Taken for a Ride

Why does America have the worst public transit in the industrialized world, and the most freeways?
Year Released
Film Length(s)
52 mins


Following a long buried trail of auto/oil industry schemes, Taken for a Ride exposes the dummy corporations, secret stock transactions and propaganda campaigns that destroyed one third of the nation’s streetcars.

The film reveals the tragic and little known story of an auto and oil industry campaign, led by General Motors, to buy and dismantle streetcar lines. Across the nation, tracks were torn up—sometimes overnight—and diesel buses placed on city streets. The highway lobby then pushed through Congress a vast network of urban freeways that doubled the cost of the Interstates, fueled suburban development, increased auto dependence, and elicited passionate opposition. Seventeen city freeways were stopped by citizens who would become the leading edge of a new environmental movement.

With investigative journalism, vintage archival footage and candid interviews, Taken for a Ride presents a revealing history of our cities in the 20th century that is also a meditation on corporate power, city form, citizen protest, and the social and environmental implications of transportation.

Taken for a Ride had its broadcast premiere on the PBS documentary flagship series POV in August 1996, and was featured at numerous international film festivals, including IDFA in Amsterdam. The film was also distributed to European television outlets, and purchased by hundreds of university and college libraries in the U.S.

Featured review

A story that needs to be told! Shows courage and determination in uncovering this hidden history. It is surprisingly moving and solidly documented.
Kenneth Jackson
Professor of History, Columbia University, author, CRABGRASS FRONTIER


An excellent documentary! Though this material has been known to scholars for some time, Taken for a Ride pays careful attention to the historical record and uses exciting vintage footage. It should make this rather sordid story known to a far wider public.
Richard Schott
LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas
An important piece of American History…and a powerful critique of the influence of corporate wealth on our daily lives. I hope it will be widely seen. We desperately need to stop the destruction of our cities and make them clean, beautiful places to live.
Howard Zinn
Fascinating. Taken for a Ride offers strong evidence. It raises unsettling historical questions about why public transit has let the public down.
Caryn James
This film is a must see. Identifies the powerful forces opposing us as we try to create a more humane, sustainable and less polluting nation.
Dr. John Holtzclaw
Chair Sierra Club Transportation Committee
A tragically important story. This valuable documentary should be seen by anyone interested in the crises of America's cities and suburbs.
James Kunstler
A skillfully crafted analysis...of the dismantling of America's streetcar systems and the ensuing legacy of congestion, air pollution, and inadequate access to transportation for the elderly, young, disabled, and poor.
J. Allen Williams
Director of Environmental Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
As the nation struggles with revitalizing older communities and managing development in growing ones, Taken for a Ride provides both a sobering look at past mistakes and a compelling argument for better planning in the future.
Jeff Soule
Director of Policy, American Planning Association
Accessible and engaging. My students rated this video one of the high points of my transportation policy seminar. Taken for a Ride shows how urban transportation became a policy problem, and encourages students to persevere in finding a solution.
Anthony Perl
Public Policy Studies, University of Calgary
Superbly accessible. It's a clincher with important lessons for today's urban planners and policymakers.
Tony Turrittin Professor of Sociology
York University

Awards and Screenings

National PBS Broadcast, POV Series
American Planning Association National Convention, featured event
Purchased by over 100 colleges and Universities

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

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