In 1921, only 10 percent of Americans owned cars, and after losing $65 million in a year, General Motors had to face the fact that cars just weren't worth it for the other 90 percent. Today, the ascendance of the automotive industry is a foregone conclusion, but at the time it seemed more like a bunch of rich guys had forgotten that not everyone was rich. Imagine if the wealthiest people in your city invested all their money in limousines, under the assumption that everyone would stop taking cabs because why take a taxi? Limos only cost a couple hundred dollars extra!
This is where less successful men would have come to terms with the fact that they'd backed the wrong horse. Capitalism had spoken, and its answer was: "We'll take the clearly superior alternative that doesn't cost half a year's paycheck up front." Instead, General Motors decided to find a way to make cars worth it to the average citizen. After waiting for the laughter in the room to die down when someone suggested that they lower car prices, the car industry looked at the people who rode electric rails to work and decided to make them what's known in the mafia as "an offer they can't refuse."
"That's some real nice infrastructure you got there, America. Pity if something happened to it."
According to a Senate report, in the 1930s, GM, Goodyear, Firestone Tire and a bunch of oil companies joined together to form a number of fake rail companies. They would buy up all the small companies that operated America's small town railway systems, then destroy the systems, and soon enough America would run on gasoline-powered tires. By the mid-1950s, the fake rail companies had replaced 900 of the 1,200 public railway systems with gas-powered buses and cars and were ready to take on the biggest electric railway system in the world: Los Angeles. Yes, the city that's famous for bumper-to-bumper traffic once hummed along on 1,500 miles of electric railways. GM bought out the local railway companies, and a few years later there wasn't a single electric streetcar operating in Los Angeles. Today, the smog over LA is so thick that most of the people who live there have no idea they that live at the foot of a beautiful snowcapped mountain range.
LA without smog.