I keep living in cities that rip out their public transit systems

In the early 2000s (um…the Noughties? We still don’t have a good name for that decade, do we?), I, a Detroit-area kid with the auto industry in my blood, read a fascinating book. It was “The End of Detroit” by Micheline Maynard. One of the big points that stuck with me from that book was the Great American Streetcar Conspiracy — that the big players in the auto industry deliberately set up the United States’ dependency on personal transportation.

One of Regensburg’s landmarks is the Steinerne Brücke. It’s been under renovation for over a year now, and while part of the bridge is off-limits, the construction company has hung up a mural showing that Regensburg used to have streetcar service on the bridge. A local native coworker told me that Mercedes-Benz paid to have Regensburg’s streetcar lines removed (can anyone confirm this?).

So I guess it wasn’t just a U.S. phenomenon.

7 thoughts on “I keep living in cities that rip out their public transit systems”

  1. shoreacres

    Interesting. Rather like the US ripping up thousands of miles of railroad track, then engaging in hand-wringing when they realize it’s often far more economical and efficient to ship by rail than by truck.

    And then we have the city of Houston, building light rail to beat the band. Unfortunately, the rail system services only the heart of the city – from the sports complexes to downtown, for example. It’s essentially useless for commuters who work in the business centers – the suburban folks are cut out entirely, and to build the system, they’re cutting bus services for people inside Houston.

    Half of Houston would like to rip out our light rail. ;)

    1. cliff1976

      There’s an expression in German that seems particularly apt for that situation:

      den Weg verbauen

      dict.leo.org translates verbauen as “to obstruct” — but I’ve always imagined the whole phrase to mean, roughly, “paint yourself into a corner.” Sounds like that’s what’s happened in Houston: now any project to implement a light rail system useful to a large chunk of the area population has to overcome hurdles orders of magnitude larger.

  2. Kristy

    We lived for 1.5 years in Michigan and I went to college to study Michigan history. Back in the day, Henry Ford and the auto unions banded together to force the MI government NOT to have public transport systems so that everyone would be forced to buy cars. Of course, they were successful, and even now the public transport in MI is absolutely minimal, grotty, and everyone is forced to have cars. Progress? Sigh.

    1. cliff1976


      Henry Ford and the auto unions banded together


      1. Kristy

        I know! He put aside his utter loathing of the unions to make more money (who would have thought it?). He was as mad as a box of frogs, but he wasn’t a fool.

        Do you know he bought 10,000km of Brazilian rubber plantation, which he called “Fordlandia” in 1928, so he could make his own tyres, bypassing the unions? Clever bugger. Of course, it all went to crap in the end.


        If you ever make it to Detroit, the Henry Ford Museum is flipping fantastic – really.


        1. cliff1976

          Thanks! I haven’t been there in at least 8 years, when it was still called “Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.” My last visit before that could have been as early as 1990 on a school field trip. Trips to the Detroit area are ever fewer these days, with the time spent there devoted to visiting friends and family.

  3. Alex @ ifs ands & Butts

    Whoa, never thought about that but it makes a lot of sense. Oh how the big players always have their ways.

    In Karlsruhe we are doign the opposite and throwing our S-Bahns underground into U-Bahns. The construction is absolutely terrible.

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