At the last StreetTalk we watched the very interesting and highly recommended documentary “Taken for a Ride“. It’s the story about GM’s lobbying and initiatives, together with oil and tire companies, to destroy public transport in American cities, use public money for highway construction instead of railways, promote suburbs and urban sprawl, make people car-dependent and eventually push car (tires and gas) sales of course.
GM’s strategy, in a nutshell, was to pull public transport into a vicious circle. GM’s funding apparently helped to buy up local transportation companies, mainly with the goal to reduce their service. Cutting down quality led to loosing riders. Bad service and decreasing ridership caused troubles justifying public money and investments in public transportation. The downward spiral was completed and public transportation stagnated or was even shut down entirely in some places.
The really sad aspect of that story is, that America’s public transport was just about the same level as in European countries in the 1950′s. It could have made the same development as it did in the rest of the industrialized world during the past 50 years. It could have reached a status, were people are still free to choose their preferred transportation vehicle. Most Americans nowadays are left with only one choice for their daily commute: the car.
It’s hard and expensive for America to catch up and repair what GM’s lobbying has caused. Even though the highway lobbying might be less in the year 2009, car companies found new, mostly ridiculous, ways to use public tax money for their own interest and to eventually sell more cars: IntelliDrive is definitely among them.