Taken For a Ride

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 09, 2009

An oldie but a goodie, this documentary details (painfully) the long conspiracy by General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil, Phillips Petroleum and Mack to dismantle urban mass transit systems across the USA and replace them with inferior buses and reduced service, all for the purpose of pushing Americans into private vehicles and ushering in a long era of monolithic automobile dependence.

Nearly a century after the conspiracy was first launched, we're finally getting to the point of realizing just what was lost and are left struggling to retrofit modern street-level electric rail back into cities long configured to optimize personal vehicles at the expense of everything else.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By jason (registered) | Posted June 09, 2009 at 10:55:54

and to think, there are still people around who think some invisible 'free market' was what led people to change their transportation habits....

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By JM (registered) | Posted June 09, 2009 at 12:42:58

"the appearance was always this was only a company... and these people came from minnesota with no money at all, and are all of a sudden in control of this multi-million dollar enterprise.

...but in fact, the money was coming from corporate sponsors"

does this sound familiar to you at all?

GM sounds like that "company" today - with no money at all but they are in control of this "multi-million dollar" enterprise... ...but who are the corporate sponsors? oh right the taxpayers are now!

congratulations GM - you are NOW running the worlds largest "public" transportation system!

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted June 10, 2009 at 11:03:42

GM is the capitalism fail of the century. They should be wholly bought by the government, their assets liquidated and their entire workforce paid off for life. I'm sure that would cost less than trying to keep them alive, all things considered.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted June 10, 2009 at 18:48:47

One of the recent newspapers stated that the amount we spent on bailouts could have indeed paid off the entire workforce. The bailout translated to 1.4 million per employee. That was before they increased the bailout again.

It LITERALLY would have been cheaper to give every automotive employee a million bucks to retire, then retool the industry for something we need. (Seems like we have enough cars for every man woman and child on this continent, how about we build something else for a bit :)

This bailout fiasco is just a continuation of exactly the same century long subsidy. With a pretend backdrop that they are trying to 'solve' something.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 10, 2009 at 22:58:32

mikeonthemountain said:

"This bailout fiasco is just a continuation of exactly the same century long subsidy. With a pretend backdrop that they are trying to 'solve' something."

This is one of the most accurate statements describing this entire situation that I've read anywhere.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 10, 2009 at 23:15:27

Check out this:

"Why This Crisis May Be Our Best Chance to Build a New Economy"

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By schmadrian (registered) | Posted June 12, 2009 at 14:12:57

View the Ken Burns documentary 'New York', specifically regarding how Robert Moses and his view of the automobile's primacy in that city shaped the entire nation's slant towards cars. It's really quite sad.

I'd love to hire a 'futurist' to design North America as if the car had never been established as the centre of the value system. If transportation -and indeed, society itself- had been designed around another method. (I have some ideas, but nothing fully-fleshed.) What a bizarre concept, such a wasteful form of transport not only being a means to get from Point A to Point B, but also a strictly possessory item, something to buttress self-esteem. Imagine how different lives would be if the money spent over a lifetime on cars was invested in experiential ways, instead.

What a shame.

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