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Response to wtmusic (Reply #11)

Thu Jan 5, 2012, 02:14 AM

13. One aspect you are missing is who was buying cars in the 1920s and the hatred of Streetcars


Working people in urban areas were NOT buying cars in the 1920s, in fact most will not do so till after WWII. The main thrust of car companies in the 1920s and 1930s were the Upper Middle Class in the Urban centers (i.e. the top 10% of the population in Urban Areas) AND Rural America. Henry Ford started this push, GM picked it up.

At the same time both Ford And GM where going after the Rural Market, they knew they biggest competitor in much of Rural America was the Interurban. The Interurban, do to have a decent track bed, was reliable in almost all weather, something cars were NOT noted for it that time period given the quality of Gasoline (Octane did NOT reach 87 till 1936 and then only for Airplanes) AND the lack of paved roads (US 30, the first PAVED coast to Coast road was only finished in 1927).

While the problem of Octane was something the Car Makers and the Oil companies had to work out among themselves (And took US intervention in the form of the Army refusing to buy anything less then 87 Octane Gasoline during WWII to get Octane up to 87 on most gasoline sold in the US), the problem of the poor conditions of the rural roads the Car companies had to get the State Highway Departments to work on. This started when the Car companies were able to get the States to pass Gasoline taxes to pay for the Roads. This provided most (but not all) of the funds for improving rural roads in the US (Urban Roads were almost all paved by the 1920s, but even after the 1920s those Urban Roads had to be paid out of City Taxes NOT the Gasoline taxes).

This improvements in the Rural Roads killed off most of the Interurbans in the 1920s, some survived till the early 1930s when the Depression killed off most of what was left (Western Pennsylvania's Interurbans survived till the 1950s do to the expense of building roads in Western Pennsylvania, do to terrain it cost almost twice as much as Eastern Pennsylvania but with even Western Pa laws being improved even these last of the Interurbans were doomed).

What the interurbans (and later the City Streetcars) needed in the 1940s and 1950s was outside funding, instead GM operated a very slick ad campaign against them.

My point was Streetcars starting in the 1920s had to many things going against them to survive. GM and Ford did NOT help the situation (and GM clearly made it worse) but most of their actions were legal even under the Sherman Anti-trust act. Yes GM was found Guilty in 1949 when it came to the Streetcar system of California, but it was deemed a minor harm by the Jury given their award of $1 damages against most of the Defendants in that case.

No one in power in the US wanted to protect the Streetcars in the 1920s to the 1970s, only when people started to demand decent public transportation do to the Energy Crisis of the 1970s did the attack on the Streetcars end. In rural America the end of Streetcars was the rule by WWII, Urban American Streetcars lasted longer do to greater use, but the hatred of Streetcars was greater in Urban America among the Upper Middle Class then it has ever been in Rural America. It was this hatred the drove much of the Anti-Streetcar Movement of the 1940s to the 1960s.

The hatred of Streetcars by the Upper Middle Class did not end in the 1960s, it lasted another 10 years till it became clear that Light Rail Vehicles were often the best option in high density urban areas. One of the last attacks on the Streetcars incurred in Pittsburgh from about 1964-1974. This is referred to a the "Skybus Debacle" by the people who lived through it.

I was involved in the "Skybus" debacle, I opposed "Skybus" on its proposed route, which was an attempt to replace the last Streetcars. Those Streetcars could NOT be replaced by buses for the Streetcars ran on their own right of way, and the roads the replacement buses would operate on was already so full of traffic there was no way such buses could maintain anything close to time it took the Streetcars to operate in the same area.

The City of Pittsburgh's "Solution" to this problem of being unable to get rid of its last Streetcars, was to replace the Streetcars with an elevated rubber tired automated system, it had fewer stops, no greater speed and the people along the proposed route hated it, but it was seen as the only way to get rid of the last streetcars in Pittsburgh.

That debacle lasted almost a decade till everyone decided to finally do a study on the options, and the study reported what everyone along the line already knew, the Streetcars was the best option on that route. That did NOT end the debate for even then they was massive objections to keeping the Streetcars, not from the people who would be using it, but the powers that be, they hated streetcars that much.

Most of this was opposition by the Upper Middle Class from having to share roads with the Streetcars. As I said in my paper, this group hated Streetcars for they saw the Streetcars as things that prevented them from driving their cars. In many ways the reason the Jury found GM liability so low in 1949, was most juries of that time period tended to be made up of Upper Middle Class Americans, the same group of Americans who most hated Streetcars. In many ways GM counted on that hatred and encouraged it with its tactics but that again is NOT illegal even through the effect can be more damaging then if GM bribed people.

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happyslug Dec 2011 OP
KamaAina Dec 2011 #1
happyslug Dec 2011 #3
phantom power Dec 2011 #2
Kennah Dec 2011 #4
NYC_SKP Dec 2011 #5
happyslug Dec 2011 #6
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happyslug Jan 2012 #12
Saving Hawaii Jan 2012 #15
JDPriestly Jan 2012 #8
wtmusic Jan 2012 #9
happyslug Jan 2012 #10
wtmusic Jan 2012 #11
LineLineLineLineNew Reply One aspect you are missing is who was buying cars in the 1920s and the hatred of Streetcars
happyslug Jan 2012 #13
wtmusic Jan 2012 #14
happyslug Jan 2012 #16
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