traffic? By contrast, have you ever seen an ad for public transit showing people zooming to work in a modern transit train, while they were snoozing, chatting or reading the newspaper, and racing ahead of a parallel highway clogged with trucks, vans and cars moving in slow motion? Fifty years of this bias and it is not surprising how low are the public’s expectations.

Second, the bias has translated into the reality of residential, shopping and other developments geared to the car and inimical to public transit in a vicious circle of reinforcement for the highway lobby’s designs for America.

Still, there are the public transit optimists. Every other month Ireceive and read a magazine called Transit California, published by the California Transit Association.

The current issue is full of news regarding innovative advances and expansions in public transit from Santa Monica to Santa Clarity Valley to Contra Costa County and all the stages before various kinds of public transportation delivered to residents.

The Association will be having its 37th annual fall conference in Ontario, California (info@caltransit.org) and would be pleased to hear from interested communities writing to the CTA, 1414 K Street, Suite 320, Sacramento, CA 95814

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 05, 2015
John Eskow
The Fake Courage of Caitlyn Jenner
Mike Whitney
 The Brookings Institute Plan to Liquidate Syria 
John K. White
Life on the Layaway Plan: We’re All Greek Now
Ted Rall
14 Years Ago, a Woman Vindicated Me Now
Thomas Mountain
A Letter From Africa to #BlackLivesMatter
Roger Annis
Well-Known Canadian Journalist Visits Ukraine and Praises neo-Nazi
August 04, 2015
Vincent J. Roscigno
University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime
Paul Street
Bernie Sanders’ Top Five Race Problems: the Whiteness of Nominal Socialism
Herbert Dyer, Jr.
Is White Supremacy a Mental Disorder?
Ramzy Baroud
The Palestinian Bubble and the Burning of Toddler, Ali Dawabsha
Pepe Escobar
Reshuffling Eurasia’s Energy Deck — Iran, China and Pipelineistan
L. Michael Hager
The Battle Over BDS
Eric Draitser
Puerto Rico: Troubled Commonwealth or Debt Colony?
Colin Todhunter
Hypnotic Trance in Delhi: Monsanto, GMOs and the Looting of India’s Agriculture
Benjamin Willis
The New Cubanologos: What’s in a Word?
Matt Peppe
60 Minutes Provides Platform for US Military
Binoy Kampmark
The Turkish Mission: Reining in the Kurds
Eoin Higgins
Teaching Lessons of White Supremacy in Prime-Time: Blackrifice in the Post-Apocalyptic World of the CW’s The 100
Gary Corseri
Gaza: Our Child’s Shattered Face in the Mirror
Robert Dodge
The Nuclear World at 70
Paula Bach
Exit the Euro? Polemic with Greek Economist Costas Lapavitsas
August 03, 2015
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times