There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Back to the future

The Sacramento History blog offers an interesting take on the origin of transit in Sacramento. In the post entitled Sacramento's Streetcar Suburbs, the author explains:

Despite the contemporary image of public transportation as primarily a means for the working class and poor to get around, streetcars (along with other early public transit methods like steamboats, steam railroads and omnibuses) were originally intended for the middle class.
Perhaps this offers a historical answer to the RTDriver guy's rant.


Queen of Dysfunction said...

I'm definitely going to check that out.

My grandmother told me that while she was growing up in Oakland her classmates and she took field trips to Sacramento to see the trolleys. Apparently they used to run right up J Street!

John said...

What I find interesting about the article is that businessmen with an interest in moving people to their businesses -- for instance, the guy who ran the State Fair -- were the principal backers.

Is there a way to leverage the self-interest of today's businesses to help improve transit options?

wburg said...

Oakland had trolleys too: they were part of Borax Smith's Key System. Until 1941, you could take the Key streetcar to electric interurban trains in downtown Oakland (at 40th and Shafter) that went straight to downtown Sacramento, and farther north to Chico. From 1939-1941, you could take the same train over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco.

There were streetcars on J Street and K Street, plus more throughout the town: at their zenith, pretty much no point in the central city was farther than 2-3 blocks from a streetcar line.

john: So far as I can tell, ALL streetcar lines operated that way. Stay tuned for more details on how that process works--and some insight into the masters of the industry.

John said...


The private nature of early trolley systems is interesting. I can't imagine how entrepreneurs could do anything like that today, although the modern private toll-roads might be a model.

I look forward to more on Sacramento's trolley history.