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Taken for a
Did GM conspire
to kill streetcars or not?
The popular 1996 documentary Taken
for a Ride alleges that streetcars were killed by
a conspiracy headed by General Motors. It's a story that
alt-transpo advocates have been eager to embrace, since it
paints an automaker as the big bad bully.
But is it true? Probably not. Independent
observers tell a very different story, saying that
streetcars were on the decline anyway whether GM was
involved or not. As Cecil Adams put it, blaming GM for the
demise of streetcars is like blaming the inventor of
gunpowder for war.
It's no mystery that the anti-car crowd could have
been easily duped when one looks at how uncritically they
accepted the GM conspiracy theory without ever raising the
possibility that it might be exaggerated. It's
disturbing that in the dozens of gushing reviews of the film
I read by the alt-transpo community, every single reviewer
proudly trumpeted the film's findings as fact, never once
suggesting that there could be another side to the story.
The fact that the community has been so eager to embrace the
message put forth without showing any pretense of having an
open mind gives one pause.
And what has their response been to the extensive
debunking of Taken for a Ride? Silence. One can even
imagine the alt-transpo people sticking their fingers in
their ears and chanting "La la la la la" when any suggestion
is made that Taken for a Ride might not be completely
If GM really did kill streetcars, it's rather hard to
believe it when no effort has been made to support that
position in the face of the credible evidence that suggests
Criticism of Taken for a
Straight Dope. Legendary Chicago Times
columnist concludes that streetcars were on the way out
whether GM were involved or not.
- Berkeley's Institute
for Transportation Studies. ITS isn't
known for being a cheerleader for the auto industry, so
their article which debunks the GM conspiracy theory
comes with some credibility attached.
Schwarz gives a pointed analysis of the GM
Francisco Bay Crossings. A blistering
debunking of the GM conspiracy story.
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