Taken for a Ride

Taken for a Ride
Directed byJim Klein
Narrated byJim Klein
Renée Montagne
Distributed byNew Day Films
Release date
Running time
55 minutes
CountryUnited States

Taken for a Ride is a documentary film by Martha Olson and Jim Klein about the Great American Streetcar Scandal. The 55-minute film was first broadcast on August 6, 1996 on the PBS television series POV.


Taken for a Ride begins with interviews on the inefficiencies and congestion on Los Angeles' highways. Next, the film displays a variety of archival footage on streetcar systems around the United States, asserting that streetcars were a widespread and efficient means of transportation. The film continues into a description of the General Motors streetcar conspiracy, starting with a history of National City Lines and Pacific City Lines and General Motors' investment in both companies. The film builds the argument that streetcar systems purchased by these companies were deliberately sabotaged through service reductions and fare increases, then replaced with profitable, less convenient, bus systems. Next, the film makes a connection between this conspiracy and the construction of the Interstate Highway System and the suburbanization of America in the face of the Highway revolts in the 1960s and 1970s. The film ends with footage of the reduction of Philadelphia's trolleybus system at the time of filming.


Taken for a Ride was described by Caryn James as "an uneven documentary" whose "nostalgia for the streetcar system as a glorious, clean model of efficiency seems addled rather than convincing".[1] Academic Sara Sullivan gave the film a mixed rating in her 2010 review: "(Taken for a Ride) presents a compelling history of the streetcars and the battles over freeways in the 1970s," but that the film "feels incomplete, with certain aspects needing to be fleshed out and other links made."[2]


  1. ^ James, Caryn (6 August 1996). "At the End of the Line: The Decline of Transit". New York Times. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  2. ^ Sullivan, Sara (2010). "Taken for a Ride (Review)" (PDF). Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies. 40 (2): 142–144. Retrieved 14 January 2015.

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