THE TROLLEY STOP
Jitneys and Motor Buses Bring Fierce Competition To The Trolley Lines
The Model "T" Gives Birth to the Jitney
Not long after Henry Ford's Model T automobile, became available to the average American, entrepreneurs began competing against the trolley lines, in many major cities, all over the country. They used their "Tin Lizzies", as the model T was affectionately known, to pick up passengers who were waiting for trolleys, and offer them a ride downtown, for maybe a penny or two less than the five cent trolley fare.
Back in the early 1900's, a penny was a lot of money. So, if a person could save a few pennies a day, on a round trip, by riding a "jitney", as these early unlicensed "buses" were called, rather than the trolley, many people would take the chance.
The reason they were taking a chance was, most of the jitneys were not licensed or franchised by the city, and probably not insured, to carry fare paying passengers. If the jitney was involved in an accident, there was a chance, that the jitney owner's insurance company wouldn't pay, to cover injuries to fare paying passengers. If a trolley was involved in an accident, the passengers were covered, because the street railways were required to have insurance, in order to keep their franchise or license to operate.
IMAGE-CLICK HERE >>> A 1920's view of Surf Avenue, in Coney Island, New York, indicates that automobiles, buses and maybe a few "jitneys" are becoming more popular, than the once dominant trolleys. (Postcard from the collection of Rick Russell)
At First, Jitneys Were Ignored by Trolley Companies
The jitneys were common along the busiest trolley routes in many cities. At first, the street railway companies didn't pay much attention to what they thought was "minor", and probably "short-lived" competition. Many trolley company executives, felt that the automobile, and the jitneys were just a passing fad, and that once Americans got tired of their undependable "flivvers" (another name for the model T), which were virtually useless in the winter snow, and early spring mud, that they would abandon their model T's, and come back to the all season dependability of the trolleys.
The trolley company executives however, had underestimated how dependable, and popular the automobile and buses would become, just a few years after Henry Ford's model T came out.
Some of the early jitneys, actually went on to become legitimate bus companies, complete with franchised routes.
Highways Improve, and So Do Autos & Busses
Through the 1920's and 30's, as roads and highways were improved, and automobiles and buses, became more durable and dependable, they began to take more passengers away from, not only the city or urban trolley lines, but also the interurban trolley lines.
IMAGE-CLICK HERE >>> 1930's Teche Coach Lines interurban or inter-city parlor coach in New Orleans, Louisiana. Teche Coach Lines, was an early regional inter-city bus line, that served the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Teche Lines eventually became a Greyhound affiliate. (Postcard from the collection of Rick Russell)
Inter-city bus companies such as Greyhound, Trailways, and the many smaller, regional inter-city bus lines, that appeared all over the United States, began to compete against the interurban trolley lines. Some interurban lines, bought new inter-city motor coaches, and put them into service along highways, that paralleled their interurban trolley lines. They did this, to keep other inter-city bus lines, from competing against them, along the routes that their rail lines served.
Sometimes, this complimentary motor coach service worked well, if it was coordinated properly with the interurban trolley service. In some cases, however, there was not enough patronage on the interurban line to make a profit running both buses and interurban trolleys on the same routes.
The Street Railway Industry Begins A Rapid Decline
During the late 1920's and into the 1930's, the street railway industry, began a rapid decline. This decline was almost as rapid as the industry's amazing rise to stardom, and was partly brought on by the economic hard times of the depression. And, also by the continued competition from buses and automobiles. In order to stay in business, many trolley lines converted to buses or trackless trolleys, because they were less expensive to operate.
By the 1940's, the street railway industry had declined to the point where trolleys, with a few exceptions, were usually found only in very large cities. And, the huge system of interurban or inter-city trolleys, which at one time connected many major cities, had declined to but a handful of lines scattered around the country.
IMAGE-CLICK HERE >>> A view of Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, probably in the very late 1930's or early 40's, shows how automobiles and buses have taken over, where the trolley once reined supreme. Note the trolley in the distance. (Postcard from the collection of Rick Russell)
Many Companies That Built Trolleys Went Out of Business
Some car builders (companies that built trolleys), understood what was happening to the industry, and diversified into building buses as well as trackless trolleys or trolley buses. The car buiding companies that did not diversify, got left behind, and soon went out of business, as the demand for new trolleys declined.
IMAGE-CLICK HERE >>> Advertisement for ACF Brill Model H-9-S Suburban Motor Coach, built for a former interurban trolley line, the Boston, Worcester & New York Street Railway Co., or "The B&W Lines". (Ad from the Sept. 1937 issue of the "Transit Journal", Collection of Rick Russell)
Companies such as ACF Brill, one of the largest transit vehicle builders in the country at one time, built not only trolleys, but buses and trackless trolleys as well.
IMAGE-CLICK HERE >>> Advertisement for ACF Brill Model H-16-S Urban/City Motor Coach, built for the Queens-Nassau Transit Lines of New York. (Ad from the Sept. 1937 issue of the "Transit Journal", Collection of Rick Russell)
Click on "LIGHT RAIL VILLAGE" here to Continue your ride through the history of the trolley era.
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