FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Highway Lobby

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

 

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

July 19, 2018
Rajai R. Masri
The West’s Potential Symbiotic Contributions to Freeing a Closed Muslim Mind
Jennifer Matsui
The Blue Pill Presidency
Ryan LaMothe
The Moral and Spiritual Bankruptcy of White Evangelicals
Paul Tritschler
Negative Capability: a Force for Change?
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: ‘Social Dialogue’ Reform Frustrations
Rev. William Alberts
A Well-Kept United Methodist Church Secret
Raouf Halaby
Joseph Harsch, Robert Fisk, Franklin Lamb: Three of the Very Best
George Ochenski
He Speaks From Experience: Max Baucus on “Squandered Leadership”
Ted Rall
Right Now, It Looks Like Trump Will Win in 2020
David Swanson
The Intelligence Community Is Neither
Andrew Moss
Chaos or Community in Immigration Policy
Kim Scipes
Where Do We Go From Here? How Do We Get There?
July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail