National City Lines

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National City Lines, Inc. is a former public transportation holding company that operated in the United States between 1920 and 2007.


National City Lines was most famous for its involvement in the "General Motors Streetcar Conspiracy", in which a number of companies were held in court for monopolizing the sale of buses and supplies to their company. National City Lines also had two subsidiary companies named American City Lines and Pacific City Lines. The three companies benefitted from investments from General Motors, Firestone Tire, and Standard Oil of California (through a subsidiary named Federal Engineering), Philips Petroleum and Mack Trucks. These investments gained control of transit agencies in approximately twenty-five cities. Very high profile systems included those in St. Louis Public Service Company of St. Louis, Baltimore Transit Company of Baltimore, Los Angeles Railway of Los Angeles and Key System Transit Lines of Oakland.

Historical timeline

  • 1920: Services began with a two-bus operation in Minnesota, transporting school children and miners.
  • 1936: National City Lines organized into a holding company. This same year, purchases of thirteen agencies in Illinois, Michigan, and Oklahoma.
  • 1937: National City Lines replaced streetcars in Butte, Montana and acquired agencies in Mississippi and Texas. Subsidiary Pacific City Lines created to purchase streetcar systems in the western United States.
  • 1938: National City Lines began the task of purchasing transportation companies in cities where streetcar systems were no longer practical. Many of the agencies went through the process of switching to a bus-operated service. Some cities operated decrepit streetcar networks, however, some didn't. The Butte system had a reputable streetcar system, however, the power grid supplying power couldn't meet the streetcar system needs. This same year, exclusive arrangements were made with some of the other companies to allegedly monopolize the pathway to goods and equipment. An indictment for this scheme followed nine years later, in 1947.
  • 1939: By this year, National City Lines continued acquiring agencies in Alabama, Indiana and Ohio. These purchases resulted in ownership or significant control in 29 local transportation companies in 27 different cities, in ten states.
  • 1943: American City Lines organized to acquire local transportation systems in large metropolitan areas.
  • 1946: American City Lines merges into National City Lines.
  • 1947: Legal battles with National City Lines begin, with National City Lines indicted on two counts (conspiring to monopolize sales of buses and supplies to companies owned by National City Lines and conspiring to acquire control of a number of transit companies, forming a transit monopoly) in the Federal District Court of Southern California. The company owned or controlled 46 systems in 45 cities in 16 states.
  • 1948: Subsidiary Pacific City Lines stops operating as a separate company.
  • 1949: Legal battles arrived with the agencies contributing to National City Lines, with Standard Oil of California, Firestone and others. The legal course were upheld on appeal, in which these companies were fined $5000, and executives, $1 apiece.
  • 1955: Subsidiary Montgomery City Lines boycott by African American passengers begins, after arresting of Rosa Parks, a woman that refused to move to the back of the bus as requested by a white passenger. The boycott for civil rights lasted just over a year and was followed by a Supreme Court ruling that allowed black passengers to choose whichever seat they choose.
  • 1977: The last mass transit agency under control of National City Lines, El Paso City Lines, surrendered operation to Sun City Area Transit, the predecessor to today's Sun Metro system.

Agencies of National City Lines

State City Agency Year Acquired Year Divested Type of Involvement Notes
AL Mobile Mobile City Lines 1939 1971
AL Montgomery Montgomery City Lines 1936 1974
CA Burbank Burbank City Lines? 1944 1946
CA Eureka Eureka City Lines 1939 1946
CA Fresno Fresno City Lines 1939 1946
CA Glendale Glendale City Lines 1940 1962 Ceded to Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority in 1962, Southern California Rapid Transit District in 1963, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1993, and complimenting service on Glendale Beeline, from 1984.
CA Los Angeles Los Angeles Railway
" aka Yellow Cars"
1945 1958 Partial control. Note: Pacific Electric Railway (aka "Red Cars") not controlled by NCL.
CA Oakland Key System Transit Lines 1946 1960 Partial control.
CA Sacramento Sacramento City Lines 1943 1955
CA Inglewood Inglewood City Lines 1942 1946
CA Long Beach Long Beach City Lines 1946 1963 Ceded to Long Beach Transit, in 1963.
CA San Jose San Jose City Lines 1938




CA Pasadena Pasadena City Lines 1940 1963
CA Stockton Stockton City Lines 1939 1963
FL Jacksonville Motor Transit Company 1943 1945
FL Tampa Tampa Transit Lines 1942 1971
IL Aurora/Elgin Aurora City Lines

Elgin City Lines

1940 1966 Continued from 1966-1968, however, with different owners.
IL Bloomington Bloomington-Normal City Lines 1936 1966
IL Champaign Champaign-Urbana City Lines 1936 1966
  • Purchased from Illinois Power and Light Company.
  • Sold in 1966 to Vernon Westover, regional manager for NCL.
IL Danville Danville City Lines 1936 1964
IL Decatur Decatur City Lines 1936 1974
IL East St Louis East St. Louis City Lines 1936 1963 1963, National City Lines ceded service to public operator Bi-State Transit System.
IL Galesburg Galesburg City Lines 1934 1959
IL Joliet Joliet City Lines 1936 1970 Originally began services in 1934, however, with different owners.
IL Kewanee Kewanee City Lines 1936 1937
IL La Salle/Peru La Salle-Peru City Lines 1936 1937 Continued in 1937 as La Salle-Peru City Lines, however, with different ownership.
IL Peoria Peoria City Lines 1955 1964 Continued as Peoria City Lines until 1970, however with different ownership.
IL Quincy Quincy City Lines 1936 1966 Continued as Quincy City Lines in 1966, however, with different owners.
IL Rock Island Rock Island-Moline City Lines 1950 1970 Ceded to Rock Island County Metropolitan Mass Transit District in 1970.
IN South Bend Northern Indiana Transit 1956 1968
IN Terre Haute Terre Haute City Lines 1939 1955
IA Burlington Burlington City Lines 1941 1958
IA Cedar Rapids Cedar Rapids City Lines 1937 1966
IA Davenport Davenport City Lines 1950 1974
IA Ottumwa Ottumwa City Lines 1941 1951
IA Sioux City Sioux City Lines 1953 1967
MD Baltimore Baltimore Transit Company 1944 1972 Partial control. Ceded control to MTA Maryland, beginning in 1970.
MI Jackson Jackson City Lines (MI) 1936 1964
MI Kalamazoo Kalamazoo City Lines 1936 1964
MI Lansing Lansing City Lines 1936 1939
MI Pontiac Pontiac City Lines 1936 1960
MI Saginaw Saginaw City Lines 1936 1962
MS Jackson Jackson City Lines (MS) 1939 1966
MO St Louis St. Louis Public Service Company 1940 1963 Partial control.
MT Butte Butte City Lines 1937 1946
MT Great Falls Great Falls City Lines 1938 1946
NE Lincoln Lincoln City Lines 1942 1971
OH Canton Canton City Lines 1940 1971
OH Portsmouth Portsmouth City Lines 1939 1959
OK Tulsa Tulsa City Lines 1936 1957
PA Philadelphia Philadelphia Transportation Company 1955 1966 Partial control.
TX Beaumont Beaumont City Lines 1937 1972 To Beaumont Transit System in 1972.
TX El Paso El Paso City Lines 1943 1977 To Sun City Area Transit in 1977, then to Sun Metro in 1987.
TX Houston Rapid Transit Lines 1966 1974
TX Port Arthur Port Arthur City Lines 1937 1950 To Port Arthur Transit Corporation in 1950.
TX Wichita Falls Wichita City Lines 1950 1971 To Wichita Falls Transit System in 1971, then Falls Ride in 2008.
UT Salt Lake City Salt Lake City Lines 1944 1968
WA Bellingham Bellingham City Lines 1938 1946 Ceded to Bellingham City Lines, Inc., however, a different owner.
WA Everett Everett City Lines 1939 1946 Ceded in 1946 to Everett City Lines, Inc., however, a different owner.
WA Spokane Spokane City Lines 1945 1968 Ceded to City of Spokane (via lease in 1968)
WI Oshkosh Oshkosh City Lines 1933 1962 Ceded to City Transit Lines in 1962 until 1978, then Oshkosh Transit System in 1978.


This list is incomplete.

This list compiles groups of bus purchases of National City Lines between 1939 and 1971. Although most buses were purchased from Yellow Coach and General Motors, a limited number of buses were also purchased from Mack Trucks, Fitzjohn, Ford Motor Company, ACF-Brill, Twin Coach and Aero. Its amalgamation among cities gives a glimpse of total bus purchases made, and reason behind possible gaps and abnormal differences between fleet numbers of individual agencies.

Additionally, buses were frequently moved between agencies and the agency listed was the first agency to receive the vehicle. When available, subsequent cities will be listed in the notes section.


Thumbnail Year Manufacturer Model Engine Transmission Original

Additional reading

This list is incomplete.

Off-site media