American Ground Transport*
Page 5

     “During the succeeding 40 years, the National Highway Users Conference [now Highway Users Federation for Safety and Mobility (HUFSAM)] has compiled an impressive record of accomplishments. Its effect, if not purpose, has been to direct public funds away from rail construction and into highway building. At the State level, its 2,800 lobbying groups have been instrumental in persuading 44 of the Nation’s 50 legislatures to adopt and preserve measures which dedicated State and local gasoline tax revenues exclusively to highway construction. By promoting these highway ‘trust funds,’ it has discouraged governors and mayors from attempting to build anything other than high- ways for urban transportation. Subways and rail transit proposals have had to compete with hospi- tals, schools and other governmental responsibilities for funding.. Prom 1945 through 1970, States and localities spent more than $156 billion constructing hundreds of thousands of miles of roads. During that same period, only 16 miles of subway were constructed in the entire country.”
     Comparing the highway lobby’s strength with transit organization muscle, Snell notes that “the three leading transit lobby group; are financially weak and torn by the conflicting interests of their membership. The American Transit Association, the largest element of the transit lobby, operates on an annual budget of about $700,000 which must be apportioned between the conflicting political needs of its bus and rail transit manufacturing members. . The third and smallest element of the transit body, the Institute for Rapid Transit, operates on a meager budget of about $200,000 a year. In short, HUFSAM and [the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association] alone outspend the three principal transit organizations by more than 10 to 1."
     And, ironically, the GM presence extends even to these promoters of transit—“Due to its position as the Nation’s largest producer of bus and rail vehicles, it is a major financial contributor to both the American Transit Association and the Railway Progress Institute. It is also an influential member of the Institute for Rapid Transit.”
     Viewing future prospects, the Snell report sees the auto industry attempting to thwart the kind of mass transit development which could provide the impetus for continuing growth: ". . . General Motors is engaged in a continuing effort to divert Government funds from rapid rail transit, which seriously threatens the use of cars in metropolitan areas, to GM buses, which fail consistently to persuade people to abandon their autos. In place of regional electric rail systems, for instance, it promotes diesel-powered “bus trains” of as many as 1,400 unite, each spaced 80 feet apart. Instead of urban electric rail, it advocates the use of dual-mode gas/electric vehicles which would be adapted from GM’s minimotor homes. In sum, the auto-makers embrace transit in order to prevent it from competing effectively with their sales of automobiles.”
     The Snell report’s objective, as stated in its introduction and summary, is to promote the reorganization of the nation’s auto industry into smaller, more competitive units which would broaden opportunities for future transportation diversity. “By proposing to reorganize these firms . . . [the report] does not pretend to offer a blueprint for better transportation. Rather, it seeks to eliminate an otherwise insuperable obstacle to that end.”

Resource: Carbusters.org is posting the text of the original report in RTF format.

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Copyright 1974 by Third Rail Press, 1999 by The Composing Stack Inc.
Reprinted by permission. Not responsible for typographical errors.

*Quotations in this article are taken from “AMERICAN GROUND TRANSPORT, A Proposal for Restructuring the Automobile, Truck, Bus, and Rail Industries,” 1973 by Bradford C. Snell. Excerpts used by permission of the author

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