By the 1960s, travel in the rural and small-townUnited Stateshad become almost exclusively an automobile affair. Transit systems that had once served just about every small town had been early casualties of the automobile and/or the Great Depression. Transit systems in larger cities had fared better. But while they generally survived the depression, they did not escape the plague of declining patronage and financial distress. At the same time, the nature of public transit changed dramatically. Most of the old electric streetcars were gone–only a few survived in a handful of cities. Once been the ubiquitous mode of urban public transit, these electric streetcars had been steadily replaced by motor buses and, to a lesser extent, by electric buses and modern electric streetcars. The financial distress continued to worsen, however, and by the 1950s privately owned transit companies were being replaced by public transit agencies. Transit districts were usually able to maintain only minimal, subsidized transit services.
In essence, by the 1960s a network of freeways and highways and a growing stock of private automobiles had replaced the privately owned local streetcar systems as the backbone ofU.S.urban transportation. In addition, this same network of freeways and highways, along with the development of commercial airlines, had replaced the privately owned passenger railroad network in this country. In terms of our getting about, we had certainly undergone a radical transformation since World War I.
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