GM must re-make the mass transit system it murdered

By Harvey Wasserman
The Free Press
November 16, 2008

Bail out General Motors? The people who murdered our mass transit system?

First let them remake what they destroyed.

GM responded to the 1970s gas crisis by handing over the American market to energy-efficient Toyota and Honda.

GM met the rise of the hybrids with “light trucks.”

GM built a small electric car, leased a pilot fleet to consumers who loved it, and then forcibly confiscated and trashed them all.

GM now wants to market a $40,000 electric Volt that looks like a cross between a Hummer and a Cadillac and will do nothing to meet the Solartopian needs of a green-powered Earth.

For this alone, GM’s managers should never be allowed to make another car, let alone take our tax money to stay in business.

But there is also a trillion-dollar skeleton in GM’s closet.

This is the company that murdered our mass transit system.

The assertion comes from Bradford Snell, a government researcher whose definitive report damning GM has been a vehicular lightening rod since its 1974 debut. Its attackers and defenders are legion. But some facts are irrefutable:

In a 1922 memo that will live in infamy, GM President Alfred P. Sloan established a unit aimed at dumping electrified mass transit in favor of gas-burning cars, trucks and buses.

Just one American family in 10 then owned an automobile. Instead, we loved our 44,000 miles of passenger rail routes managed by 1,200 companies employing 300,000 Americans who ran 15 billion annual trips generating an income of $1 billion. According to Snell, “virtually every city and town in America of more than 2,500 people had its own electric rail system.”

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