29
Jul
08

Roger Rabbit and the Future of California Transportation

We’ve all seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The evil Dr. Doom sought to shut down the Red Line through Hollywood and Toon Town to make way for cars and freeways, but was foiled… at least in the film.

But did you know that the story is true? According to Edwin Black, the author of the award-winning IBM and the Holocaust and the recently published Internal Combustion: How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternatives:

At the center of the conspiracy was National City Lines, an Enronesque company that suddenly arose in 1937, ostensibly run by five barely educated Minnesota bus drivers, the Fitzgerald brothers. Yet the Fitzgeralds miraculously marshaled millions of dollars to buy up one failing trolley system after another. Soon, through a patchwork of subsidiaries, the brothers owned or controlled transit systems in more than 40 cities. Generally, when National City Lines acquired the system, the tracks were pulled from the street, the beloved electric trolleys were trashed or burned, and the whole system was replaced with more expensive, unpopular and environmentally hazardous motor buses that helped addict America to oil.

The Justice Department discovered that National City Lines was just a front company for General Motors, in league with Mack Truck, Phillips Petroleum, Standard Oil of California and Firestone Tires – all petroleum interests.

The manufacturers purchased NCL preferred stock to acquire transit lines on condition that when the systems were acquired, the trolleys would be dismantled and replaced with motor buses. All the conspirators gained immensely when non-polluting electric systems were replaced by oil-burners. Phillips and Standard sold oil products. Firestone sold the tires. GM and Mack divvied up the bus manufacturing and sales market according to an agreed-upon formula.

Transit systems in 16 states were converted [including Hollywood’s Red Line], adversely affecting millions of Americans, who had to pay higher fares for lesser, more unpopular service. Dozens more cities were targeted in the $9.5m. scheme. – Jpost.com

Finally, California is back on track, literally, with Prop 1 to add a high speed train that runs almost the length of the state. Cost to ride? $38. There is a slew of fast facts on this Facebook page, and a group to join; and the originating site is here.

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