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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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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
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happyslug Jan 2012 #12
Saving Hawaii Jan 2012 #15
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wtmusic Jan 2012 #9
happyslug Jan 2012 #10
wtmusic Jan 2012 #11
happyslug Jan 2012 #13
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happyslug Jan 2012 #16
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happyslug Feb 2013 #17
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