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Response to wtmusic (Reply #14)

Thu Jan 5, 2012, 06:36 PM

16. As I commented in my paper, the hatred was from the Powers the be NOT the people


Hurst absolutely hated Streetcars. for he was one of the first owners of an Automobile in New York City. The "Builder" of New York City, Robert Morris hated Streetcars for the same reason,, their perceived streetcars as interfering with auto traffic.

More on Robert Morris:

Given that in the 1920s and 1930s it was the wealthiest 10% of the population who was buying Automobiles AND these also tend to be people in control of finance that most politicians need to run their political Campaigns, what they wanted was given greater weight then what the people wanted. It was the hatred of Streetcars from this population that killed off Streetcars (And in the pre-automobile days, prior to about 1920, this same group favored Streetcars during their expansion days for it permitted them to live away from their work and commute between home and work, this produced the "Trolley Suburbs" I mentioned in my paper).

I agree with you people loved their Streetcars, I remember my father talking about the time he took the Streetcars to the Race track south of Pittsburgh (The Meadowlands outside Canonsburg PA) in the late 1940s. I remember him taking me to Pittsburgh, by first driving to the Streetcar stop then taking the Streetcar (This was BEFORE my family moved next to the other surviving Streetcar line in Pittsburgh).

At the same time when, after Collage about 1981, I applied for a state job in Downtown Pittsburgh, I could see the shock disbelief from the state employees interviewing me when I told them I would NOT be driving Downtown, but taking the Streetcar. Pittsburgh has one of the largest number of users of Public Transit in the Country, yet these supervisors could NOT see any of their employee doing anything then driving to work which is how they themselves traveled to work.

In my early teens I had to fight, along with my father, to preserve our local streetcar line in the 1970s for the same reason, the people in power hated Streetcars.

In the 1980s, a then retired County Highway Manager mentioned this absolute hatred of Streetcars by the ruling elite of Pittsburgh, no one challenged that statement, even as the local Paper published his comments in the editorial section of the Paper. Everyone knew it was true. It was not the professional planners who hatred streetcars, it was not the people who hated streetcars but the people in power and their financial supporters and it was that group, more then anyone else who killed off Streetcars. Robert Moses of New York is just the best know of these powers that be, but it was a whole multi-generational movement that lasted well into the last years of the 20th century.

Just pointing out there was hatred of the Streetcar system, not by the people using the Streetcars, but by the people driving cars in the 1920s and 1930s (The Upper Middle Class). When Streetcars were killed off after WWII, it was do to the Working class finally abandoning them for the car, but that switch to Cars made it clear that it was the Automobile causing Traffic Jams NOT Streetcars (Which much of the Upper Middle class blamed in the 1920s through the 1960s when the Streetcars finally were gone and thus could no be blamed for traffic jams).

Thus by the 1970s you started to see the hatred of the Streetcars dying out for the simple reason no one could blame it any longer for traffic jams AND the few remaining Streetcars, when they shut down for any reason, lead to even worse traffic jams. This made it clear that Streetcars REDUCED traffic jams and the people who use to hate them for causing traffic jams, then embraced them as the solution to traffic jams (Again the Upper Middle Class).

As I reported in my paper, prior to the late 1940s, most working class people WALKED to work (As did BOTH of my Grandfathers). It is only with the low gasoline prices and access to used cars did the working class embraced the automobile starting in the late 1940s (as did my Father and his brothers and sisters). This embraced permitted them to move to the Suburbs (and for this reason the Ranch style home became the most common type of home built Post WWII, replacing the much more expensive to build and maintain Four Square that had dominated housing from 1890 till 1930).

While there was no hatred of Streetcar among 90% of the population, the top 10% hatred them immensely. This group controlled the media so that hatred was spread.

Furthermore, people tend to follow the example of their "Betters". Most of this is do to the fact people promote people like themselves and thus the best way to get promoted is to do as the boss does (including adopting his hatreds, in this case the top 10% hatred of Streetcars). This phenomena is well known and even people who claim they are NOT affected by such tendencies have been shown to follow such tendencies. Thus the hatred of Streetcars built on itself from the 1920s onward, with GM doing all it can to spread that hatred, but also making sure it could not be sued for liable (This the tendency to do it on the quiet).

Maybe because I lived in the last years of that hatred of Streetcars, and I know about it, saw it in action and thus I down play the role of GM in the switch of streetcars to buses for that hatred was by far the greater factor. People tend to forget about that hatred, for it is convenient to do so today. That hatred was alive and well in the 1970s when I came of age and you should have seen the hatred from the media and the upper 10% when it came out the best replacement for the last Streetcars in Pittsburgh was a new Streetcar system (Called an Light Rail Vehicle, LRV). When it became clear that the other 90% of the population liked the idea, the concept was reluctantly accepted, but the hatred still existed and those same powers that be did all they could do to make Pittsburgh New (in 1982) LRV system fail. When the LRV system succeeded beyond what was expected, the same powers that be even raised the rates on the LRVs over what people would pay if they took a bus, and the use of the LRV increased even more (The "Surcharge" technically was to encourage people to schedule their LRV trips at non-rush hour times, but it still was a surcharge to take the LRV over taking a bus).

GM has not been known to do anything as to Streetcars since the 1950s (When most of the Urban Streetcars converted to buses), and GM has NOT been accused of opposing LRVs since the LRVs resurgence in the 1970s, thus the attacks on Streetcars/LRVs since the 1960s have been relatively GM free, but that hatred of Streetcars still re-appears every so often, it is ingrain very deeply among some people (Mostly the upper 10% who want to be able to drive to and from work). I saw the hatred of streetcars first hand, and I saw the affect it had on the fight to keep the last streetcar line in Pittsburgh.

This hatred of Streetcars existed, and to a limited degree still exists (A recent comment form the agency that runs the Pittsburgh Mass Transit System commented on how slow the Pittsburgh LRV system is compared to other LRV systems and then called it a bus on rails, as a disparagement, but that what a Streetcar is a bus on rails, but one that can haul more people faster then a bus).

I point it out that the hatred of Streetcars is alive and well, it is tied in with Suburbia and the movement of EMPLOYMENT to Suburbia. That is a separate subject that I touched on briefly in my paper. This hatred is no longer the claim that Streetcars are causing traffic jams, but that Streetcars represent an rejection of Suburbia in that it shows that people can live comfortably without an automobile. That idea is rejected by many in suburbia but if energy prices continue to go the way they have been, suburbia may find itself rejected, just like the embracing of the Automobile showed the rejection of Streetcars by many Americans.

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