Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bail Out Chrysler and Ford, but Screw GM

If you are familiar with the Great American Streetcar Scandal, then you'll understand why the government should just let GM go bankrupt. Why you ask? Because you could say they (among with Firestone and Standard Oil) are the reason why you have to drive to work everyday and that Baltimore transit is lacking.

Baltimore used to have one of the most extensive streetcar systems in the United States, up until the mid 1940s when GM conspired with Standard Oil and Firestone to buy up streetcar lines across the country, dismantle them, and replace them with buses. The conspiracy was brought before the US Supreme Court in 1947, GM was fined $5,000 and the heads of each company a whopping $1 each! I hope that didn't hurt them too much. By this time, many of Baltimore's streetcar lines were scrapped, and by 1963 they were all gone.

Why blame GM then? Now we don't have a great, integrated, clean, and smooth transit system anymore. Today many people complain that buses are dirty, noisy, rough riding, and don't come as frequently, but there are few alternatives. For visitors (and residents) it's difficult when much of the mass transit isn't fixed, at least you can see the rails. Cities like Baltimore - in a time where green initiatives and eco-friendly thinking drives people toward rail transit - have to struggle to replace many of these lines. Unfortunately, now it's expensive and funding is hard to come by.

City residents are now complaining that they don't want to see a streetcar or light rail going through their neighborhoods, arguing that buses will be just fine. But these same people generally don't ride the bus, and also complain that gas prices are too high, and traffic is a nightmare.

All of this wouldn't have been a problem if we still had some of our streetcar lines left. So go ahead bail out Chrysler and Ford, but you can let GM sink for screwing up our public transit.

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