What is interesting to me here is that GM was forced to pay fines due to anti-trust issues related to this. Some people like to call this talk of rail killing the city-lights conspiracy as if labeling it a conspiracy makes it not real. The 1949 anti-trust fine pretty much blows that idea out of the water.
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."
But GM lost $65 million in 1921. So Sloan enlisted Standard Oil (now Exxon), Philips Petroleum, glass and rubber companies and an army of financiers and politicians to kill mass transit.
The campaigns varied, as did the economic and technical health of many of the systems themselves. Some now argue that buses would have transcended many of the rail lines anyway. More likely, they would have hybridized and complemented each other.
But with a varied arsenal of political and financial subterfuges, GM helped gut the core of America's train and trolley systems. It was the murder of our rail systems that made our "love affair" with the car a tragedy of necessity.
In 1949 a complex federal prosecution for related crimes resulted in an anti-trust fine against GM of a whopping $5000. For years thereafter GM continued to bury electric rail systems by "bustituting" gas-fired vehicles.