FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

 

More articles by:

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

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail