Transportation Deployment Casebook/2021/Texas Streetcar

Texas Streetcar OverviewEdit

The streetcar’s introduction in the late nineteenth century consisted of progressive methods such as horse-drawn, steam, gas and electric pulled carts on a rail-line that brought many positive opportunities communities impacted by them. Before being known as light rail, the streetcar had a major influence on the development of the suburbs and provided a range of services such as the transport of people and goods.[1]. These new networks within communities and cites were called tramways and they shared the spaces between buildings called roads with pedestrians, horses and in the twentieth century, the automobiles. Additionally, improvement to existing road and infrastructure and more recreational areas and faster transport within these cities and communities [1]. The introduction of the first streetcar in Texas was in Dallas in the 1870s and was quickly followed by Austin and many other cities within Texas [1].  

Technology characteristicsEdit

The streetcar system was a method of transport that consisted of a singular vehicle’s movement on road bearing steel wheels on a laid-out network of cast iron strap rails tracks. As a result of the introduction of these rails, the capacity of the vehicle could grow from the decreased friction and subsequently better riding conditions for the passengers [2]. The early streetcars within America consist of horse or mule-drawn and steam-powered and after the invention of the generator, the implementation of powered overhead wires and tracks began which resulted in electric streetcars which had a capacity of 40 passengers [3].

Main advantages & MarketsEdit

After the implementation of streetcars, the cities which were called “walking cities”, now had better and easier access for the new and growing communities called suburbs. This is from easy access to the city to work, away from the city its less overcrowded. This resulted in the new ideology of the “American dream” to start a family within the suburbs with more land and a larger home with easy access to the cities [4]. This system also allowed for better access and transport of goods around the city and people would not be resisted to local venders for these goods. The transport investments started to rise from banks and rich individuals finically supporting this new transport network. Promotion to real-estate outside the city creating more wealth, the acceleration of more population growth. This new market of the streetcar predominately existed for the middle-class worker, where these workers started to settle in the outskirts of the cities known as suburbs. These suburbs were more spacious and quieter when compared to the city center. The companies that controlled these street cars raised revenue through fees based on the distance the passenger or goods travelled and high net worth individuals saw protentional in this system scalability of this network.

The Previous Transportation MethodsEdit

The previous transportation methods before the streetcar were the Horse car, Omnibus and cable car within America [5]. Omnibuses were implemented and used in the early 19th century with horse/mull drawn carriages, this was then followed by the cable car mid-19th century, this mode of transport involved cables that guided the car between rails with steam-powered trolley powering the drive. This method of transport was invented by Andrew Hallide [3]. There were major logistics and functioning errors such as jamming or breakage of the cables resulting in a halt in the transportation line. These problems were rectified from the introduction of the electric streetcar that began to replace the omnibuses and cable cars in the early 20th century. Before the introduction of the electric streetcar, there was a short-lived early version of the streetcar called dummy engines often having large public backlash over the high levels of pollution and noise coupled with damages caused by horse and mull-drawn carriages resulted in a need for future development of this current transportation system [2]. Furthermore, the use of horse-drawn carriages had major drawbacks such as high maintenance cost, a large degree of risk associated with livestock disease, large waste build-up and capped usage from these animals. This resulted in large inefficiency in the network meaning that was an opening for a better form of transportation within these networks [2]. These limitations incentivized improving and implementing new methods for powering the carriage and the first practical battery-powered electric car was built by French and English inventors; This idea of an electrically powered system solved the high levels of pollution and noise and further development into these electric carriages resulted in fully powered connected carriages [2]. As a result of the limited range, a developing form of gasoline power carriages emerged, and the reliance on powered lines and batteries quickly diminished [2]. This new and evolving market of the streetcars helped the transport industry rise but, this industry became too limited and the rise of government and corporate development through investment and policy help drive the consumer choice for busses and car making trolleys more obsolete[6]. By 1937 almost 50% of the public transport network was busses within America and this new reliance on busses from the great depression the use of automobiles and rail network became more popular and the electric streetcar began to phase out of the transportation system [5].

Birth of electric streetcarEdit

Previously, the horse-drawn streetcar was popular due to their implantation into a sector that wasn’t there. This was then closely followed by mulls as they were cheaper overall and just as strong as horses [5]. Many transitions into other forms of drive for the streetcar then the birth of the electric battery for the locomotive was in the 1860s but the initial idea began in the 1820s. During the first successful commercial implementation of the electric railroad systems in 1881 made by Ernst Werner von Seimens, but safety factors influenced societies opinions on his technical design by shocking people and animals from the power travelling through the rails, this led to the development of overhead wires to supply these electric streetcars invented by Charles J. Van Depoele. In America engineer, Frank J. Sprague was given credit for the implementation, growth of the current electric streetcar, spring-mounted, two gear-drive motor, independent framed carriages from the existing system especially in New York [3]. After the electric grid was implemented in America, the generation, transmission and storage of electricity made the electric streetcar easily applicable in any scenario [1]. The first successful streetcar line in Texas was found in Austin, this was a horse/mull driven line. In 1891 the first electric line was introduced in Austin by a developer from Kansas, Monroe Shipe, and this rapidly expanded with many more investors building tracks within Texas over the next 20 years [1]. This expansion of the overhead electric streetcar was quickly introduced everywhere, and the first practical method was introduced by Frank J. Sprague in 1888 [1]. The rising popularity of this electric streetcar system shows improvement such as the carts themselves being replaced with lighter wooden framed, four-wheeled cars from steel-bodied, eight-wheeled cars.

Market developmentEdit

In 1897, the total mileage of track within Texas was 192.15, with each city and town having multiple transits companies operating with one rail track as their equity. At this time there was already five times the amount of electric streetcar when compared to horse and mull, 20 year later in 1912, horse and mull powered streetcars were phased out and just over 1100 miles of electric streetcar track are functioning within Texas and this transition was due to the cost and logistic advantage over the horse and mull streetcar [1]. The electric streetcar system had niche variants such as the intercity powerlines called interurbans providing services to the outlying areas which proved to be profitable over railroad networks due to the railroad network prioritization of the long-distance travelling passengers and freight services when compared to the small commuter services. The transition into this era of the electric streetcar showed a more cost-effective, reliable, safer, and quicker method of transport over its predecessor streetcars such as the horse and mull etc [1].


The streetcar system was financed by private equity meaning that the streetcar was policy-driven and a form of restricted capitalism [5]. As such large amount of private wealth could be generated from this industry sector, such in the late 1800s for economic and safety the reliance on animals started to vanquish, resulting in the publics agreeance for fossil fuels become relied upon as the main source of energy [5]. The policy was a driving factor for the standards required to provide a streetcar network. When the multiple streetcar system emerged, cities began making policies to guide and ensure fair practices. Including fair policy for both consumer and business. Public policy controlled by local members of the city governed fare pricing being roughly locked in at about 5 cents, safety requirements and controlled the charters which were franchised out to private investors. These policies aided the public usage of the streetcar system to grow for new and existing line distributing into suburbs and with these low fares making cheap, safe and simple to travel around the city and suburbs [5].

Streetcar lifecycleEdit

The industrial revolution aided the growth of the streetcar to result in easier and quicker methods for the movement of people and goods resulting in the aid in population growth [1]. Many cities and towns adopted the streetcar system as it helped the communities grow and prosper, new streetcar track systems were being formed while existing ones were quickly extended into surrounding suburbs [1] [5]. In Austin Texas, the importance of these streetcar systems was known to the city officials and one a major infrastructure project such as the Congress Avenue Bridge which was built across the Colorado River, Streetcar links were quickly added to expand the network throughout south Austin which wasn’t fully connected [6]. As such, the line around Austin was becoming uniform and connecting to make a large network which resulted in upgraded and double-tracked to increase the service capabilities and better services [6].

The streetcar system growth in Austin slowed down and peaked by the mid with 23 miles of track for the population of 40,000. Furthermore, this peak and decline were from the competing method of transport the automobiles, once passengers started to deviate from the streetcar system, farebox income wasn’t enough to keep the streetcar system serviceable [6]. Many cities, such as Austin quickly started to shrink their networks, only keeping profitable networks at the time, with San Antonio becoming the first major city to discontinue its electric streetcars in 1933, being replaced by buses [6]. Soon after the city of Austin followed suit and in 1940, Mayor Tom Miller rode the last electric streetcar along Congress Avenue [6]. Most rails that were left in the ground were excavated in 1942 for World War two when there was a storage of metal [6]. Overall the reason for failure with the streetcar system not just in Austin but in most states of America was the increased operating expenses, Low fare prices affecting revenue, Increased usage of the automobile and poor policy affecting this transit model [5] [6]. However, the rise in streetcars in returning with Sydney Australia recreating a better and improved network from the congestion created from personal and road sharing automobiles [7]

Model analysisEdit

This is a Lifecycle analysis of the Texas streetcar system of electric, petrol/gass and horse-driven streetcar between and with a logistic function applied to model the predicted lifecycle of the transport mode. The model will predict the technological advancement of the streetcar and analysis and predict with an s curve for the birthing, growth, maturity, decline.

Model definitionEdit

A three-parameter logistic function that were used for the model is shown using the equation below:

S(t) = Smax/[1+exp(-b(t-ti)]


  • S(t) is the status measure, (e.g. miles of completed track)
  • t is time (years),
  • ti is the inflection time (year in which 1/2 Smax is achieved),
  • Smax is saturation status level
  • b is a coefficient to be estimated.  

Due to this data involving a short timeframe, not all lifecycle stages would be recorded within each system of streetcar values. A single variable linear regression system was used for the estimates with the Ordinary Least Squares Regression with estimated values of K & b shown in the formulas below.

  • Y = bX + c
  • Y=LN(Miles/(K-Miles))
  • X=Year

Within this model there was missing data and years, so the complete uninterrupted consecutive years was used and estimates for 1915 and 1916; between 1897-1920, this restricted time frame caused some aspects of the lifecycle analysis to be missing as mention previously.

Texas DataEdit

The three streetcar systems found in Texas with more than one year of use was the horse/mull, electric and petrol/Gas streetcars. The measured data is between 1897-1920. Although steam and battery power were an existing system, they did not have more than two consecutive years in this data set. If the data wasn’t included between time spans but had a data point that was the same or more later one, e.g. five year apart with zeros in between those two data points the zero would get filled with the first reference data point. Overall, the electric streetcar showed at least 2 stages of the lifecycle which include birth, growth, maturity and decline within this data set. All graphs display the Miles of track against the year, with a table is coupled with each figure showing the respected parameters which include estimated saturation, the coefficient and inflection time.

Combine Total MilesEdit

The total mileage on all systems showed a clear trend indicating the lifecycle phases of growth and maturity. Although, the data used does not show much birthing of decline stage this is due to the study period being too short. The first figure shows the total measured and predicted track mileage for the combined streetcar systems coupled with the parameters in table 1.

Figure 1 Graph of combine streetcar miles

Table 1 Combined streetcar Variables

Variable Description Value
K Estimated Saturation 1300
b Coefficient 0.193
ti Inflection Time 1907

Electric total MilesEdit

The model recorded both growth and maturity stage for the streetcar lifecycle with the point of inflection in 1908, the inflection is where the rate at which it increases starts to decrease. As such, the growth stage within this model is approximately 1997 to 1908 and the maturity is assumed to be after the time frame. Overall, the time frame used clearly shows two aspects of the life cycle growth and maturity, while the birth and decline is extended past the measured timeframe. Figure 2 shows the total measured and predicted track mileage for the electric streetcar systems coupled with the parameters in table 2.

Figure 2 Graph of electric streetcar miles

Table 2 electric streetcar Variables

Variable Description Value
K Estimated Saturation 1250
b Coefficient 0.200
ti Inflection Time 1907

Horse/Mull Total MilesEdit

The horse/Mull system that is recorded shows the decline stage of the streetcar lifecycle system when compared to the other forms of the streetcar. This is because the other modes of streetcar were slowly replacing this mode. As such, the model indicates the decline stage of the streetcar lifecycle system. Figure 3 shows the total measured and predicted track mileage for the Horse/Mull streetcar systems coupled with the parameters in table 3.

Figure 3 Graph of Horse/Mull streetcar miles

Table 3 Horse/Mull streetcar Variables

Variable Description Value
K Estimated Saturation 95000
b Coefficient -0.1607
ti Inflection Time 1847

Petrol/Gas Total MilesEdit

The petrol/Gas streetcar system model shows some aspects of an S-curve shape similar to the electric system. The birth phase is seen in 1907 with growth seen in 1910. As such, the development of the petrol/gass Lifecycle happened after all other models and the accuracy of the model is analyzed below. Figure 4 shows the total measured and predicted track mileage for the Petrol/Gas streetcar systems coupled with the parameters in table 4.

Figure 4 Graph of Gas/Petrol streetcar miles

Table 4: Gas/Petrol streetcar Variables

Variable Description Value
K Estimated Saturation 50
b Coefficient 0.4634
ti Inflection Time 1918

Accuracy of the modelEdit

The data presented show that at least one model exhibits one section of the lifecycle with the electric streetcar actual data that is recorded showing a clear spread of the lifecycle compared to the other models. In terms of the petrol/Gass model, what is shown is the birthing and growth stage in terms of the approximate trend given by the S curve. The horse/Mull model shows the most inaccuracy due to the small spread of data; as such, the data is seen to have a clear decline stage but the K value is set at 95,000, which produces the best line of fix for the estimate with the actual data recorded. Although this K value works with the data presented, the actual total miles of the horse/mull system is almost impossible to be 95,000 miles in Texas. The source of the data could have some inaccuracies due to the missing data and some pages ineligible and cut off sections of the pages resulting in data that can increase the errors in the recorded data for the models developed. The results for the regression in each streetcar system presented in table 5.

Table 5: Regression Results

System R Square Standard Error T Stat(b) P-Vaule
Electric 0.86632 0.01679 11.94032 6.03796E-11
Petrol/Gas 0.8313728 0.0360032 7.69174204 5.6088E-06
Horse-drawn 0.93517 0.01174 -13.69412 4.22352E-09
Combined 0.86237 0.01643 11.74099 6.03796E-11

The checks for fitness is found in an R Squared analysis, the closer the values are to 1, the more of the recorded points within the model fall on the regression line, Also, the t stat test determines the statistically significant of the model and in relation to combined, electric and petrol/gass model, all these modes have high values meaning they statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. The combined and the electric mode have small P-values compared to the other 2 models meaning that there estimated coefficients for these tests are reliable and accurate.


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