Transportation Deployment Casebook/2021/Pennsylvania Streetcar


The industrial revolution occurred in much of Europe and America throughout the 19th century, people moved from agricultural to machines based manufacturing. This caused mass urbanisation as people looked for work in factories located in major cities. The population of London doubled during the period (1801-1851)[1]. Similarly in Pittsburgh, the population growth rate doubled that of the rest of the country as immigrants travelled through Ellis island and the Erie Canal looking for various manufacturing opportunities such as steel and iron production. With the absence of public transport, the population generally lived within walking distance to work. As city planning at the time was not equip for this sudden increase in population. The lack of affordable housing resulted in city slums where people lived under terrible conditions best depicted by Jocob Riis' iconic photo 'Five Cents a Spot'. Showing multiple labourers housed into crowded tenements in lower Manhattan in 1888[2]. Due to these circumstances people began to relocated further away from the downtown areas. Streetcars emerged out of necessity as a more localised form of public or mass transit to transport people to work from the outer downtown areas.

Streetcars also know as trams and trolleys (in europe and the rest of the world) is a single unit vehicle made of timber or steel that runs on steel rails. It is generally a more localised form of public or mass transit. There are four different types of streetcars, horse drawn, cable drawn streetcar, electric streetcar and in Philadelphia trackless trolley and trolley buses.

This article explores the historic life cycle of the US streetcar system and its specific context to the Pennsylvania State. Discussing the inception, growth and mature stages of streetcars as a mode of transport.