Speaking of trolleys, there’s a really neat video that’s been making the rounds on transit sites lately. It’s a 1940 video that tells the story of the end of trolleys in Seattle.
The site that the video comes from is well worth the read. According to public radio station KPLU, buses replaced the trolleys in Seattle for two reasons.
First, a “secret cartel involving General Motors and Standard Oil, among others, was buying up streetcar lines in other American cities, outside the northwest, and converting them to buses.”
Second, Seattle was broke and couldn’t afford the upkeep any more. Seattle Mayor Alfred Langlie “negotiated a federal bailout loan, which would retire the streetcar system’s debt if the city switched to buses.”
By April of 1941, Seattle had ripped up 230 miles of streetcar lines, melting them into steel for the war effort – and becoming the largest city in the country at that time to have no streetcars. Instead, the city got the electric trolley-bus system we still have today.
And now, seventy years later, we sure do miss those trolleys.