From William Lind at The American Conservative Center for Public Transportation – The Buses Scam:
…advocacy of buses is usually a scam. Because most… know that if you give people buses, almost everyone who can drive a car will.
This scam is not of recent origin. Years ago, Brad Snell, the definitive historian of General Motors, told me that in 1923 GM’s Chairman, Alfred Sloan, called a meeting with GM allies such as oil and rubber companies. He said that the automobile market was saturated – unless they could destroy the electric railways. Streetcar and interurban lines offered such a high quality of service, according to Sloan, that people saw little need for a car. But if they could replace the electric railways with buses, people would buy cars. Why? Because travel by bus is so inferior to travel by rail that people would say, “I can’t take this damn thing. I gotta get a car.”
Out of that meeting came the idea of National City Lines, which eventually went around the country buying electric railways, ripping them out and substituting buses. The purpose was not, as sometimes thought, to sell buses. The purpose was to sell cars. And it worked.
Almost 90 years later, nothing has changed. Most of the people who advocate buses instead of trains are really opponents of public transit itself. It looks bad to admit that, and it doesn’t sell well politically. So instead, they get the same result by rabidly opposing all passenger rail – – streetcars, light rail, commuter trains and intercity trains – – and pushing buses as a substitute. They know full well that buses are not a substitute for trains, because they seldom draw riders from choice. They are instead a tool to minimize public transportation to those who are transit dependent and make everyone else drive.