Corporations Undermined Public Transportation
Publisher: Dissident Voice
Date Written: 27/10/2015
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20477
Engler analyzes the largest conspiracies committed by automotive manufacturing companies, specifically General Motors' role in eliminating the trolley as America's most used form of public transportation.
In a much bigger scandal, a half century ago information surfaced implicating auto companies in a conspiracy to keep the population in a toxic haze. The "smog conspiracy" was revealed in 1968 when the US Department of Justice filed an anti-trust case against the Big Three. They were accused of colluding to withhold the installation of catalytic converters and other technologies to reduce pollution. "Beginning at least as early as 1953, and continuing thereafter," alleged the Department of Justice, "the defendants and co-conspirators have been engaged in a combination and conspiracy in unreasonable restraint of the aforesaid interstate trade and commerce in motor vehicle air pollution control equipment."
In the early 1950s smog became increasingly common. Los Angeles (the car capital of the world) became the centre of the pollution debate. In a bid to quell mounting criticism of car- generated air pollution, GM, Ford, Chrysler and the Automobile Manufacturers Association (AMA) agreed in 1953 to collectively research pollution-reducing technologies. The automotive manufacturers claimed their alliance was driven by a concern for public health. It was not. As time passed evidence emerged that the Big Three had, in fact, united to block the installment of anti-pollution devices. Their agreement stipulated they would wait for unanimous "agreement to move forward on smog-busting technologies. In Taken for a Ride, Jack Doyle writes that the automobile manufacturers, through AMA, conspired not to compete in research, development, manufacture and installation of [pollution] control devices and collectively did all in their power to delay such research, development, manufacturing and installation." The public had been hoodwinked.
But the biggest automotive scandal was much worse than the smog alliance. It was a conspiracy that changed the face of urban landscapes across North America. In 1922, Alfred P. Sloan, head of General Motors, created a working group charged with undermining and replacing the electric trolley. The group's first act was to launch a bus line that arrived a minute before the streetcar and followed the same route. The trolley line soon shut down. At the time, there were hundreds of trolley lines in Los Angeles so it was not particularly noteworthy when one shut down. But it was a harbinger of things to come.