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National City Lines

Between 1936 and 1950, National City Lines, a holding company sponsored and funded by General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California and Phillips Petroleum, bought out more than 100 electric surface-traction systems in 45 cities (including New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Tulsa, and Los Angeles) to be dismantled and replaced with GM buses. In 1949 GM and its partners in NCL were convicted in US district court in Chicago of criminal conspiracy in this matter and fined $5,000 each

National City Lines was formed in 1936 as a holding company, for the express purpose of acquiring local transit systems throughout the country, mostly in medium-size cities. Many of those transit systems had already converted from streetcars to buses. But the controversy involves those transit systems which were still running streetcars when acquired by NCL. The conflicts of interests are apparent.

Apologists for corporate interests generally claim that the conversion to buses would have occurred anyway, but NCL's illegal practices while carrying out this conversion are court documents.

It is possible that federal legislation in President Roosevelt's New Deal instead that killed the streetcars, and not the documented NCL conspiracy. Because streetcars were the earliest heavy users of electricity, it was practical and economical for many streetcar systems to be owned by the electric utility companies themselves. But rural electrification was less profitable for the utility companies and there were feelings of neglect in rural America. So in 1935, as part of the New Deal, federal legislation was passed, ordering the electric utility companies to sell off their businesses not actually providing electricity.

Suddenly, these streetcar systems became more readily available for takeover by NCL.

See also General Motors Streetcar Conspiracy

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