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Mon Dec 19, 2011, 06:46 PM


Here is a paper I have been working on in regards to the Growth and decline of Streetcars in the USA

Below is a paper I have been working on, off and on, for a couple of years about how Suburbia became Suburbia. While NOT exactly on topic (we are discussing mass transit) it shows how suburbia expanded. Suburbia did not expand in one single long expansion, but a series of overlapping expansion tied in with the Automobile. I also believe Suburbia will decline with the decline of the Automobile so this paper can be a guide to how the decline will occur. The key to Suburbia was the Streetcar and then the Automobile. We can NOT address mass transit until we realized how modern mass transit came to be, and that is the reason I am posting it here.

A Short history of Suburbs and Transportation.

Part One
Background on the growth of Suburbs.

To understand today’s Suburbs you have to understand how Suburbs came about. Suburbs did not appear full form like the Goddess Athena, but started out small and expanded to the point where 1/3 of Americans now live in “Suburbs” (1/3 of Americans also live in Urban and the final third live in Rural areas. Please note some writers use One Half in Suburbs, 1/4 in Inner Cities and 1/4 in Rural America. The term “Suburb” is a relative term as you can see in part two of this paper. Some people consider some of the earliest suburbs inner City, and some of more distant suburbs rural America. This paper is NOT to define what is Suburbia BUT to set forth a short history of HOW Suburbia came to be).

Each expansion of Suburbia lead to a new situation that produced more Suburbs, but also different Suburbs. Some of these Suburbs are as different from each other as they are from the Inner City they sprang from. Three factors influenced the growth of Suburbs, first was the raise and decline of the Electric Railway systems (“Electric Railway” is a more accurate term than “Streetcar” “Trolley” or “Light Rail Vehicle”, but all four terms are often used interchangeably). Second was the Automobile. And Third was the 1964 Supreme Court Rule adopting the “one man, one vote rule”.

I. The Raise of the Electric Railway Systems.
For more details see: http://www.du.edu/~jcalvert/railway/trolley.htm

Suburbs are a product of increase mobility of people. Cities in the 1800s were very compact for Steam Locomotives (Or ships) could only make stops once every couple of miles. Cities grew to exploit these stops by providing the maximum concentration of population, services and Products for such stops. Now the first suburbs (as we would use that term today) were also the product of Steam Locomotive, but given the distance a Steam Locomotive had to stop, these early suburbs tend to be VERY far apart and generally independent towns who were just 1-2 stops from the nearest big city. It was the City that made trains very profitable, and in turn the Trains made the cities profitable.

With the increase profits of the Cities, the Cities started to expand. First the Cities tried horse draw wagons but found that if you put the wagon on steel tracks and give the wagon steel wheels, one horse could pull the weight of what four horses could pull with wooden wheels on dirt or pavement. Thus the first horse draw “Streetcars” where installed into the cities. These were replaced by Electric Streetcars and with the Electric Streetcar we have the start of today’s suburbs.

On the other end of the Urban/Rural Divide, the US Post Office in the said it would provide Rural Free Delivery (RFD) to any areas with “improved” Roads (Urban Areas had such deliveries starting in the Civil War). Lobbying by Bicyclist pushed for these improvements in paved roads to ride on (Prior to 1920 most Americans lived in Rural areas not Urban/Suburban Areas). Prior to that date Rural roads were all dirt (with some exceptions, not many but some, for example US 30 was only paved coast to coast in 1925, being the first paved coast to coast). This problem with rural roads had been partially addressed by the “Good Roads Movement” of the 1880s to the 1920s (To such a degree that in 1929 the US Post Office decided to drop horse drawn delivery service in most of the US) but until the Gasoline tax, no real funding source had ever been devised.

More on Rural Free Delivery:

More on the “Good Road Movement” of the 1880s to the 1920s:

I a. The raise of Competitors to Electric Railway Systems:

Bicyclists were the major push for improved roads till 1900, when Automobiles owners joined in (and replaced the Bicyclists) to push for improved roads (See the “Good Road Movement” above). Oregon was the first state to impose a Gasoline tax in 1919, this followed the example of Great Britain which had one starting in 1905. In the 1920s most, if not all states imposed the Gasoline Tax to pay for such improved roads (this type of “user” tax was popular after 1900, for example Hunters had agreed to a 15% tax on Guns and Ammunition so that the Federal Government could have some money to pay for conservation. Both taxes were pushed by the people who were paying the tax, thus Congress and State Legislatures agreed to pass them).

History of the Gasoline tax:

One side affect of Gasoline taxes was that Motor Vehicles did NOT have to pay tolls for improved roads. Roughly 30-40% of any toll (or fare in the case of Streetcars and buses) is consumed in collecting the toll or fare. This cost of collecting is diverted to the gasoline station owners and is included in his overhead when he sells gasoline. The State’s rationale is that any cost to collect the tax is a minor addition to the collection of the money to pay for the gasoline. Thus any mass transit system always has a 30-40% greater overhead then a non-toll road system. This cost comes out of the cost of goods sold column of the Gasoline station, it is one of the expenses that the Station incurs and put on its books BEFORE the station gets to Gross Profit.

Gross profit of gasoline stations:

With the Gasoline Tax, the States had money to pave roads. The States started to pave, but only rural roads, with most “State” highways ending at the edge of any major city. Each city had to pave its own streets. Most cities had started to pave their own streets after the Civil War, but with the advent of the Electric Railway, most cities had the Electric Railway Companies pave the streets the Electric Railway ran on. This requirement that the Electric Railway Companies maintain the paved road the Electric Railway ran on, was one of the reasons Electric Railways were later replaced by Buses.

I b – The three types of Electric Railways

Electric Railways (other wised known as Streetcars, Trolleys, Trams (In Britain) and today known as “Light Rail Vehicles” or LRVs, for ease of use the Term “Streetcar” will be used in this paper) of the 1890-1920 can be divided into three types of Streetcar mania in America:

1. Rural Interurbans. While most Interurbans died out in the 1920s, some survived till the 1950s. Some were later truncated to be Streetcars for the Suburbs that grew around them. The problem with most rural Interurbans is that they were seen as competitors to Steam Train, in an age where the Steam Train had no real competitors. Interurbans hauled almost as much freight as passengers, and were hurt as rural farmers and business converted to Trucks in the 1920s. Many survived till the 1950s, then promptly went out of business.. The following are some example of Interubrans, usage of such line peaked in 1918. Most failed in the 1920s and 1930s:

a. Lehigh Valley transit survived till 1951, then just shut down when it could not make payroll, for more details see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lehigh_Valley_Transit_Company

b. The Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley Railroad converted from a Interurban line to a diesel coal hauling line in 1952, parts of it is still used for freight: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lackawanna_and_Wyoming_Valley_Railroad

c. Some of these Rural Interurbans could be expensive to maintain, for example the Charleroi to Pittsburgh interurban. In the early 1950s the part of the line from Charleroi interurban line was cut back to the Allegheny County line. It survives to this day, first as a Suburban Streetcar system to the new suburbs that grew around it, and in the 1980s rebuilt as a modern LRV system. For more on the Charleroi systems see the following: http://freepages.family.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~florian/transportation/trolley/index_photos.htm

d. West Penn Railway system survived till the 1950s, this was due to the fact the roads in the area were so bad, people did not think buses could operate, but the roads were improved after WWII which lead to the decline in usage of the line and its closing down. Televsion was also blamed for its demise, with TV, people stayed at home instead of taking the Streetcar to a place of entertainment. For more see http://patheoldminer.rootsweb.ancestry.com/westpenn.html , http://www.davesrailpix.com/wpenn/wpenn.htm , http://www.railroadiana.org/info/pgWestPenn.php , http://www.pittsburghtransit.info/wpenn.html and
i. Here is a Map of the West Penn Railway system, showing the Pittsburgh Railway interurbans to Donora, Charleroi and Washington Pa, AND the two interurbans to Butler PA. The Butler lines were closed down in the early 1930s, West Penn and Pittsburgh interurbans were shut down in 1952:
1. http://patheoldminer.rootsweb.ancestry.com/westpenn.html

e. But most failed do to the fact most Interurbans were marginal at best and anything that could go wrong, if it did, ended up bankrupting the Interurban. For example that is what happened to the Southern Cambria line in 1927, it could not pay the bonds it had issued after a 1918 accident and when the bonds came due, they just closed down. For more on the Southern Cambria see:
i. http://www.camgenpa.com/news/1916UNK.html
ii. http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/rights-managed/HQ001232/southern-cambria-railway-tracks-through-johnstown

2. Urban Streetcar lines. These actually THRIVED in the 1920s and 1930s and plans were made to EXPAND them at that time period. . For example Pittsburgh’s peak year for Streetcar use was 1927, but passengers still were close to that number till after WWII. Los Angles Peak Streetcar use year was 1944. Even after WWII if urban areas had a choice AND not forced to adopt buses for political reasons (Political reasons seems to be the reason New York City started to replace its streetcars with buses in the mid 1930s) the first choice was for Streetcars. For example the City of Johnstown, the smallest city ever to use the PCC Streetcars, purchased them after WWII, for even at that date you could haul more people at lower costs with Streetcars then with the buses of the post WWII Era. Urban Streetcars did not see a substantial drop in ridership till after WWII.

An example of the above was the plan to expand streetcar use in Pittsburgh adopted by the vote of the people of Pittsburgh in 1919. The plan was the installation of a Subway system for Streetcars in Pittsburgh, The plan was adopted but money was used for Highways instead: http://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/14019/23248559.pdf?sequence=1

Thus by the end of WWII, most Urban Streetcar system had seen almost 20 years of no new equipment, and were in need of major rehaul (Including the Streetcars themselves, the tracks the Streetcars ran on and the over head wires) of these system more below.

3. Small City operations. Many small city streetcar operations were tied in with the Interurbans, but many survived even as the Interurbans were dying in the 1920s and early 1930s. The problem was the profit margins were slim, and with more and more people buying cars it was cheaper to replace the Streetcars in such low density environments with buses, for with buses you did NOT have to maintain the road, as the streetcars were obligated to do for the right to have their rails in the street. Thus when it came time to replace the rails, these cities transit systems tended to convert to buses given the low volume such transit systems had in riders. Even in such system the key seems to be how connected the Small City was to any larger city via electric railway. Two examples of this follows and helps illustrate how these small city system ended.
i. Harrisburg Pennsylvania’s Streetcar shut down in the late 1930s and converted to buses for the State Capitol of Pennsylvania. For most of its riders lived within walking distance of Downtown or they own a car, thus Streetcar use fell do to low volume of riders.

ii. In Washington Pennsylvania (The County Seat of Washington county, the County directly South of Allegheny County, which county seat is the City of Pittsburgh), Streetcar service survived till the early 1950s do to the connection between Washington PA to Pittsburgh Pa via the Washington Interurban Rail line that connected to two County Seats. Only with the over decline in Transit use in the early 1950s did the City of Washington Pa convert to Buses. This conversion was aided by the fact the part of the old Interurban Streetcar line was taken over by the State for use as part of a then new Four Lane Highway connecting Pittsburgh with Washington PA, thus cutting the connection by Streetcars between Pittsburgh and Washington PA. For Photos of one of the last run of Streetcars on the Washington Interurban see the following site for photos of West Penn Streetcars from Greensburg Pennsylvania, that ran on the Washington Interurban line on their way to the then new Streetcar Museum in Arden Pa): http://www.pa-trolley.org/Roster/832W.htm More photos of West Penn Streetcars: http://www.davesrailpix.com/wpenn/wpenn.htm

1 c. Decline of Rural Electric Railways:

In 1890, when most urban areas (and many rural areas) first started to have Electric Railways, such Electric Railway service was very profitable, but by the 1920s profit margins had dropped so much that the Electric Railway companies in rural areas could NOT replace their tracks AND still stay in business.

Thus from the 1920s till the 1960s whenever a major rebuild of tracks were needed, the rural Electric Railway lines were abandoned. Some of the old Electric Railway Companies converted themselves to buses, other went bankrupt and replaced by a new company running buses. Most of these bus companies survived only five to ten more years and then closed down. The buses replaced by nothing (If you did not have a car you were out of luck for transportation in rural America).

Please note I am discussing Rural Electric Railways NOT Inner City Electric Railways. . Rural Electric Railways peaked in 1918 and than declined rapidly in the 1920s. Urban Electric Railways peaked in 1927 and declined slowly in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s with some surviving till today (The drop after 1927 is tied in with the coming great depression more than the raise of the Automobile. The Automobile’s full effect would not hit the urban Electric Railways till after WWII). Rural Electric lines went out of business decades before their urban cousins but the cycle of decline was the same for both urban and rural lines except that urban lines lasted a good bit longer than the rural lines.

II. The Automobile and the Decline of Urban Electric Streetcar Systems:

In urban areas you had a different set of dynamics going on. Most Urban Streetcar systems built in this period were part of a plan by land developers to sell plots of land in new trolley suburbs. The problem was most of the Streetcar systems devised were just to show people they could get from their home to their work NOT a truly viable transit systems. After the homes were built and sold, the transit system was left on its own, many of them with very marginal profits margins. This continues to this day, except starting in the 1920s, public highways replaced Streetcars as the method to get from the New Housing developments to work. This use of roads has continued to this day. Thus GM’s famous plan of the early 1920s to concentrate on Rural America and Upper Middle Class Americans. The reason for the plan was those were the groups most likely to buy an automobile in the 1920s, working class Americans either walks to work OR took the Streetcar (With most Americans living close enough to work to walk, thus even the Streetcars were geared to upper Middle Class Americans NOT working class Americans).

While the above was going on as to Electric Railways, the Automobile was moving on. 1920 was the first Census of the US where more people lived in Urban Areas than Rural Areas. While this was important, the effect of the Automobile on Rural Transportation seem to be quicker and greater the on urban America. Unlike Urban America, all classes of people living in Rural America would buy automobiles in the 1920s. The 1920s was a boom period for Rural America, Europe was recovering from WWI and Russian and Ukrainian wheat and other food products, the main competitors to American Wheat and food products prior to WWI, were just not purchased for Russia had turned Communist. Thus the price of wheat and other agricultural products were high, and would remain high till Stalin entered the international wheat market as part of his first five year plan in 1927. That along with the Dust Bowl of the 1930s put rural America into a tailspin, where many of the poorer farmers and farm workers would take their automobiles purchased in the 1920s and move elsewhere (generally urban America, but many also went to California to work the fields, but then moved into urban areas of California during WWII when workers were in short supply and took their love of their cars first purchased in the 1920s with them).

While paved roads would come late to such Rural Areas (Most rural areas would not have paved roads till the 1930s, most urban areas had them by 1900s) the Automobile driven on Dirt Roads during dry weather could move faster than a horse draw wagon. The Automobile’s biggest competitor, the rural Electric Inter-urban Electric Railway, had to maintain its own right of way and collect its fees.

With the competition of the Automobile and the movement of people from the Country to the City such Rural Electric Railways quickly went into a death spiral. What happen is as less people used the Electric Railway, to maintain profitability the Street-cars ran less often, with the Street cars running less often people said “Why should I wait for the Rural Electric Railways? I just take my Automobile”. People thought this way, people went out and bought an automobile, and the Rural Electric Railways had less and less customers. Most rural Electric Railway lines failed in the 1920s, with a few lasting till the 1950s (I am speaking of Electric “Electric Railways” in “rural” areas NOT in urban or suburban sittings).

Now as the Country side lost population, the City gained populations (With inner city Electric Railway use peaking in 1927). Just like the rural area, urbanites wanted to be able to use Automobiles also. Most cities had paved roads so the Automobiles operated on these roads, and starting in the 1920s you had city planners started to retrofit roads designed for the Automobile into the inner city. These retrofits tended to put more Automobiles on the same streets the Electric Railways were on, slowing the Electric railway in addition to other automobiles (and you had a situation similar to the Rural areas 10-15 years earlier). Urban Planners than decided to make expressways for Automobiles and these worked for a time, until the growing number of automobiles exceeded the capacities of these expressways (For more details see Part III Below)

Study that Car Pool lanes INCREASE single car rides not Decrease them:

II B. The Great GM Conspiracy

In 1974 Bradford C. Snell made a claim that General Motors (GM) conspired to kill off the Streetcars system in the US. One reporter who agrees that there was a “plot” by GM to replace Streetcars with buses has called Snell’s statement of the plot so outrageous that Snell must have been in the pay of GM when he made his claim. Snell’s claims were so outrageous AND contained so many errors in details, that anyone else following up on the plot would also be dismissed as a conspiracy nut. The reporter believes there was a plot, but did not start till after WWII and involved more lobbying then bribes (Some of the brides were just new cars or other gifts for the people making the decision) after GM have lobbied management of those transit systems) AND provided such management with reasons why buses were superior to Streetcars. At the same time Streetcars makers did NOT have the profit margin to do the same in favor of Streetcars.

For more details see: http://www.baycrossings.com/Archives/2003/03_April/paving_the_way_for_buses_the_great_gm_streetcar_conspiracy.htm

As you can see, while other factors kicked in, lobbying by GM was a serious factor in the demise of the Streetcars.

One of the ways GM lobbied was to convinced highway departments to opt for Buses instead of Streetcars. GM would point out that fuel taxes paid for the road (even if this was untrue, for example almost any road that had Streetcar tracks, the Streetcar operators had to maintain, and most of such road had been paved by the Streetcar operator as a cost of using the Street).

Thus GM would lobby state legistlature, local officials, highway departments ect that since fuel taxes were only paid by oil propelled vehicles, roads should be only for automobiles, trucks and buses and other oil operatored vehicles NOT electrical Streetcar systems. One aspect of this is that in the Manual on how to build Roads in the US used for decades nu most state Highway departments called pedestrians “Traffic impediments” NOT primary users of roads,

The US Supreme Court has consistently ruled that people living in America have “Freedom of Movement” but it is a freedom the state has no duty to assist AND has no right to interfere i.e. you have the right to walk on any public road NOT expressly built for use of Automobiles (i.e. Expressways) AND such EXPRESSWAYS can NOT interfere with any existing right to walk on existing roads. i.e. the State can build a Interstate Highway, but it must be independent of preexisting roads that people can walk on. Highway department hate this rule and try to work around it, but also knows they can NOT build an expressway on top of an existing road UNLESS pedestrian travel is taken care of. i.e. permitted or diverted in some reasonable way.

In my area of Cambria County Pennsylvania this is done on US 22. You can walk or bike on what had been old US 22, the road that dates back to colonial times. In roughly the same area, the State has built what the local call “New 22”, this is an exclusive right of way for Automobiles, you can NOT walk on it, you are to walk on “Old 22” that is in the same area. The problem is parts of “Old 22” was covered over by parts of “New 22”. Here the state does something weird. On intersections and ramps going on “New 22” where “Old 22” exists, the signs clearly says no Pedestrians and bicyclists, but when “Old 22” merges with “New 22” those signs are missing. The reason is simple, such a ban would violate the Constitutional right known as the “Freedom to move”. On the other hand in the areas were “old 22” and “new 22” are two different roads, such a ban in completely constitutional.

I point this out for GM was behind much of the reconstruction of the Interstate System and the upgrading of the US highway system. GM lobbied the State Highway Department (later Penndot) to make sure “New 22” would be for automobiles only, but it also knew that if “Old 22” disappeared under “New 22” such a ban would be unconstitutional. Thus GM lobbied the State to put up the signs where it could, but in the areas were such signs would be unconstitutional; the signs saying so just do not go up. In many ways this lobbying is a more effective way to get what GM wanted then out right bribes and GM did it constantly. This was legal AND effective.

One last comment, after WWII, the US was in a tight credit period, for example do to the regulations to prevent a recession AND to convert from war time production to peace time production you could only get a loan of 18 months to buy a car. This credit shortage had the affect of forcing many cities to look to GM for financing of transit vehicles. GM wanted them to buy buses and would give credit for buses. The PCC Streetcar had been in production since the mid 1930s and was a vast improvement over previous streetcars, but unless the transit company could swing a bank loan to buy the then new PCCs, they had to operate equipment most of them has purchased in the 1920s and were reaching the end of the usable life. Most transit companies had NOT purchased new equipment in the 1930s do to the depression and do to WWII they could not buy new equipment during WWII. Thus new vehicles were needed and financing was tight, but GM was flush from its WWII production profits and had the money to loan, if the transit system opt for buses. This was legal but like the lobbying mentioned above, part of the GM “Plot” to replace Streetcars with buses.

II C New York City and advertising.

One author suspects the Mayor of New York in the 1930s was under the guidance of William Randolph Hearst, who had been attacking the “Transit Trusts” in New York City for decades. I suspect, while that may be true, the real reason for the replacement of Streetcars with buses was based on the Concept of “Advertising”. If you understand Advertising, it is MORE then commercials on Television or billboards. It covers everything from how something looks on the shelf in the store and how it is worn in movies and on Television programs. When it comes to Streetcars, it worked itself against Streetcars in the 1920s through the 1950s and has been working itself in favor of Streetcars since the 1970s.

When it comes to Transit, advertising includes seeing a Streetcar or bus going down the street. Upper Middle Class people where the first urban dwellers who opt for cars over transit. In New York City this meant a lot of traffic jams, for the New York City was built for walking not driving a car and then parking it. Drivers (Remember we are talking about Upper Middle Class people, the people who today are making more then $150,000 a year) complained to the Mayor of the Traffic Jam, and tended to blame Streetcars even if they did NOT see the Streetcars for they did see the Tracks in the Street AND the overhead wires. The Tracks and Wires were advertising the Streetcars almost as while as the Streetcars themselves. The problem was the people getting the message, included the Upper Middle Class stuck in Traffic Jams. They complained to the Mayor who tried his best to figure out a way to end such complaints.

The Mayor of New York realized the reason Streetcars were getting the blame for the Traffic Jams, was that people in Traffic jams were seeing the Rails and the Wires and thus blaming the Streetcars, even if the Streetcars had nothing to do with the Traffic Jam. By replacing Streetcars with Buses the Rails could be covered up and wires removed, ending any complaints that Streetcars were causing the traffic jams. No one would see what was causing the Traffic Jam and without the rails in the Street or the other head wires, drivers would not THINK streetcars when they were in a traffic jam, instead they would blame what they saw, other automobiles.

Now, Buses would be blamed if seen, but you only saw a bus if it was also in the Traffic Jam, you did not have anything on the street that reminded a driver that buses also traveled that street. Thus do to the advertising effect of Rails in the Street and Wires overhead, it reminded people that streetcars also ran on that road, but no such reminders existed for buses except for the actual buses.

This affect has been seen since the 1970s in cases where Streetcars (mostly in the Form of Light Rail Vehicles) started to be re-built. The rails and the Overhead lines reminded people that Streetcars (LRVs) also ran on the Road or on their own private right of way and thus was an option. Concrete Road bed, even of a bus only road, would just be another lane on a highway. A bus lane thus does NOT have much advertising affect when compared to rails and overhead wires and as such is the best explanation of WHY when rail in built, it tends to exceed pre construction estimates, while bus ways tend to fall short of them.

This adverting affect seems also to be a factor in the decline of Streetcars in other urban areas outside of New York City.

III. The US Supreme Court’s 1964 “One Man, One Vote” rule:

In 1964 the US Supreme Court ruled that every American had the right to vote AND that every person’s vote had to be viewed as Equal. This outlawed the practice in most states of providing more representation in their Legislature for Rural Areas than Urban Areas. Prior to 1964 (Which is the era we are discussing in this paper) Rural areas had more representation and thus more power in most state’s legislature than Urban Areas, even as more people lived in urban areas. This had several affect, first rural roads were given priority over urban Roads, second such Rural legislators could be easily convinced that certain rural areas near urban areas should have priority over other rural areas (Thus provided more funds for the development of Suburbia). A third side affect is a total opposition to mass transit (Since you could not have mass transit in rural areas, the rural legislators saw no reason to vote for mass transit in urban areas).

Now, the Supreme Court Decision reduced the power of the Rural areas of this country, but did it at a very bad point in the history of what is now called the “inner City” i.e. Non-suburbia. Do to the expansion of Suburbia prior to 1964, the power switch caused by the 1964 Supreme Court Decision was NOT from Rural to Urban, but Rural to Suburban. By 1964 approximately 1/3 of the US population lived in Rural Areas, with 2/3 in Urban Areas, the problem was the inner city was losing its population and suburbia was increasing its, thus by about 1980 it was Rural 1/3, inner-city 1/3 and Suburbia 1/3. With most rural areas voting Republican after 1964, and most inner City voting Democratic after 1964, the fight for control of both the state and Federal Government was fought by the two political parties in Suburbia. Thus neither party has a very good reason to fight the growth of Suburbia, for it would be cutting itself off from the votes it needs to win.

Part Two
History of Suburbia.1890-2000
(All dates used herein are to establish a guideline to go with this paper. None of these dates are fixed in stone. The dates are being used to set forth HOW suburbia developed NOT the exact dates of any one development in that history.)

A. The Trolley Suburbs 1890-1920.

With the perfection of the Electric Railway, people could have a quick clean and reliable way to get from Home to Work WITHOUT having to live near a Stream Locomotive line. This helped developed the first true Suburbs (Suburbs had existed before but on the Stream Locomotive right of way and as such restricted in area). These areas are now mostly in inner-cities but people who moved into these areas intended to take the Electric Railway to and from work instead of the earlier means of walking (Contrary to the Movies NO one took a horse to work, if you did you had to keep it in a stable and had to feed it. If you went by Carriage, the preferred way, you had to keep the carriage stored away from the horse, horse manure is hard on wood and metal. Horse manure is also hard on Saddles, thus no one rode a horse to work). Once these tracks were in the people would move out into these Trolley Suburbs as they were called. Stores would move out to be along the track for that was were the people who had money were.

In my home town of Pittsburgh, the Oakland area of Pittsburgh was a “Trolley Suburb”, The University of Pittsburgh moved out from Downtown Pittsburgh to the Oakland section of Pittsburgh during this time period for it could build a bigger building (the Cathedral of Learning) on a bigger plot of land than you could in Downtown Pittsburgh. Other Business followed.

B. First Automobile Suburbs, 1920-1945.

These differ from the earlier Trolley Suburbs is that people who moved into these suburbs expected to used their Automobile either to commute to the old inner city or to the Electric Railway line and take the Electric Railway line to work. People still tended to view the Electric Railway as backup if something should go wrong with their car. The homes were still within a distant, but reasonable walk from the street car line. One of the Characteristics of this time period is the movement of Branch Stores of the Major Downtown Department Stores to the end of the Street Car lines. These branch stores were on the Street car lines so their workers could get to them without the need for a car, but people in the new Automotive suburbs could drive their car to these same stores.

C. Post-WWII Suburban Boom 1945-1964.

This is an expansion of the First Automotive Suburbs to areas to far to walk to the Street car (or bus lines as the Electric Railways are replaced by Buses), but people can still be dropped off at the Electric Railway stop if their spouse needed the car for the day. This people saw the expansion of strip malls and discount stores in such strip malls. K-Mart type stores come into domination, stores not only relying on customers driving to work, BUT ALSO THEIR EMPLOYEES.

D. The Mall Age 1964-1990.

This is an expansion of the Post-WWII suburbs to even further from the inner-city AND a switch to employment in SUBURBIA and that only the poor would be using public transportation. Four things distinguish this period from the prior period:

1. , First is the Switch to the Mall being the main shopping Mecca,
2. Second (and related), the death of most inner-city department stores (Only the biggest ones tend to survive),
3. Third, most Public Transportation switch to both buses AND Government ownership of Public Transportation (With Public Transportation being seen only as a means to provide transportation for the poor as opposed to a serious transit alternative for the automobile) and
4. Fourth, the first branch stores of the old inner-city department stores slowly close down and are moved to the mall. Many Survive the conversion from Electric Railways to Buses, but some do not, for the call of the Mall is to great. Unlike earlier eras, if you do not have a car your employment opportunities are VERY limited.

Now the First oil Crisis occurred in this era, but looks like it was more of a minor hindrance to the furthering of Mall America (a mere hiccup for America was still producing 90% of the oil it was using, not till the 1980s did that number start to drop till today’s 50% production).

E. The modern Era, 1990-2010.

This area saw two conflicting movements, first the re-turn of Public Transportation as a serious means of transport for the non-poor, Second the growth of the Super K-mart (i.e. Wal-mart) in areas even further out from the inner-city. While the Mall age saw Public Transportation almost die, the further growth of Suburbia show increase traffic tie-ups between suburban areas. The earlier solution of building bigger and bigger highways was increasingly showing to be a dead-end, but the attempts at improving mass transit feeble do to the feeling that it is only for the poor.

People were looking at Mass Transit but since most states restricted Gasoline Tax money to highway use, mass transit had NO stable funding source. With Gasoline the cheapest (in real terms) it has ever been in the late 1990s, no push to increase funding for mass transit is made. Furthermore with more jobs in the Suburbs than in the inner city the old method of all transit going to the urban core is not time efficient for most workers. Why go to the Urban Core by one bus to catch another bus to where you work, when you can drive directly to the suburban work location?

On the other hand, as the price of gasoline climbed after 2000, more and more people took transit every year, but after 2008 the movement of most state governments were to cut back on subsidies to mass transit as they attempted to balance the state budgets.

We are in some sort of transition, people have been talking of the need for Public Transportation for 30 years (since the advent of Mall America) but these have all failed for failing to come up with a funding source for such mass transit. Buses have failed for the same reason the earlier Electric Railway failed in the cities, as the roads have more and more cars, the bus service that uses the same roads goes down hill. The only solution has been known for over 50 years (as shown by many of the surviving Street car lines), mass transit to work has to come frequently, reliably and as fast as using a car. The only way to do that is to have the transit on its own right of way, but that is expensive, buses running on the same roads as Automobiles are cheaper to buy.

Part Three
The Future of Suburbs and Public Transportation.

I go through the above to show you how we became what we are. To eliminate the Automobile would mean to reverse most of the above. Public Transportation has not been viewed as a serious transportation option for most commuters since about 1964 (and I am being generous, I believe we have to go back to the 1920s to see HOW our society has to be structured when we abandoned the automobile). 1964 is the start of the Mall Age of America AND the rule by Suburbia. While the Inner-city would adjust to an oil-less age rapidly (everything tends to be in walking distance and with oil scare most stores will return to the urban core) how can Suburbia switch? I have less concern about Rural America than Suburbia for Rural America can always go back to horses and a life style of going to “Town” once a month (more often when the crop is in). Even Rural industry can adjust by just having the workers move back to the Company towns that still surround most such existing rural industry (Or moving the industry to the inner-city). Most “Rural Industry” tend to be on rail lines anyway so not much a problem for them. Rail tend to be more fuel efficient than Tractor-Trailer AND can more easily convert to electricity as a source of power)

Thus Suburbia is the problem. Bicycle are NOT much help (Please Note I am referring to bicycles in SUBURBIA, I see them as very valuable help in the urban cores AND even rural America). Now Bicycle are quicker than walking, most suburbs have separated work areas from where people live by distances that are to far to bike EVERY DAY. Furthermore most of these work sites are NOT on a rail line so truck transportation is their lifeline (i.e. if oil becomes so scarce that Tractor-Trailer owners can no afford to buy oil, these suburban work shops will die, even if the workers can bike to work).

One last note, when I mention Trains using electricity as a power source, I know you still need some sort of energy to produce the electricity, but that can be Natural Gas(which like oil is in decline), coal, Solar, wind, Hydro and even Nuclear. Thus you have more option than just oil.

In the final review the best solution will be an adjustment to a clearer Urban-Rural divide with what we call Suburbia slowly dying. People will have to move closer to their jobs and those jobs will move closer to the cheapest transportation that will exist at that time (probably rail, but can be barge or ship and even bicycle or horse).

Suburbia will retreat to the old inner cities. Some Suburbs retreating to the new urban cores that exist around some of the malls that exists today. These will survive only if connected to the inner city by a LRV system (Or other rail connection), but once that is up and running you will see people moving closer and closer to these urban cores. For example I see the malls all building apartment complexes for their workers over the existing parking lots. This will permit people who can no longer afford to operate

a car to move closer to their work. As more and more people abandoned the Automobile, do to the increase in oil prices, these people will fill in the areas around the old malls developing what the old downtown of 1900 had, shops and workers. After a while the mall will cover all of their parking lots with such apartments as people other than workers decide to live next to the mall. Just like today’s growth of Suburbia is lubricated by cheap oil, the existence of expensive oil will lubricate a retreat from Suburbia.

In Rural Areas I see the return of the horse and increase rural population. Modern Farming techniques require huge tractors. With fuel expensive, the horse can be competitive but only if the present large farms are broken up into the smaller farms such farms were only a couple of generations ago. Today, a Horse can compete with tractors on farms of less than 50 acres (but you can not survive as a farmer on such a small farms, most farmers who are full time farmers are farming 500+ acres, and to do that you need a huge tractor AND oil to run that tractor). Once oil is to expensive, the economics of farming will change and that will lead to a slow return to smaller farms.

One area where overlap will occur is some of the Mall Age and post Mall age Suburbs. I see the Post-Mall Age Suburbs (and the Mall Age Suburbs not close to a LRV Line) being abandoned and return to farm land. With decrease yields do to reduce use of Natural Gas derived fertilizers we will have to do so to just to feed our present population. Thus as you travel from the rural farm land to the urban core. you will see acres and acres of small farms than move right into urban areas with small yards. Than as you near the urban core you will enter an area of Apartment buildings (no more than six stories high) around a central shopping district (a old mall or an old inner city center). The Cities will be dispersed but compacted, connected by electric rail service (on both LRV system and the old locomotive systems that will convert to Electricity).

In review you see we have only been living in a Automotive dominated society since about 1920, which means it has taken us 90 years to get to where we are. Once we start to convert to non-automotive society it will take us just as long and will require a slow increase in the price of oil (which is expected). Thus whenever oil production peak occurs, that is when we will start the long and “interesting” switch to a post-automotive society.

Side note, one researcher believes that do to the sand oil fields in the West, the US can return to its 1969 peak oil production by 2017. He acknowledges this means oil must stay above $90 a barrel for this to work. He is counting on two things, both of which are questionable. First the recent increase in oil production in the Gulf of Mexico will continued, while I believe it has not yet peaked, I suspect a peak while before 2017. The Second presumption is that out of the Oil Sands we will see a huge increase in oil production, the problem with this is most of the oil in the Oil Sands have to be mined not drilled for. Fracking it may be cheaper but Oil Sands is NOT oil, it is the stuff that would become oil is several more millions years, thus has to be processed into oil, then refined. Much of this oil is marginal, almost one gallon of oil may have to be use to produce one gallon of oil. When that occurs, the oil sands become an energy sink and thus only good as a base for products people are willing to pay a premium for (Oil inside an engine used to lubricate the engine for example).

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Reply Here is a paper I have been working on in regards to the Growth and decline of Streetcars in the USA (Original post)
happyslug Dec 2011 OP
KamaAina Dec 2011 #1
happyslug Dec 2011 #3
phantom power Dec 2011 #2
Kennah Dec 2011 #4
NYC_SKP Dec 2011 #5
happyslug Dec 2011 #6
NYC_SKP Dec 2011 #7
happyslug Jan 2012 #12
Saving Hawaii Jan 2012 #15
JDPriestly Jan 2012 #8
wtmusic Jan 2012 #9
happyslug Jan 2012 #10
wtmusic Jan 2012 #11
happyslug Jan 2012 #13
wtmusic Jan 2012 #14
happyslug Jan 2012 #16
happyslug Feb 2013 #17

Response to happyslug (Original post)

Mon Dec 19, 2011, 07:12 PM

1. We're also discussing smart growth, so you're right on


Going back to pre-1920s (predominantly rural and small-town) America isn't the answer. Whatever a post-suburban America will look like, it won't be that.

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Response to KamaAina (Reply #1)

Tue Dec 20, 2011, 01:24 PM

3. To understand where we are going, you must understand where we came from


As I said at the end of my paper, what people did in the pre-oil age can help us to adjust to a post oil age. One of the chief problems will be food production. Can electrical devices be made that are as superior to the horse as the Gasoline or Diesel power tractor is? Today we have huge tractors that can plow or harvest a field without anyone being in the Tractor (Computers run the tractors along pre set guidelines via GPS). The problem with such machines is not the computers, but they are all diesel powered. As oil production decline. what will replace diesels in such applications? The alternatives are NOT as "nice".

Bio-Diesel and Rural farming
Bio-diesel is the front runner, but it depends hauling the crop to a processor to be made into diesel. Recent studies have indicated that this is almost a one gallon of Diesel for one Gallon of Bio-diesel ratio (And the study was being generous, indication that it may even be lower, one gallon of Diesel to produce 1/2 gallon of Bio-diesel). Bio-Diesel main advantage is that it requires no extra power source on the farm. I suspect it will be only a short term solution given the cost to produce bio-diesel in terms of energy, but it is a factor,

Electrical power Tractors
Electrical powered devices are another alternative. The problem with electrical powered devices is the storage of electrical power. A gallon of Gasoline can produce the same amount of power as 100s of batteries. With diesel this ratio is even worse. On a large farm with a large tractor, the weight of the batteries may make the tractor to heavy for many fields. Furthermore the tractor will have to return to be charged several times a day given how little power batteries store compared to oil. Furthermore to get the tractor charged rapidly a high power charger must be present on the farm, thus a retro-fit on most farms of such charges. This is complicated by the fact most Farms are serviced by Rural Co-ops, which by their very nature have limited ability to provide power to farms. This is due to the small demand such farms have today, compared to a suburban neighborhood of the same number of acres, AND that they are miles away from any electrical power source which means you will have major shifts in voltage as farmers hook up and unhook such electrical chargers (Rural electrics are noted for having high number of voltage spikes during the day, given the distance from the power source and the number of farmers on the same power line).

Panto-graphs and tractors
The other way to provide power to Electrical devices, a direct hook up via a panto-graph, is generally not viable for it would be used no more then three to four times a year. On certain farms I see such a system being developed and used but its use on most farms restricted. I do see such panto-graphs being used, as they are used today on AMTRAK trains in the Northeast. I foresee freight trains adopting them first, then such panto-graphs being put on the Interstate so that truckers can use them. These would be highly used given the need to transport goods from place to place, and being electrical NOT dependent on what is the undelying power supply (The power supply may be excess power from Solar Roof Panels discussed below, the problems with getting the power to the interstate is NOT as severe as to farms, for the simple reason the interstate can use the power several times a day, if not an hour, thus justifying the upgrading of the power lines to such overhead wires).

That leaves the horse. Even today, on farms of less then 50 acres, it is more efficient to use a horse then a tractor. Now, most farmers can NOT stay full time farmers as such small farms, but it may be the wave of the future for the alternatives are NOT that much better.

The internet
Now, in other areas of the Economy, we have many viable alternatives to how we did things in the 1920s. For example, it may be more energy efficient to get one's information via the net then via the mail Shipping of books may cost more in terms of energy then providing internet service to everyone, even people in rural America.

Paved roads
One of the aspects of Oil age America has been a massive improvement in the Roads of the US. During the 1921 West Virginia Coal War, reporters wanted to go to the scene of the battle and decided to DRIVE to the location. After a day of going up and down the Mountains of Southern West Virginia they were happy when they came across a Train Station where they could switch to a train, the roads were that bad at that time. Since that time we have seen a MASSIVE expenditure on improving the roads in the US. Today, it is easy to drive the Roads of West Virginia do to this improvement. While this improvement included paving these roads, it also meant straightening them out, eliminated bad intersections, moving them to the edge of towns instead of going through them etc. All of these improvements will survive the transition to a post oil era. We will being using these roads for decades if not centuries from now. This will permit quicker movement of goods, even if the only transport available is a horse drawn wagon (I suspect it will be some sort of electrical powered truck, using overhead wires on major highways and batteries for short trips off such highways).

Roof Solar Panels

Solar panels are dropping in price, I suspect that sooner or later all new homes will be required to have them installed AND anyone who gets a new roof on an old home will have to get them installed at the same time. Such panels will provide power to the house and any excess power would go into the grid. Along with Wind and Hydro power, almost all renewable. If combines with Hydro and wind a good base for electrical power. When the wind in not blowing and the Sun is not out, Hydro can provide the power needed. When the wind is blowing or the sun is out, Hydro can be kept in reserve (and any excess wind or solar electrical power used to pump water uphill to be used as hydro power when needed, a more efficient electrical storage system them batteries).

Now, I do NOT think this combination will provide enough electrical power to fully charge an electric car in a day, but can do so if the car is NOT used every day and thus only need charged after it has been used AND that can be once a week or even less. The more efficient use would be to encourage people to bike to the local electrical streetcar or bus stop and use the bicycle or electrical streetcar or bus to go to and from work. Small electric bicycles, which require a much smaller battery then a car, can provide such transportation for people who live to far from a electrical streetcar or bus.

Side note: The above is based on an Automobile that can do what modern Automobiles can do, if you downgrade performance (i.e. Max speed at 25 mph not 105 mph as is the case of the Prius), the automobile can go further then the today's hybrids can go on electrical power alone. Electrical bicycle can go further then electrical cars, for Electrical bicycles tend to be restricted to under 25 mph today (Aided by the fact such electrical bicycles can be pushed and peddled unlike electrical automobiles, this if offset, but only to a degree, by the fact that automobiles have bodies designed to minimize the effect of wind). Lower performance, lower energy costs.

I point the above out in my conclusion on my paper, the post oil age will be different then the pre-oil age, but in some aspects the same. Technology will be different in 2100 then it was in 1900, and will be using more power (and more efficiently) in 2100 then we were using in 1900, but some of the problems that were common in 1900 will be problems in 2100. Furthermore the solutions of the pre-oil age may be more efficient then any other solution. On the other hand new technology may make what we did in 1900 look stupid when it comes to energy. Only time will tell (for example I may be wrong as to Rural America but somehow I doubt it, the horse can be a very efficient method of farming if you accept the limitation of the horse). The alternatives to oil are NOT as "nice" from an energy point of view and that will be the biggest problem of the 21st century.

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Response to happyslug (Original post)

Tue Dec 20, 2011, 09:40 AM

2. studying dumb growth is an important part of studying smart growth

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Response to phantom power (Reply #2)

Sun Dec 25, 2011, 05:17 PM

4. I had a manager who used to say ...

... nothing is ever a complete failure. It can always serve as an excellent bad example.

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Response to happyslug (Original post)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 11:47 AM

5. The "first mile - last mile" challenge for implementing inter-urbans...


Any thoughts?

We are trying to promote ridership on our existing system, and hoping to expand services to include what might be the nation's first high speed rail (Altamont).

The first mile last mile problem is to provide simple cheap ways to get from home to station and from station to final destination.

Studies have been done and practices are in place now for bike rentals, zip cars, Trikkes, and Segways.

It's an interesting problem, especially in the suburban sprawl of Northern California, and specifically the SF Bay Area and Central Valley.

Any thoughts?

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Response to NYC_SKP (Reply #5)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 07:53 PM

6. Some thoughts


1. Encouraging pedestrian travel to the Transit stop.

I am surprised by the people who do NOT know how far is a Mile NOR how long it would take them to walk a mile. I remember telling a teacher I walked a mile to school every day, and she told me I did not (I recently did that trip on Google Maps, and it was 2/3rds of a mile, still a long haul for a 1st to 6th grader). As an adult that is not far, but as a child is was a long distance.

I bring it up for many people have no idea how far they can walk nor how fast. The last time they did mileage walking was as a child to and from school. Thus a mile is a distance for them, but as an adult it is not. Most people can do 3 miles per hour, thus a one mile hike is about 20 minutes in time. In many ways, time is a better way to look at the distance to the stop then mileage.

Looking at the old 42/38 Streetcar line in Pittsburgh, the cut off tends to be a mile or 20 minutes walking. In the Mt Lebanon Suburb of Pittsburgh you can see this. Bower Hill Road ended at Washington road, which the 42/38 Streetcar ran on. For about the mile of its length you see mostly American Four Square housing (Bullt 1900-1940). You have businesses right next to the Streetcars (and apartment complexes) but right behind them individual four squares. As you move away from the Streetcar you see the Garages getting bigger (i.e. built later 1920s instead of 1910s).

Now do to the Great Depression, housing died in 1928, made a brief recovery in 1938-1942, then died again do to WWII, then picked up again in 1946. The Four Squares by 1945 were no longer in Style, mostly do to the fact many people wanted a smaller cheaper house to live in. Thus the Ranch became the main American home being built after 1945 (Through the Ranch did NOT dominate the housing market post 1945 as the Four Square had done 1890-1945).

On the Streetcar line you do NOT see ranch systle home till you are over a mile away from the Streetcar AND once you cross a Major highway that intersects with Bower Hill Road. It is like you cross some border (Through this whole area is in Mt Lebanon Township). Between Cochran and Washington Road, the area around Bower Hill road is dominated by Four Squares (and Bower Hill Road itself is a two lane, one lane in each direction, highway). Once you cross Cochran, you enter a four lane highway (Two lanes in each direction) and at first you see some upscale homes, but quickly changes to Ranches and other post WWII types homes. The lawns are bigger and the homes are further apart. These homes are to far to walk to the Streetcar line.

My point is while a mile walk (or a 20 minute walk) seems to be a cut off, another set of cut off is having to cross a major highway. In any discussion you have to address these problems. In my experience crossing of any major highway, even with a walk sign, is a killer for pedestrian traffic. People will walk up to a mile, but will refuse to cross a major highway (and the more lanes the worse).

2. Bicycles

As to other means of getting to the transit stop, bicycle, etc. The time distance is about the same, cut off at about 20 minutes (In the case of bicycles that is about three to four miles). Given that a Eastern US County is only about 20 miles North to South, or East to West (Western Counties are larger, through Northern California Counties seem to follow the Eastern Rule), and four miles in each direction from a transit stop Four transit system can cover a whole county (six times four is 24, and all we need to cover is 20 miles, eight times four is 32).

I do NOT see major highways as a block to bicyclist as such highways act as to pedestrians, but you then have the problem of what to do with the bike? I have seen oversea pictures where a lot of bikes are locked and parked in lots. I just do NOT see many Americans doing that unless their can Secure their bicycles

3. Bicycles lockers as advertisement

I have always been tempted to develop a locker for bicycle. The locker would have a track in the Bottom middle for its wheels, and long enough for the bike to be pushed into the locker, and wide enough for a bicycle with conventional handlebars can it in. Lockable like a regular locker, This has the advantage of keeping the bike clean and anyone trying to take the bike, will NOT know if the bike is actually in the Locker or, for it would be sealed (and no way to know what type of bike either).

Now, one way to reduce weight on a bicycle is NOT to carry a lock, instead leave the lock where you normally lock your bike up and use the lock when you get to that point. The Bike locker idea came out of that concept, a huge lock on the locker, kept locked except when removing or putting the bike in the locker.

Now, the bike locker is a concept I think is coming, but I have NOT heard of any yet. Ideas are NOT be patented, so whoever design one can patent his or her design. I bring it up as a potential advertising gimmick.

Now, you must understand that Advertising is more then ads on Television, radio, newspapers etc, it is the whole concept of getting ideals to the public. You could come up with a design for such a locker at an area near a transit stop. Propose it for that stop and how people 3-4 miles away could use their bikes to get to the transit stop, drop off their bike in the Locker and then go to work. You could even propose it in two different stations so someone can ride his or her bike from home to the Station, ride transit, then go to his of her other locker at that second stop, take out a second bike and ride the remaining distance to work

Propose it locally, print out handbills and pass them around. Someone MAY even like the idea, but the real reason for the proposal is to show that people CAN ride a bike to the station, secure their bike and take transit to work. You mention how such rides and securing a bicycle is done WITHOUT the locker as what people do NOW, while saying how much better it would be if the lockers were installed.

The purpose is to expose people to the idea of riding a bike to the station and how they can secure their bicycle TODAY. The proposal doe bicycle locker is just a way to get people to read what can be done TODAY without those lockers. Mention how far someone can bike in 15 minutes, don't use miles, use time AND most importantly HOW (and that is seems like minutes, avoid terms like quarter of an hour or a third of an hour, any measurement in regards to hours is just to long, minutes sound shorter. For example, without thinking, which of these two phases SOUND shorter "60 minutes" or "One Hour"? Most people (Who are willing to suspend their understand that 60 minutes is one hour) will opt for "60 Minutes" for the simple reason Minutes sound shorter then anything measured in Hours.

I like the Bicycle locker as an advertisement gimmick for the simple reason it sounds reasonable and at the same time bizarre. Most people had lockers in School, but one big enough for a Bicycle?

Now someone may have made something like a locker for bicycles if you find it, mention it in any broadsheet. Bring it up in any meeting within reasonable distance of the transit stop, just to get people to think about it AND thus also to the idea of biking to work. A Locker for a bicycle is such an idea coming so far out of left field that people will reject it, but well rejecting it are then exposed to the idea of biking then taking transit.

4. Denser population tend to follow transit stops

Most Light rail/Streetcar systems (and other such means of transportation) tend to encourage development around the system (I will use the Term LRV from this point forward, but my comments also extend to Monorails, rubber tires automated systems, even bus ways). The biggest problem it sometimes takes years for people to accept these changes.

What is now the 42 LRV system in Pittsburgh Pa was first built in 1905 it was through sparsely populated areas. Within ten years you had large number of housing being purchased near it, with businesses and apartments right next to it. This phenomena continues today, when a subway or LRV is built, the value of the land near the system goes up and tends to be purchased by the people who will put it to the most profitable use. This tends to change the area from a sparsely populated area to a more high density populated area. In the period of 1905-1920 you saw a lot of new housing, older homes being torn down for apartments. In the 1920s you even saw the development of the first generation of "Suburban" Branches of downtown stores.

An example of this was the former Horne's store at the end of the 42 route. Horne's in Pittsburgh was the upscale Macy's and moved to it first suburban location in the 1920s, but at the end of the streetcar line so people in cars could get to it, but so could people who used the streetcars.

Notice it took time, Horne's did not move till 20-30 years AFTER the Streetcar line was installed. This lag time is NOT unusual, for it take time for people to change they ways of thinking how things are. In 1905-1920 the thought was people could just take the Streetcar to the main store, but the 1920s it was clear some customers wanted to stay in the suburbs. It took a while for the stores to accept that this change had occurred. (Side Note Horne's moved out of the store at the end of the 42 line in the 1970s, for it had opened a bigger store further out as part of the First enclosed mall in Pittsburgh, South Hills Village in 1964).

Other downtown Pittsburgh Stores also moved to the end of the Streetcar Tracks in the 1920s and 1930s (and further out in the 1960s and 1970s). Much of this was in response to the Automobile, but by staying close the Streetcar tracks, people (including most of the sales staff) could also use Streetcars to get to the store.

My first point is simple, leave things occur on their own pace. Point them out to others when they occur, but people will tend to minimize their travel time, and if that means moving close to the Streetcar they will do so even if that means living closer to their neighbors then they have been,

5. Tell stories how using transit can can cost of living

Sooner or later the price of gasoline will go back up. When the oil price increased occurred in the 1970s, I would take myself and my sisters on the 42/38 Streetcar to South Hill Junction and then take the 36 Drake line. The 36 Drake line ran about 1/2 mile from South Hill Village (mentioned above). We had to cross an open field up a slight grade, cross a major highway, but it was worth it for we did NOT have to use any gasoline to get to the mall. We never did this walk alone, a lot of other people exited the Streetcar at the same stop and walked to the Mall. Later on that same year I read that all of the Malls in the Pittsburgh had seen a drop in sales EXCEPT South Hills Village. I suspect the reason was that the number of people who stopped driving to the mall, were replaced by people taking the Streetcar and since most sales is a product of how many people goes to a store, the ability to use the Streetcar explained why South Hills Village was the exception.

Watch for stories like this, you may have to show the connection for many writers of such stories will not. Stories like this tends to encourage use.

Just random thoughts based on your question. I hope I was helpful

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Response to happyslug (Reply #6)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 09:28 PM

7. Thank you.


Out here in suburban sprawled California, distances to the main train station tend to be between from between 2 and 10 miles, for those who would be using rail on a daily basis.

In fact, because the station is in the center of the original downtown and there's been a lack of interest in restoring the city center, there's actually a two-mile "Dead Zone" around the station, a zone in which very few potential riders reside.

That's on the departure end of things for my town. People are going to have to learn to use the bus system or use cars for the foreseeable future, they aren't going to walk 3 or 4 miles or more twice a day. Some might bike some distance, however.

I love the bike locker idea, that serves some number of riders. Also, buses and the train allow riders to bring their bikes with them, no charge.

On the destination end, in places like San Jose, Fremont, Livermore, and other work or shopping destinations, we are looking at Zip Cars, rented bikes, electric bikes, Trikkes, and even Segways.

Electric Bikes, Trikkes, and Seqways have the advantage of not requiring special licenses.

With any of these, however, there needs to be a form of security and coverage for loss, so a small rental fee or government subsidization, and some type of credit card backup to track who's been using which device, these are all being considered.

Thanks again.

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Response to NYC_SKP (Reply #7)

Thu Jan 5, 2012, 12:18 AM

12. Some states (Pennsylvania for example) require such vehicles to be LICENSED.


Pennslvania law as to what MUST be "Registered":

75 Pa.C.S. § 1301 (2011)

§ 1301. Registration and certificate of title required.

(a) Driving unregistered vehicle prohibited. --No person shall drive or move and no owner or motor carrier shall knowingly permit to be driven or moved upon any highway any vehicle which is not registered in this Commonwealth unless the vehicle is exempt from registration

What is Registration:
75 PA C.S. § 102
"Registration." --The authority for a vehicle to operate on a highway as evidenced by the issuance of an identifying card and plate or plates.

What is a "Vehicle" (also under 75 PA C.S. § 102):

"Vehicle." --Every device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices used exclusively upon rails or tracks. The term does not include a self-propelled wheelchair or an electrical mobility device operated by and designed for the exclusive use of a person with a mobility-related disability.

Notice the definition of "Vehicles" include bicycles, but bicycles are exemped under 75 P.S. § 1302:

75 Pa.C.S. § 1302 (2011)

§ 1302. Vehicles exempt from registration.

The following types of vehicles are exempt from registration:

(7) Any vehicle moved solely by human or animal power.

I did list the whole section, but it contain nothing but exemptions as to vehicles of car dealers, Farming equipment, towing equipment if towed by a licensed vehicle and other items that rarely go on the public road (For example golf carts that CROSS a highway, does not have to have a license, but if it is used elsewhere it must be licensed) Thus in Pennsylvania "Electric Bikes and Trikkes" MUST be licensed and while I am not citing the statute, so must the operator of such vehicles.

My point is that in many states, it is a licensed vehicle operated by a licensed operator or a bicycle (With the Segway as alternative).

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Response to happyslug (Reply #6)

Thu Jan 5, 2012, 06:31 AM

15. See bicycle lockers at the park and rides in Seattle

The more traditional bike racks as well. Not certain how much use bicycle lockers get, can't really see inside them obviously.

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Response to happyslug (Original post)

Wed Jan 4, 2012, 03:58 PM

8. You are describing what is happening in LA when you talk about the move

from the suburbs to the inner city.

Unfortunately, the streetcar tracks that ran down many, many of our streets were removed years ago. How I wish we had them now.

We live on a hill, and on the sides of the hills, the streetcar company built stairs to that the folks living on the hill could walk up and down from the streetcar stops.

Maybe we will wise up and rebuild some similar sort of public transportation system. It sure would clean up the air. And the walking would do everyone good.

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Response to happyslug (Original post)

Wed Jan 4, 2012, 07:13 PM

9. The Great GM Conspiracy was not a "claim". It happened.

"GM and other companies were subsequently convicted in 1949 of conspiring to monopolize the sale of buses and related products via a complex network of linked holding companies including National City Lines and Pacific City Lines."


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Response to wtmusic (Reply #9)

Wed Jan 4, 2012, 10:40 PM

10. My point was to put the Conspiracy at its proper level


I pointed out many of the same points the Wikipedia cite gives, I was just pointing out that the Claim by Snell was excessive for the facts he had. Even the Wikipedia article you cite, points out the problem was less illegal brides or conspiracy, but old fashion and legal lobbying i.e. informing politicians how to better transportation and emphasizing bus instead of rail, providing funding for buses, but not streetcars, running ad campaigns that showed streetcars as old and obsolete, but cars and buses the wave of the future.

All of those activities are legal and most transportation departments fell to them (I even pointed out that the one book almost every transportation manager used to design highways called not only streetcars but buses and pedestrians "traffic impediments". To truly understand how the Streetcar systems were killed off (and why so many did survive) you have to understand it was NOT illegal activities that did in the Streetcars, but legal activities such as lobbying, providing funding for buses only, providing free copies of books on how to design highways, that minimized anything but automobile traffic.

And that GM was NOT alone is this attack on the Streetcar system, Hurst input in the death of the New York Streetcar Line is well known and his push affected other cities. Cheap gasoline of the 1940s till the early 1970s was often the final nail it a coffin of a transportation system already under attack (and the public policy that encouraged cheap gas had more affect then any other single factor). The second biggest factor was the break up of the Utilities that separated the Streetcars from its potential source of revenue to rebuild when the system was do to be rebuilt. These all had more affect then GM's attacks on the system, GM's plans just made it sure that not only the inefficient Streetcar lines would go under but even the marginal profitable ones would also go under.

Thus the purpose of my comment was NOT to dismiss the conspiracy but to place it in content of what else the Streetcars were up against. The worse part was bad press by just being on the street. That build up more pressure to get rid of Streetcars then any other single factor. That build up of opposition was encouraged and egged on by GM, but again that is something NOT illegal, and thus something we must understand so we can try to make sure it does NOT happen again.

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Response to happyslug (Reply #10)

Thu Jan 5, 2012, 12:12 AM

11. I'm not sure how you can say that

when in your own post you write:

"Urban Streetcar lines. These actually THRIVED in the 1920s and 1930s and plans were made to EXPAND them at that time period. For example Pittsburgh’s peak year for Streetcar use was 1927, but passengers still were close to that number till after WWII. Los Angles Peak Streetcar use year was 1944. Even after WWII if urban areas had a choice AND not forced to adopt buses for political reasons (Political reasons seems to be the reason New York City started to replace its streetcars with buses in the mid 1930s) the first choice was for Streetcars. For example the City of Johnstown, the smallest city ever to use the PCC Streetcars, purchased them after WWII, for even at that date you could haul more people at lower costs with Streetcars then with the buses of the post WWII Era. Urban Streetcars did not see a substantial drop in ridership till after WWII."

Some coincidence that National City Lines/Pacific City Lines were set up during that exact period as sham "holding companies" with one purpose and one purpose only: to dismantle electric rail:

"In 1936, National City Lines, an existing bus operation which had been founded in 1920 by an E. Roy Fitzgerald and his brother[4] was re-organized into a holding company. In 1938, Pacific City Lines was formed to purchase streetcar systems in the western United States."

Both were:

"incorporated in Delaware, which does not require disclosure of any public information about directors or shareholders. It is clear that the parties involved did not want to be traced."

You're correct that it wasn't only GM, it involved Firestone Tire & Rubber in coordination with the largest oil companies of the day - making it even more of a monopoly. And it wasn't just Bradford Snell who thought so:

"Joseph Alioto, mayor of San Francisco, and also an antitrust attorney testified that 'General Motors and the automobile industry generally exhibit a kind of monopoly evil', also that GM 'has carried on a deliberate concerted action with the oil companies and tire companies...for the purpose of destroying a vital form of competition; namely, electric rapid transit.' Tom Bradley, mayor of Los Angeles testified, saying that GM, through its subsidiaries, had "scrapped" the Pacific Electric and Los Angeles streetcar systems leaving the electric train system 'totally destroyed'."

It was most certainly not "legal lobbying" - whether it was successfully prosecuted or not. GM made $billions from selling buses and was fined $5,000! God knows what kind of corruption got all of them off the hook, but anyone who doubts a significant amount of money changed hands - illegally - is just naive:

"The purpose of the Sherman Act is not to protect businesses from the working of the market; it is to protect the public from the failure of the market. The law directs itself not against conduct which is competitive, even severely so, but against conduct which unfairly tends to destroy competition itself. This focus of U.S. competition law, on protection of competition rather than competitors, is not necessarily the only possible focus or purpose of competition law. For example, it has also been said that competition law in the European Union (EU) tends to protect the competitors in the marketplace, even at the expense of market efficiencies and consumers."


In terms of perspective:

"There is also acknowledgment that the Great Depression, the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, labor unrest, market forces, rapidly increasing traffic congestion, taxation policies that favored private vehicle ownership, urban sprawl, and general enthusiasm for the automobile played a major or possibly more significant role."

leaving the door open to a conclusion that illegal antitrust actions by the largest corporations in existence could possibly be the main reason for the disappearance of American urban light rail. That is the "proper level" of significance for these truly heinous crimes and your paper should acknowledge it.

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Response to wtmusic (Reply #11)

Thu Jan 5, 2012, 01:14 AM

13. One aspect you are missing is who was buying cars in the 1920s and the hatred of Streetcars


Working people in urban areas were NOT buying cars in the 1920s, in fact most will not do so till after WWII. The main thrust of car companies in the 1920s and 1930s were the Upper Middle Class in the Urban centers (i.e. the top 10% of the population in Urban Areas) AND Rural America. Henry Ford started this push, GM picked it up.

At the same time both Ford And GM where going after the Rural Market, they knew they biggest competitor in much of Rural America was the Interurban. The Interurban, do to have a decent track bed, was reliable in almost all weather, something cars were NOT noted for it that time period given the quality of Gasoline (Octane did NOT reach 87 till 1936 and then only for Airplanes) AND the lack of paved roads (US 30, the first PAVED coast to Coast road was only finished in 1927).

While the problem of Octane was something the Car Makers and the Oil companies had to work out among themselves (And took US intervention in the form of the Army refusing to buy anything less then 87 Octane Gasoline during WWII to get Octane up to 87 on most gasoline sold in the US), the problem of the poor conditions of the rural roads the Car companies had to get the State Highway Departments to work on. This started when the Car companies were able to get the States to pass Gasoline taxes to pay for the Roads. This provided most (but not all) of the funds for improving rural roads in the US (Urban Roads were almost all paved by the 1920s, but even after the 1920s those Urban Roads had to be paid out of City Taxes NOT the Gasoline taxes).

This improvements in the Rural Roads killed off most of the Interurbans in the 1920s, some survived till the early 1930s when the Depression killed off most of what was left (Western Pennsylvania's Interurbans survived till the 1950s do to the expense of building roads in Western Pennsylvania, do to terrain it cost almost twice as much as Eastern Pennsylvania but with even Western Pa laws being improved even these last of the Interurbans were doomed).

What the interurbans (and later the City Streetcars) needed in the 1940s and 1950s was outside funding, instead GM operated a very slick ad campaign against them.

My point was Streetcars starting in the 1920s had to many things going against them to survive. GM and Ford did NOT help the situation (and GM clearly made it worse) but most of their actions were legal even under the Sherman Anti-trust act. Yes GM was found Guilty in 1949 when it came to the Streetcar system of California, but it was deemed a minor harm by the Jury given their award of $1 damages against most of the Defendants in that case.

No one in power in the US wanted to protect the Streetcars in the 1920s to the 1970s, only when people started to demand decent public transportation do to the Energy Crisis of the 1970s did the attack on the Streetcars end. In rural America the end of Streetcars was the rule by WWII, Urban American Streetcars lasted longer do to greater use, but the hatred of Streetcars was greater in Urban America among the Upper Middle Class then it has ever been in Rural America. It was this hatred the drove much of the Anti-Streetcar Movement of the 1940s to the 1960s.

The hatred of Streetcars by the Upper Middle Class did not end in the 1960s, it lasted another 10 years till it became clear that Light Rail Vehicles were often the best option in high density urban areas. One of the last attacks on the Streetcars incurred in Pittsburgh from about 1964-1974. This is referred to a the "Skybus Debacle" by the people who lived through it.

I was involved in the "Skybus" debacle, I opposed "Skybus" on its proposed route, which was an attempt to replace the last Streetcars. Those Streetcars could NOT be replaced by buses for the Streetcars ran on their own right of way, and the roads the replacement buses would operate on was already so full of traffic there was no way such buses could maintain anything close to time it took the Streetcars to operate in the same area.

The City of Pittsburgh's "Solution" to this problem of being unable to get rid of its last Streetcars, was to replace the Streetcars with an elevated rubber tired automated system, it had fewer stops, no greater speed and the people along the proposed route hated it, but it was seen as the only way to get rid of the last streetcars in Pittsburgh.

That debacle lasted almost a decade till everyone decided to finally do a study on the options, and the study reported what everyone along the line already knew, the Streetcars was the best option on that route. That did NOT end the debate for even then they was massive objections to keeping the Streetcars, not from the people who would be using it, but the powers that be, they hated streetcars that much.

Most of this was opposition by the Upper Middle Class from having to share roads with the Streetcars. As I said in my paper, this group hated Streetcars for they saw the Streetcars as things that prevented them from driving their cars. In many ways the reason the Jury found GM liability so low in 1949, was most juries of that time period tended to be made up of Upper Middle Class Americans, the same group of Americans who most hated Streetcars. In many ways GM counted on that hatred and encouraged it with its tactics but that again is NOT illegal even through the effect can be more damaging then if GM bribed people.

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Response to happyslug (Reply #13)

Thu Jan 5, 2012, 01:51 AM

14. Where on earth are you getting this imagined "hatred" of streetcars?

They were at the height of their popularity when they were scrapped by GM et al - you seem to be more influenced by lingering GM PR than any actual history. For example, can you give any accounting whatsoever for your claim that

"No one in power in the US wanted to protect the Streetcars in the 1920s to the 1970s"
"the hatred of Streetcars was greater in Urban America among the Upper Middle Class then it has ever been in Rural America"
"The hatred of Streetcars by the Upper Middle Class did not end in the 1960s"
"...even then they was massive objections to keeping the Streetcars...but the powers that be, they hated streetcars that much".

This is nonsense - cities loved them. They were economical, and they worked. And you seem to think that bribes are required for illegal activity (antitrust has nothing to do with bribes) or that a running total of offenses is what determines guilt ("most of their actions were legal even under the Sherman Anti-trust act" ). They were guilty of antitrust - coordination with other companies to put still other companies out of business - and that is historical fact:

"Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony..."

What can't be accounted for is the leniency of their sentences, given the enormous scope and damage of their actions, which is where I'm certain bribes did come into play.

Finally, if you want to challenge mayors of two CA cities who saw the great GM conspiracy destroy their public rail systems, be my guest. Tom Bradley was my mayor for 18 years and the entire time he was regarded as a straight shooter. Unless you have can prove you know more about Los Angeles public transportation than he did, you have not a leg to stand on.

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Response to wtmusic (Reply #14)

Thu Jan 5, 2012, 05:36 PM

16. As I commented in my paper, the hatred was from the Powers the be NOT the people


Hurst absolutely hated Streetcars. for he was one of the first owners of an Automobile in New York City. The "Builder" of New York City, Robert Morris hated Streetcars for the same reason,, their perceived streetcars as interfering with auto traffic.

More on Robert Morris:

Given that in the 1920s and 1930s it was the wealthiest 10% of the population who was buying Automobiles AND these also tend to be people in control of finance that most politicians need to run their political Campaigns, what they wanted was given greater weight then what the people wanted. It was the hatred of Streetcars from this population that killed off Streetcars (And in the pre-automobile days, prior to about 1920, this same group favored Streetcars during their expansion days for it permitted them to live away from their work and commute between home and work, this produced the "Trolley Suburbs" I mentioned in my paper).

I agree with you people loved their Streetcars, I remember my father talking about the time he took the Streetcars to the Race track south of Pittsburgh (The Meadowlands outside Canonsburg PA) in the late 1940s. I remember him taking me to Pittsburgh, by first driving to the Streetcar stop then taking the Streetcar (This was BEFORE my family moved next to the other surviving Streetcar line in Pittsburgh).

At the same time when, after Collage about 1981, I applied for a state job in Downtown Pittsburgh, I could see the shock disbelief from the state employees interviewing me when I told them I would NOT be driving Downtown, but taking the Streetcar. Pittsburgh has one of the largest number of users of Public Transit in the Country, yet these supervisors could NOT see any of their employee doing anything then driving to work which is how they themselves traveled to work.

In my early teens I had to fight, along with my father, to preserve our local streetcar line in the 1970s for the same reason, the people in power hated Streetcars.

In the 1980s, a then retired County Highway Manager mentioned this absolute hatred of Streetcars by the ruling elite of Pittsburgh, no one challenged that statement, even as the local Paper published his comments in the editorial section of the Paper. Everyone knew it was true. It was not the professional planners who hatred streetcars, it was not the people who hated streetcars but the people in power and their financial supporters and it was that group, more then anyone else who killed off Streetcars. Robert Moses of New York is just the best know of these powers that be, but it was a whole multi-generational movement that lasted well into the last years of the 20th century.

Just pointing out there was hatred of the Streetcar system, not by the people using the Streetcars, but by the people driving cars in the 1920s and 1930s (The Upper Middle Class). When Streetcars were killed off after WWII, it was do to the Working class finally abandoning them for the car, but that switch to Cars made it clear that it was the Automobile causing Traffic Jams NOT Streetcars (Which much of the Upper Middle class blamed in the 1920s through the 1960s when the Streetcars finally were gone and thus could no be blamed for traffic jams).

Thus by the 1970s you started to see the hatred of the Streetcars dying out for the simple reason no one could blame it any longer for traffic jams AND the few remaining Streetcars, when they shut down for any reason, lead to even worse traffic jams. This made it clear that Streetcars REDUCED traffic jams and the people who use to hate them for causing traffic jams, then embraced them as the solution to traffic jams (Again the Upper Middle Class).

As I reported in my paper, prior to the late 1940s, most working class people WALKED to work (As did BOTH of my Grandfathers). It is only with the low gasoline prices and access to used cars did the working class embraced the automobile starting in the late 1940s (as did my Father and his brothers and sisters). This embraced permitted them to move to the Suburbs (and for this reason the Ranch style home became the most common type of home built Post WWII, replacing the much more expensive to build and maintain Four Square that had dominated housing from 1890 till 1930).

While there was no hatred of Streetcar among 90% of the population, the top 10% hatred them immensely. This group controlled the media so that hatred was spread.

Furthermore, people tend to follow the example of their "Betters". Most of this is do to the fact people promote people like themselves and thus the best way to get promoted is to do as the boss does (including adopting his hatreds, in this case the top 10% hatred of Streetcars). This phenomena is well known and even people who claim they are NOT affected by such tendencies have been shown to follow such tendencies. Thus the hatred of Streetcars built on itself from the 1920s onward, with GM doing all it can to spread that hatred, but also making sure it could not be sued for liable (This the tendency to do it on the quiet).

Maybe because I lived in the last years of that hatred of Streetcars, and I know about it, saw it in action and thus I down play the role of GM in the switch of streetcars to buses for that hatred was by far the greater factor. People tend to forget about that hatred, for it is convenient to do so today. That hatred was alive and well in the 1970s when I came of age and you should have seen the hatred from the media and the upper 10% when it came out the best replacement for the last Streetcars in Pittsburgh was a new Streetcar system (Called an Light Rail Vehicle, LRV). When it became clear that the other 90% of the population liked the idea, the concept was reluctantly accepted, but the hatred still existed and those same powers that be did all they could do to make Pittsburgh New (in 1982) LRV system fail. When the LRV system succeeded beyond what was expected, the same powers that be even raised the rates on the LRVs over what people would pay if they took a bus, and the use of the LRV increased even more (The "Surcharge" technically was to encourage people to schedule their LRV trips at non-rush hour times, but it still was a surcharge to take the LRV over taking a bus).

GM has not been known to do anything as to Streetcars since the 1950s (When most of the Urban Streetcars converted to buses), and GM has NOT been accused of opposing LRVs since the LRVs resurgence in the 1970s, thus the attacks on Streetcars/LRVs since the 1960s have been relatively GM free, but that hatred of Streetcars still re-appears every so often, it is ingrain very deeply among some people (Mostly the upper 10% who want to be able to drive to and from work). I saw the hatred of streetcars first hand, and I saw the affect it had on the fight to keep the last streetcar line in Pittsburgh.

This hatred of Streetcars existed, and to a limited degree still exists (A recent comment form the agency that runs the Pittsburgh Mass Transit System commented on how slow the Pittsburgh LRV system is compared to other LRV systems and then called it a bus on rails, as a disparagement, but that what a Streetcar is a bus on rails, but one that can haul more people faster then a bus).

I point it out that the hatred of Streetcars is alive and well, it is tied in with Suburbia and the movement of EMPLOYMENT to Suburbia. That is a separate subject that I touched on briefly in my paper. This hatred is no longer the claim that Streetcars are causing traffic jams, but that Streetcars represent an rejection of Suburbia in that it shows that people can live comfortably without an automobile. That idea is rejected by many in suburbia but if energy prices continue to go the way they have been, suburbia may find itself rejected, just like the embracing of the Automobile showed the rejection of Streetcars by many Americans.

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Response to happyslug (Reply #13)

Tue Feb 26, 2013, 01:47 PM

17. Found a Paper that attacks the idea that Streetcars were superior to buses


Last edited Tue Feb 26, 2013, 07:13 PM - Edit history (2)


My favorite "fact" used in the paper is operating cost per mile. Yes Buses were cheaper to run then streetcars on a per mile basis, for buses did NOT need to maintain their own right of way (Which cut costs, cost shifted to whatever ran the municipal road department). The problem is the REAL TEST is NOT cost per mile, but cost per mile PER PASSENGER. When comparing on a per mile basis, you are comparing buses and streetcars like comparing a tractor trailer with a SMART car, on which has the lowest cost per mile. The SMART car will wins hand down. If you add per ton of cargo to the mix, the Tractor Trailer wins, hands down.

The same when you compare per mile instead of per mile per passenger when you compare buses with Streetcars, especially in the days before the 1950s when buses tended to be much shorter then today's buses. Buses were kept short, for most roads could NOT handle long wheel base vehicles (The rear wheels will always go inside the front wheels on sharp turns). Streetcars, being restricted by rails, could operate on such streets for the rear wheels HAD to go on the same rails as the front wheels. Thus Streetcars could be LONGER then buses till Cities re-design their roads for larger vehicles (And most did by the 1960s, due to pressure from the Trucking industry who wanted to use larger and larger trucks).

Another problem with this book, is after attacking Snell's report on the Streetcar Conspiracy (Which other's have attacked, including people who believe such a conspiracy existed, but no where near the level Snell claims), he then kept on citing it to attack any other attack on people who supported Streetcars instead of buses. In fact one commentator made the comment that if he was in conspiracies, he would claim Snell's report was pushed by GM, as part of a plan to cover up the real conspiracy, by making any claim of conspiracy look like a product of the loony bin, for what GM did was nasties then what Snell claimed, but more local and the product of GM due to legal lobbying the anything legal (Through some illegal bribes at the local level in the form of low cost cars have been hinted at, but not proven or provable today given the passage of time).

The author also ignores the effect of lobbying the Various State's Highway departments as to how roads should be built and such State Highway Departments refusal to permit Streetcars on State Highways, even when it was shown they made more money then buses on those routes. An example of this was a Streetcar line on a State Highway Bridge near Cincinnati in the 1940s or 1950s (it has been a few years since I read about the incident). It was time to replace the old Bridge with a New Bridge. It was agreed that the Streetcar company would test out buses on the New Bridge, but if they were NOT as profitable as Streetcars, the State Highway department would install the Streetcar system. The State Highway Department agreed to this, thinking they was no way buses would be inferior to Streetcars, but when that came out and the Streetcar company ask the Highway Department to fulfill its promise, the Highway Department just said no, rejecting the report of the Streetcar company for the result was NOT want the Highway Department wanted to hear.

The main reason for this was Streetcars were much larger then buses even in the Post War Era. I remember riding some of the late 1930s and post WWII GM buses, narrower then the later buses and generally not as long.

Typical post WWII "Old Look" GM bus:

These tend to have seat for 27-55 people, depending on their length, most were in the 27-30 category

Compare that the the PCC, their Streetcar Competition:
Which had seats for 46 to 61 people (and generally pack with up to 100 people both sitting and standing, "Crush load" was 134, and I remember most Streetcars operated at that level during Rush Hour).

Crush load of a PCC:

Thus the Streetcars could take two to four time the number of people as the buses of the same time period (i.e. post WWII).

I remember riding the old look GM, they were preferred on the narrower streets in my neighborhood. The wider "New Look" by the 1960s were more common in suburbia, due to the wider roads, but many were small, to replace the small "Old Look" buses:


Another aspect taken out of contact was the "Jitney" craze of 1914-1916. In many ways these "Jitneys" were the precursor of the bus, they ran on the routes already established by Streetcars (and given the requirements of the time period, maintained by the Streetcar Company, even if the road was a paved road). The paper then does NOT discuss the other problem during that time period, a huge increase in wages due to the massive reduction in immigration due to the Balkan Crisis of 1912-1914 and WWI, 1914-1918.

During that time period, immigration, which tended to bring down wages, came almost to a stop as Europe drafted most of the men who normally migrated into the army (and those that were NOT drafted, found high paying jobs to fill the needs of the troops). Thus a lot of Streetcar drivers, left for better paying jobs, you had the start of one man streetcars (a Conductor and a Driver had been the norm on Streetcars till that time period). Yes, Jitneys were a problem, but the bigger problem was the overall increase in wages (and effort to stop those wage increases lead to the 1919 Steel Strike and the general unrest not only in the US, but Europe in the 1917-1921 period).

Thus, it is more an attack on the concept that Streetcars were superior to buses (i.e. upholding the replacement of Streetcars with buses) then anyone actually looking at the ALL of the facts (Snell in reverse in many ways).

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