Street Cars, Interurbans & Passenger Trains at any cost

It would help if they never let the likes of General Motors get away with buying up tram companies just to shut them down.
But the goal was to replace money-losing interurban lines with GM bus that would make a profit for both GM sales, and the local bus line.

GM wanted that line to keep buying new GM busses every couple years.
But people still wanted cars of their own.
 
Re: streetcars - you need a new generation of trams, pronto. The early-century ones were too old, too slow and too small for the transit network, so when buses started becoming a thing, many cities opted for those instead. After all, a bus can move around an accident, and a train can't.

If these systems were seen as an asset to be used and retained new trams would be built. These days Melbourne has 2 and 3 section articulated trams with 'accessible' low floors that scoot along outside of the city centre.
 
If these systems were seen as an asset to be used and retained new trams would be built. These days Melbourne has 2 and 3 section articulated trams with 'accessible' low floors that scoot along outside of the city centre.
Actually, the only reason Melbourne kept theirs is Robert Risson, Chairman of the Tramways Board - depending on who you ask, either a visionary or a fossil who made the "right" call by accident.
 
But the goal was to replace money-losing interurban lines with GM bus that would make a profit for both GM sales, and the local bus line.

GM wanted that line to keep buying new GM busses every couple years.
But people still wanted cars of their own.

IIUC one of the barriers streetcars faced was regulation that stopped them from raising fares, apparently in LA the Red Line was a nickel for decades which is why it couldn't make money. As a new thing buses weren't saddled with this handicap.
 
Actually, the only reason Melbourne kept theirs is Robert Risson, Chairman of the Tramways Board - depending on who you ask, either a visionary or a fossil who made the "right" call by accident.

I don't doubt that, which shows that the unviability of trams is not set in stone but depends on the whims of people in power.
 
But the goal was to replace money-losing interurban lines with GM bus that would make a profit for both GM sales, and the local bus line.

GM wanted that line to keep buying new GM busses every couple years.
But people still wanted cars of their own.
Bovine Excrement.
 
I don't doubt that, which shows that the unviability of trams is not set in stone but depends on the whims of people in power.
Maybe. Point is, it's not just car lobbying or buses or whatever; streetcars themselves need to keep up with the times. They didn't in OTL.
 
Maybe. Point is, it's not just car lobbying or buses or whatever; streetcars themselves need to keep up with the times. They didn't in OTL.

No, the streetcar conspiracy was a factor, but as has been pointed out there were other obstacles in the way and these were not removed as times changed therefore tram systems became less competitive. For example its hard for trams to be up with the times when regulators don't allow a fare increase in 3 decades.
 
For example its hard for trams to be up with the times when regulators don't allow a fare increase in 3 decades.
I believe that's a legacy issue from when the electric utilities owned the streetcars. Get rid of the monopoly early, and there's probably no fare cap.
 
Bovine Excrement.
At which point?

Trolleys losing money? They were, due to local fare regulation

GM wanting to sell Buses? They bought Yellow Coach in 1925 with an eye for the Transit and intercity market

The GM Diesel made for far cheaper operating costs, vs previous gasoline powered Brill or Aerocoach

For selling new Buses, they restyled frequently, just like the car line, in three year cycles, same as the autos, and local lines wanted to look fresh
 
I'm sure they were quite happy to sell any bus they could while knowing that every time they shut down or reduce a form of public transport they force more people to buy cars.
 
As a point of departure how about no WW1 when it occurred. What would the earliest that it could have occurred. The earlier the better so that airplanes do not become major weapons of that war and do not foster the idea that dense cities were unsafe in case of war. This fear influenced both estimates as to what the dangers of the next war were and effected urban planning in the US during the interwar period, and after OTL WW2 even more so given what Strategic Bombing did to Germany and Japan. This is not just my position, as the idea of decentralization and dispersion of cities in the US, modeled after LA was discussed in media and by the US Congress after WW2 very extensively. The idea was scoffed at as unworkable at the time, but rather quickly was implemented through a system of housing, infrastructure and industrial supports by the Federal Government during the Cold War. Suburban sprawl with the use of automobiles as well as the Interstate and other Defense highways was done on purpose, as was the large scale withholding of funding for urban development during the period.

So, could there have been a War to end all Wars early enough to not make dense cities appear dangerous and not glorify automobiles such as the way ambulances were and the taxis of Paris, as well as the flying motor cars as early aircraft were called. Also early enough that crawler tractors and military trucks weren’t important and thus no armored cars or tanks. So maybe the first Moroccan Crisis of 1905 does result in war. So, no model T at the time as OTL 1908 and no Ford or GMC ambulances, only Studebaker horse drawn or the European equivalents. Aircraft only consist of a few Wright Flyers and no military Zeppelins. But still the French 75 and other deadly artillery, military railways, trench warfare, mines, barbed wire and machine guns, both maxim and electrically powered Gatling guns ( primarily used on ships at the time, but with an earlier war perhaps adapted for land use and capable of 3,000 rounds per minute).

Remember the goal of this time line is to preserve as much of the rail based infrastructure in the US as long as possible so that as with places such as Toronto Ontario Canada it survives long enough for politicians and the public to value it and spend money to support and modernize it. And if that takes WW1 to occur ten years earlier fine, and perhaps without US involvement. So, no Victory trucks produced and then dumped on the market to supply the infant trucking industry cheap vehicles, no infusion of cash to Ford, GMC and other automakers, no victory engines for aircraft made and sold cheap which helped early aviation expansion. Might this be enough to delay the development of cheap automobiles and trucks and thus help keep Street Cars, Interurbans and Passenger rail all going a bit longer, perhaps assuming there would have still been a WW2 till then, possibly it occurring during the late 20s or early 30s and coinciding with a Depression? In OTL street car use increased during WW2 and even included some rehabilitation of infrastructure and a few new lines as rubber shortages limited auto production to government needs, tires for civilians were severely limited and fuel was rationed.

And if this did result in an earlier WW2 it likely would have lasted longer given the difference between the technology of the late 20s and late 30s, so likely very limited strategic bombing as OTL Soviets did none, nor did Japan, Germany did some, but with limited effect. In this timeline perhaps only the start of Strategic Bombing and given its limited effect compared to the theories of the advocates of it, few calls for and little financial support for dispersion and sprawl after this WW2.

There is one little problem of moving everything up 10 years in addition to a possibly different Germany, Russia, even France, the possibility of the secret development and then use of Nuclear Weapons after WW2 by whoever was unhappy with its results as part of an opening for WW3. Given the way the US historically handled war, up to OTL WW2, it would be unlikely that it would be the first to develop and deploy Nuclear Weapons. A nasty little atomic war in 1955 or 1960 with fission weapons would be most unpleasant, especially for the US, likely still armed with the latest piston engined pursuit aircraft of WW2. It might however have helped preserve passenger rail quite a bit longer as well as any interurbans and street car systems. OTL Japan post WW2 expanded their equivalent of Interurbans and France and Germany modernized passenger service rather than Automobiles and superhighways for a good decade or more. So, a post WW3 US might be only able to afford public transportation enhancements for long enough to assure the long term prospering of passenger rail in its many forms.
 
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So maybe the first Moroccan Crisis of 1905 does result in war.
Wouldn't really matter

US would be neutral for awhile
Production Figures for 1905
Oldsmobile 6500
Cadillac 3942
Rambler 3807
Ford 1599
Franklin 1098
White 1015
REO Motor Car Company 864
Maxwell 823

At this point, the Cadillac and Ford were selling almost the same, identical vehicle.
Previously, Cadillac had been the Henry Ford Company, before Ford left to form a new Ford Motor Company, and he took the plans with him

Ransom Olds did the same thing, left Oldsmobile to form REO

Ford didn't need war orders to be profitable, same for the rest.
While Cadillac moved to the luxury part of the spectrum with it going under the control of General Motors in 1909, that also had Buick, Oldsmobile,Oakland(soon to be redone as Pontiac) Reliance Trucks, and a bunch of other smaller marques. Chevy was in the future.

Maxwell would follow Ford into the entry level market. Eventually Maxwell would become Plymouth under the ownership of Walter Chrysler
 
>any cost
Well the US might not keep trams and trains, but the Industrial Commonwealth may.
As far as communists building 5+ story dense cities, well, they're not called commie blocs for no reason.

>any cost
On the other hand you don't need white flight when there's no-one to flee.

The central problem is loss of urban density. Maintaining urban density in racially diverse capitalism isn't likely.

So your choice of Parisian Blocks as part of "slum" ``clearance'', or Rotterdam op de Hudson as part of the equity of working men.

Mid points like rolling 18s like Melbourne are going to be torn down by 52 other states rolling 3s 9s and 12s.
 
OK, how about greed?
What if some railroad executives noted the success of the early traction / real estate suburbs, fused it with the ideas of the garden city movement and started buying land and building suburbs/ new towns themselves which could only be effectively reached by railroad when autos were expensive and infrequently seen, just after the turn of the century. They held on to the land near their stations, leasing it for commercial purposes and sold the land a little farther away for residential purposes, with trolleys serving the residential areas. All utilities being also owned by the development company.They would have built these communities to maximize both their initial profit and ongoing cash flows.

So the residents of these communities would not only have little need for an automobile, they would have difficulty using them, with literally no roads for automobiles to use to get anywhere, no streets!

Yes, a truly audacious endeavor, but, oh the possible profits. And even if there are only a handful of such new garden towns built near major cities, they would serve as models of what life could be like sans automobiles, through both the initial automobile craze and then after when gridlock occurred in many places. With fast express connections to city centers they would likely be rather wealthy enclaves and worlds to themselves. And as people often want what they can’t and don’t have, especially if wealthy people have it, perhaps there might be copies of the concept made in smaller scale, enough over all so that in places such as LA it becomes dominant and automobiles and their communities are looked rather down on.
 
As a transit historian (there's a reason for my screen name), I think there are several other factors:

1. The rise of the private automobile is probably not preventable. It could have been slowed by not subsidizing car travel, however. Perhaps if the Interstate Highways were designed as toll roads (with military and postal exemptions) and gas taxes were high enough to fund all other roads, including maintenance.... (Perhaps the POD is an earlier discovery of the Pigovian tax theory, matching taxes to the social costs of an activity.)

2. When most streetcar systems converted to buses in the 1950s, buses were an actual improvement. One of the biggest problems with streetcars is they cannot move laterally. That ensures frequent conflicts with automobiles once traffic becomes dense enough. IOTL the streetcar lines that survived had off-street right of way for at least part of their route (the Duboce and Twin Peaks tunnels in San Francisco are good examples), Perhaps more streetcars could be saved if the idea of a dedicated lane caught on earlier, at least on high-usage routes on streets wide enough for this to happen without totally wrecking auto traffic. Safer waiting spots would also be helpful. Old-school streetcars ran in the middle of the street, boarding was literally from the traffic lanes with no platform to stand on. People would either stand in the street or wait on the sidewalk and have to cross moving traffic to board. Getting hit by a car or even a near miss would put someone off riding streetcars for life....

3. Much the same can be said for interurbans and commuter rail. The New York area started the "Kiss and Ride" concept: wife drives her husband to the suburban railway station, kisses him goodbye, and he takes the train to work downtown. The reverse happens in the evening. The "traditional sex role" model was actually good for commuter rail as long as most families could only afford one car, and it wasn't unusual for women to drive but was (at least in the "middle class") unusual for them to have paid jobs. Thus the Kiss and Ride enabled housewives to run errands by car during the day. Keeping the situation like this as long as possible works well for commuter rail.

4. Long distance trains are a tougher nut to crack. They are undercut in price by long distance buses like Greyhound, and outdone in speed by airlines. Until the Carter era IOTL, air travel was regulated but quite expensive. Keeping airlines as a "luxury" service with high fares and high "class" expectations (people used to dress up to fly like they were going to a wedding or a funeral) and making rail price competitive with bus (maybe even a partnership similar to the modern Amtrak Thruway buses) would do a lot for rail.

5. Keep the Post Office rail cars. Much railroad revenue came from the carriage of mail. Perhaps an early form of Express Mail where postmen deliver Express items straight to destination from the train would be excellent. Really, both airmail and "rail mail" could be wanked by combining them with the concept of Special Delivery: immediate delivery to addressee upon arrival, even if it's in the middle of the night.

6. Legalize the highjacking of planes and highway robbery on the roads, but have police protection for rail passengers. (This is meant as a joke, not to be taken seriously.)
 
Mandatory Flight Insurance
I remember when flight insurance was sold at airports due to the concerns people had about possibly crashing.
So, what about mandatory Flight Insurance & a high risk Social Security surcharge to provide a cash settlement and income to crash victims families, including the calculated average cost of Social Security to widows/ widowers & children.
And, once in place for air travel, add it to the tolls for US high speed limited access highways as well given the lack of even basic safety equipment on autos in the first half of the twentieth century. Actually, there would be good justification for an annual Federal truck & automobile tax to cover increased Social Security costs and at the time the Federal government routinely placed excise taxes on products, so it wouldn’t have been strange for tax payers to learn that they needed to pay some type of transaction based tax, such as could occur along with annual state vehicle taxes.
Railroads wouldn’t have to do it given their excellent safety records and their liability in case of crashes.
 
I remember when flight insurance was sold at airports due to the concerns people had about possibly crashing.
So, what about mandatory Flight Insurance & a high risk Social Security surcharge to provide a cash settlement and income to crash victims families, including the calculated average cost of Social Security to widows/ widowers & children.
And, once in place for air travel, add it to the tolls for US high speed limited access highways as well given the lack of even basic safety equipment on autos in the first half of the twentieth century. Actually, there would be good justification for an annual Federal truck & automobile tax to cover increased Social Security costs and at the time the Federal government routinely placed excise taxes on products, so it wouldn’t have been strange for tax payers to learn that they needed to pay some type of transaction based tax, such as could occur along with annual state vehicle taxes.
Railroads wouldn’t have to do it given their excellent safety records and their liability in case of crashes.
Considering that flight insurance was cheap (sold for a few coins out of a vending machine), I really doubt tacking mandatory insurance onto a ticket price would be a financial deterrent to flying. OTOH, it could play up in the public mind the fear of crashing.

Doubtful if a Social Security surcharge would be much more. The statistical likelihood of a plane crash is very low.
 
Did the socialization of the long term costs of automobile accidents help keep the cost of operating any given automobile lower?
Given Canadian Medicare didn't seem too (AFAIK), I'd guess not, but it bears examining.

One thing comes to my mind. If only a small fraction of trips are really long, does better mass transit mean there's a bigger market for short-range electric cars (and especially fleet vehicles)? It seems to mean the demand for electric cars capable of long trips more/less evaporates. Indeed, the tram or power companies might finance them...

The really stupid part of how bad mass transit in North America is, it it ignores fully half the population who can't drive (and a significant portion who just don't): kids, teens too young, people too poor to own a car (or operate one), people too old to still drive (or who feel unsafe doing it any more)...
Someone needs to do the math. “within a 1/4 mile of my house”. that means a grid of stops about 1/2 mile apart. In many states mine included a township or small city is 6x6 miles. That would be 12x12 stops or 144 stops per township/city. Or look at it another way a 15 mile commute would require a minimum of 30 stops. if the SC travels at 30 mph it covers that trip in 30 minutes plus stops if each stop is just 30 seconds that adds 15 more minutes and your 15 mile trip takes 45 minutes. or a round trip every hour and a half. assuming you want a 15 minute wait you need 7 cars per line. With 12 lines needed. So you get 84 cars on 12 lines and a commute that takes 45 minutes with up to 15 minutes waiting or about an hour to go 15 miles. And dont forget your 1/4 mile walk on both ends. In 95degree 90% humidity weather in the summer 45 degree rain storms in the spring and fall and negative 10 degree snow storms in the winter.
All of this carrying you groceries. I hope those paper bags dont rip.
That makes service above the standard now.

Waits are typically half an hour where I live, and the walk is typically two or three blocks (about 600m). The service is not 24/7.

Waiting half an hour in -40deg Celsius is not a fun experience, let me assure you. Neither is jamming bags of groceries in a space barely big enough for a pair of legs. Not to mention lifting them on and trying to scan a fare card without spilling. Not to mention the occasional screaming children.

No, public transit is not a paradise.

It could (should!) be a great deal better.
no victory engines for aircraft made and sold cheap which helped early aviation expansion.
Don't be so sure.

The glut of surplus aeroengines actually hurt the makers of new ones... (It was worse still for a/c manufacturers.)

Hot rodders (especially the land speed racers) would love them, though.
 
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