Defending the SLUT

I’m a bit surprised at myself for writing this. But this is actually more about defending the idea of the SLUT, more than the actual SLUT itself. I know there is considerable suspicion that surrounds anything connected to Vulcan and it’s perceived influence on city matters. But this maybe a step in the right direction, at least on an ideological basis, as well as a reversal of trends that are more than vaguely criminal in origin.

James Howard Kunstler was in town a couple of weeks ago. I heard him on KUOW, plugging his new novel while explaining how the entire economic structure behind the automobile and the suburb is not sustainable and sooner than later it will fail. I decided to pick up a copy of his Geography of Nowhere and get more into his nasty details. Now I’m not totally sold on his more economic doomsday tone, but his history on the murder of municipal public transportation is very enlightening indeed.

It was is a complex criminal conspiracy involving the auto industry, the oil industry and tire companies that killed such things as the electric street car lines. And this is not one of those tin-hatted theories that one usually finds on badly designed webpages with atrocious grammar. General Motors was actually indicted and convicted of criminal conspiracy in 1949 for what they did to bring down the trolley system in Los Angeles.

Maybe something like the SLUT is simply a small step in the direction away from the ultimately dysfunctional residence pattern that was criminally foisted upon us by a small number of very wealthy individuals looking for even larger profits, ironically taken by a single, wealthy individual looking for larger profits. Not sure what to think about that…

10 Responses to “Defending the SLUT”

  1. danb

    I rode it for the first time 2 weeks ago. I was totally impressed at how more comfortable and nice it is to ride on than the bus.

    A friend who lived in Munich for a year just described to me how great the streetcars are there — they go fast and people ride them cause they get you there faster than a car. Proof that streetcars can be a practical and efficient mode of public transportation.

    About the decline of streetcars in the 40s, no doubt the big Co’s had their role, but we should also recognize that the move to cars was heavily driven by the people’s desire to have them. Cars were all about excitement and freedom and most people we’re all too happy to sacrifice streetcar lines for cars.

  2. JoshMahar

    One thing I really like about the streetcar is the “time until arrival” signs. I feel like this really helps relax people who are waiting for public transit. They had this all over Amsterdam too and it certainly adds some psychological assurance while sitting on the bench.

  3. Andrew

    . And this is not one of those tin-hatted theories that one usually finds on badly designed webpages with atrocious grammar. General Motors was actually indicted and convicted of criminal conspiracy in 1949 for what they did to bring down the trolley system in Los Angeles.

    GM was fined $5000 for using its monopoly power to force cities to buy buses, NOT for anything more directly related to streetcars. In fact, the ruling wa in 1949, more than ten years before the last of Los Angeles’s streetcars were dismantled.

    Most of the streetcar systems were not, in fact, purchased by GM and dismantled, but were rather dismantled by the operators themselves.

    Hey, I run the Seattle Transit blog, and I’m obviously transit-friendly, but these theories are very little more than tin-foil-hat conspiracies, and do little to advance the transit cause.

  4. PostModernDecay

    1925: GM buys Yellow Coach, uses that as a springboard to buy up and dismantle streetcar lines all over the country.

    1936: GM, Standard Oil and Firestone form a Company that buys up and dismantles Streetcar lines in various California cities.

    1943: Same company converts more trolleys to busses CA, including LA.

    Economically, if you can’t compete with a superior product, one uses less than legal means to eliminate that superior product. Hey, that’s been a big part of Microsoft’s business model since day one. How else did they get millions of people to use their fourth-rate software? The same model applies..

  5. PostModernDecay

    PS.
    In the course of working on my first MA, I was afforded the opportunity of speaking to a number of people who were old enough to remember the trolley to bus transition. Decades later, they were still scratching their heads, wondering why it happened, all agreeing that the buses were a inferior system.

  6. mike

    i lived in freiburg, DE for a year, and the city itself is only about 200,000, and it had a fully functioning bus system that complemented a 4-line trolley system, that was extremely fast and efficient. it was also the best way to travel to soccer games, as the stadium wasn’t downtown and biking/walking could be hazardous due to shear volume.

    http://www.vag-freiburg.de/73.0.html?&L=1

    like any decent system, the bus lines and trams interesect in several areas, not just downtown (like here, between pike and pine)

    i’ve talked w/ the city about this, and they think that trying to get seattle to move in that direction is near impossible. and it probably is w/ obstructionists like ron sims and mayor nickels at the helm.

  7. PostModernDecay

    I was on my way downtown earlier today, on the 18 on 1st. Traffic came to a near standstill around Pine as the street was choked with MANY cars trying to get to Safeco for a game. The real trick is how do we get Americans out of there cars and get them out of the way of surface mass transit, buses or trolleys. I really have no clue at this point how to do that. I lived in London years ago, their first instinct was never to get into a car. Or what was the old joke in Futurama about NYC,

    “Nobody drove, there was too much traffic.”

  8. danb

    But Andrew, haven’t you seen Roger Rabbit?

    Seriously though, can you recommend a historical reference that gets the story right?

    A quick google brought up this:

    http://www.1134.org/stan/ul/GM-et-al.html

  9. PostModernDecay

    Okay, enough with the blog references. I’ll check Kunstler’s cites and get back to you.

  10. PostModernDecay

    All right people, Kunstler cites a 1974 Anti-Trust Senate Subcommittee report chaired by Sen. Phillip Hart where supposedly the whole story finally came out. In the spirit of REAL research, I mean of the non-internet variety, I’ll check it out.

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