Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Brief History of U.S Public Transit

Are you worried that President Obama will put a cap on academic economists' salaries? To put your mind at ease, I thought that a history lesson might help. Given that public transit is "shovel ready" stuff, it is important to know where we have been. I'm hoping that after this "big push" that Los Angeles has a subway system like New York City's and perhaps in the name of network effects these two systems could be connected by a dedicated east/west subway.

Milestones in U.S. Public Transportation History

1630 Boston--reputed first publicly operated ferryboat
1740 New York--reputed first use of ox carts for carrying of passengers
1811 New York--first mechanically operated (steam-powered) ferryboat
1827 New York--first horse-drawn urban stagecoach (omnibus) line (Dry Dock & East Broadway)
1830 Baltimore--first railroad (Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co.)
1832 New York--first horse-drawn street railway line (New York & Harlem Railroad Co.)
1835 New Orleans--oldest street railway line still operating (New Orleans & Carrollton line)
1838 Boston--first commuter fares on a railroad (Boston & West Worcester Railroad)
1850 New York--first use of exterior advertising on street railways
1856 Boston--first fare-free promotion
1870 Pittsburgh--first inclined plane
1871 New York--first steam-powered elevated line (New York Elevated Railroad Co.)
1872 Great Epizootic horse influenza epidemic in eastern states kills thousands of horses (the motive power for most street railways)
1873 San Francisco--first successful cable-powered line (Clay St. Hill Railroad)
1874 San Francisco, CA--first recorded strike by street railway workers
1882 Boston--American Street Railway Association (APTA's original predecessor) formed
1883 New York--first publicly operated cable-powered line (Brooklyn Bridge)
1883 New York--first surviving street railway labor organization (Knights of Labor Local 2878)
1884 Cleveland--first electric street railway line (East Cleveland Street Railway)
1884 first public transportation-only publication (The Street Railway Journal)
1886 Montgomery, AL--first semi-successful citywide electric street railway transit agency (Capital City Street Railway Co.)
1888 Richmond, VA--first successful electric street railway transit agency (Union Passenger Railway)
1889 New York--first major strike by street railway workers
1892 Indianapolis--first national street railway labor union founded (Amalgamated Association of Street Railway Employees of America, now called the Amalgamated Transit Union)
1893 Portland, OR--first interurban rail line (East Side Railway Co.)
1894 Boston--first public transportation commission (Boston Transit Commission)
1895 Chicago--first electric elevated rail line (Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railway)
1897 Boston--first electric underground street railway line (West End Street Railway/Boston Elevated Railway Co.)
1897 Boston--first publicly-financed public transportation facility (street railway tunnel)
1898 Chicago--first electric multiple-unit controlled rail line (Chicago & South Side Rapid Transit Railroad Co.)
1904 Bismarck, ND--first state-operated street railway (State of North Dakota Capital Car Line)
1904 New York--first electric underground (& first 4-track express) heavy rail line (Interborough Rapid Transit Co.)
1905 New York--first public takeover of a private public transportation company (Staten Island Ferry)
1905 New York--first bus line (Fifth Avenue Coach Co.)
1906 Monroe, LA--first municipally-owned street railway 1908 New York--first interstate underground heavy rail line (Hudson & Manhattan Railroad to New Jersey)
1910 Hollywood, CA--first trolleybus line (Laurel Canyon Utilities Co.)
1912 San Francisco--first publicly operated street railway in a large city (San Francisco Municipal Railway)
1912 Cleveland--first street railway to operate buses (Cleveland Railway)
1916 Saint Louis--first public bus-only transit agency (St. Louis Division of Parks and Recreation Municipal Auto Bus Service)
1917 New York--last horse-drawn street railway line closed
1920 first bus not based on truck chassis (Fageol Safety Coach)
1921 New York--first successful trolleybus line
1923 Bay City, MI, Everett, WA, Newburgh, NY--first cities to replace all streetcars with buses
1926 highest peacetime public transportation ridership before World War II (17.2 billion)
1927 Philadelphia--first automobile park and ride lot and first bus-rail transfer facility for a non-commuter rail line
1932 New York--first publicly operated heavy rail line (Independent Subway)
1933 San Antonio--first large city to replace all streetcars with buses
1934 New York--Transport Workers Union of America founded
1935 Washington--Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 requires most power companies to divest themselves of public transportation operations and eliminates much private public transportation financing
1936 New York--first industry-developed standardized street railway car (P.C.C. car) (Brooklyn & Queens Transit System)
1936 Washington--first large-scale federal government public transportation assistance (Public Works Administration)
1938 Chicago--first use of federal capital funding to build a public transportation rail line
1939 Chicago--first street with designated bus lane
1940 first time bus ridership exceeded street railway ridership
1940 San Francisco becomes last surviving cable car transit agency
1941 New York, NY--first racially-integrated bus operator workforce
1943 Los Angeles--first rail line in expressway median (Pacific Electric Railway)
1943 New York--first issue of Transit Fact Book (then called "The Transit Industry of the United States, Basic Data and Trends")
1946 highest-ever public transportation ridership (23.4 billion)
1946 Washington--U.S. Supreme Court bans racial segregation in interstate transportation
1952 San Francisco--last new PCC car for U.S. transit agency placed in service
1958 authority for railroads to discontinue commuter service transferred from states to U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission
1961 Washington--first significant federal public transportation legislation (Housing & Urban Development Act of 1961)
1962 Seattle--first monorail (Seattle World's Fair)
1962 New York--first automated heavy rail line (Grand Central Shuttle)
1963 Chicago becomes last surviving city with interurban line (Chicago, South Shore, & South Bend Railroad)
1964 Washington--first major U.S. government public transportation program (Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964)
1966 New York--first public takeover of commuter railroad (Long Island Rail Road Co.)
1966 Providence--first statewide transit agency (Rhode Island Public Transit Authority)
1968 Washington--agency administering federal public transportation program re-named Urban Mass Transportation Administration and moved to new Department of Transportation
1968 Minneapolis--first downtown transit mall (Nicollet Mall)
1968 Cleveland--first rail station at an airport opened
1969 Washington--first transitway (Shirley Highway)
1969 Philadelphia--first modern heavy rail transit agency replacing former rail line (Port Authority Transit Corporation)
1970 Fort Walton Beach, FL--first dial-a-ride demand response transit agency
1971 Washington--first federally subsidized intercity passenger railroad (AMTRAK)
1972 San Francisco--first computer-controlled heavy rail transit agency (Bay Area Rapid Transit District)
1972 public transportation ridership hits lowest point in 20th century (6.6 billion)
1973 Washington--some public transportation service required to be accessible to disabled (Rehabilitation Act of 1973)
1974 Boston, Cleveland, Newark, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, & San Francisco become the last street railway systems
1974 Washington--first federal public transportation operating assistance legislation (National Mass Transportation Assistance Act of 1974)
1974 American Public Transit Association formed from merger of 2 organizations
1975 Morgantown, WV--first automated guideway transit agency (West Virginia University)
1977 San Diego--first wheelchair-lift-equipped fixed-route bus
1979 Washington--first standardized public transportation data accounting system (Section 15)
1980 San Diego--first completely new light rail transit agency in decades (San Diego Trolley)
1983 Washington--public transportation trust fund for capital projects created through dedication of one cent of federal gas tax
1989 Miami--first completely new commuter rail transit agency in decades (Tri-County Commuter Rail Authority)
1990 Washington--virtually all public transportation service required to be accessible to disabled (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990)
1990 Washington--public transportation buses subject to strict pollution controls (Clean Air Act of 1990)
1991 Washington--federal government allowed to subsidize its employees' commuting costs
1991 Washington--first general authorization of use of highway funds for public transportation (Intermodal Surface Transp. Efficiency Act)
1992 Washington--first limitation on amount of tax-free employer-paid automobile parking benefits and tripling of value of tax-free benefit for public transportation use (National Energy Policy Strategy Act)
1993 Washington--public transportation workers in safety-sensitive positions subjected to drug and alcohol testing
1998 Washington--major expansion and restructuring of federal transportation program (Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century)
2000 American Public Transit Association changes name to American Public Transportation Association
2005 Federal transit law (SAFETEA-LU) reauthorized extending federal funding through 2009