1930s Brooklyn Trolley Map

The above map shows just how connected Brooklyn used to be via a system of streetcars. The Brooklyn Historic Railway Association’s Bob Diamond explained to us this morning, “The streetcar routes (solid lines on map) were shut down in stages from 1930 through 1956. The dashed lines were electric bus routes, which feed the streetcar lines, which in turn fed the subway system. It was called an all electric integrated urban transit system.”

The trolley system in New York City has a long and complicated story, and it’s not just us—this extends all the way to Los Angeles. In 1987, 60 Minutes addressed the entire U.S. streetcar industry, and its eventual destruction. Thanks, General Motors!

According to Diamond, here’s the gist of what went down: “In the mid 1920s General Motors, Standard Oil, and Firestone Tires—noticing that the privately held, long term electric streetcar franchises all around the U.S. were up for renewal—wanted to expand their business opportunities by forming a holding company called National City Lines. Using every form of legal and illegal tactics, such as murder, blackmail, and the bribing of elected officials, NCL gained control over forty Streetcar companies around the U.S.

“Their very first victim, was Manhattan’s NY Railways, the operator of that borough’s profitable electric streetcar system. In a pattern to be repeated all around the U.S., NCL gained control of the streetcar franchise by bribing elected officials, and immediately ripped out the tracks, wires, and streetcars, replacing them with General Motors buses, burning Standard Oil gasoline, and rolling on Firestone Tires.”

(via Dan Beaver-seitz)

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