Why did LA shut down its street cars?

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Pacific Electric Railway streetcar no. 740 beside buses nos. 2513, 2521, and 2509 at Beverly Hills station. Photo credit: Metro Library and Archive (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

LA wasn’t always all about cars and freeways. Years ago, there was a huge system of street cars (electric trolley lines), the Red and Yellow lines. The last ride of the Red Line took place in 1961.

LA is currently trying to rebuild its public transport system -- at huge expense. But why did the city get rid of the system it already built? The popular conspiracy theory says that big car and tire companies bought the system to trash it, so people would have to buy cars and tires. But is that what really happened?