Transportation Deployment Casebook/2021/Utah

Qualitative AnalysisEdit

Streetcar in UtahEdit

Streetcar, also known as tram or trolley, is a type of public transportation utilizing electric vehicles that run on tracks. They usually operate in a single unit and powered by an electric motor [1][2]. The operating speeds of streetcars are generally slow, and most streetcar alignments are short [3].

The S Line, also known as S-Line or Sugar House Streetcar, is a streetcar line in Utah, USA. It connects Sugar House of Salt Lake City with South Salt Lake with a line length of 3.22 km and tracks length of 4.41 km [4]. Operating by Utah Transit Authority (UTA), the S Line has seven stops, connecting Central Pointe to the west and Fairmont to the east. The operating speed of the S Line is 40 km/h, operate with a single car on a single track for most segments of the alignments [4]. The S Line runs in a historic rail corridor with pedestrian and bicycle greenway [5].

Streetcars are typically designed to allow short-trip circulation in urban areas. The alignment of a streetcar line can be a dedicated right-of-way or share lanes with mixed traffic and other transportation modes [1]. In the US, streetcars are part of the renaissance to bring new life to urban centers. They play an important role in accommodating the need for new urban transportation to create public space and shape livable communities. Streetcars provide services in the form of circulated short-trip at urban areas connecting key activity centers [1]. Streetcar system requires less capital and operation costs than conventional rail systems to provide mobility benefits for visitors and residents. They serve as a catalyst to integrate transportation modes with land use policy, as the streetcar line creates opportunities for public and private investments along the transportation corridor [1].  

Prior to the Advent of Streetcar in UtahEdit

John Stephenson, who was a young New York wagon builder, invented the animal-drawn streetcar in 1832. By 1880, more than 500 animal-powered transit systems appeared in 300 cities in the US. More than 100,000 horses were pulling the streetcars along the tracks [6].

The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, and extended through the territory of Utah [7]. As the industrial revolution spread, new technology entered Utah. An animal-drawn streetcar system was built in Salt Lake City. In 1872, the animal-powered system was in operation by the Salt Lake City Railroad Company. The major limitation of the animal-rail system was the pollution to the environment. In Salt Lake City, the horses and mules can deposit 60 tons of manure and 3,000 gallons of urine annually on the track. In addition, in order to avoid removal costs, people often left dead animals on the street [6].

Passengers often got cold from sitting on the animal-drawn streetcar since the cars only travel 4 to 6 miles per hour. In Salt Lake City, stoves were implemented to heat the streetcars. Coal stations were created along the streetcar line to allow motormen to receive a pan of coal for the stove [6].

In 1873, major cities in the US began seeking alternatives to the animal-transit systems. Andrew Smith Hallidie invented a horseless streetcar system. It could be powered by underground cables. The cable-powered streetcar systems were successful in other cities such as Chicago with only half of the operation cost as the animal-rail system, but Salt Lake City never experimented with such a system [6]. In 1887, Frank J. Sprague invented the electric streetcar system in Richmond, and the electric streetcar began service in 1888. The innovative design of the electric streetcar system led to the end of the animal-drawn streetcar era [6].

However, while other cities in the US began to convert to electric-powered streetcars, Salt Lake City still maintained its animal-drawn streetcars. By 1889, the Salt Lake City Railroad Company expanded the track length to 14 miles with 21 streetcars [7].

The Invention of Streetcar in UtahEdit

Utah played an important role in the history of electrical power. Salt Lake Power Light, and Heating Company was formed and made Salt Lake City the world’s fifth city to have an electrified central station [8].

Due to the pressure from the supporters of the electric streetcars, the Salt Lake City Railroad Company began to replace the animal-drawn streetcars with electric streetcars [7]. Walter P. Read from the Salt Lake City Railroad Company brought in the idea to turn streetcars into electrified wonders. Animal-pulled trolleys were replaced by electricity [8]. In 1889, the company revealed its electric railway after the completion of a steam powerhouse and trolley lines. After the trial run, Salt Lake City’s first electric streetcar began its operation. It was a success that 500 people gathered to try the first electric streetcar in Utah [8]. By 1891, the electric streetcar was servicing the major streets of the city [7]. The streetcar fleets grew to 63, and rail tracks were extended to 42 miles throughout Salt Lake City [8].

The electric streetcar system mitigated the issue of pollution created by the animal-drawn system. However, there were issues in the initial technology of an electric streetcar. The streetcars were open and without heating systems [7]. During cold winter in Salt Lake City, passengers were reluctant to take the ice-cold streetcars. To avoid frostbite, straw was implemented deeply over the streetcar floors [6].

Early Market DevelopmentEdit

When the electric streetcar was first introduced in Utah, there were competitions between the three electric streetcar companies. Each company had its own power lines, resulting in the wasting of excess resources of electricity, telephone, and trolley lines [8]. In 1901, the Utah Power Company purchased the companies and merged them into one company named Consolidated Railway and Power Company [6]. Edward H. Harriman was the most influential figure in improving the streetcar system and modernizing maintenance shops and power lines [8]. He commissioned a state-of-art facility to accommodate the streetcars. A fleet building that could house 144 streetcars. In order to keep Trolley Square self-sufficient and independent, blacksmiths and carpenters were hired on site building. By the time, the streetcar line covers a total of 146 miles and became the premier transportation system in Utah [8].

Role of Policies in the Birthing PhaseEdit

In 1914, the company sold its streetcar line to a company named Utah Light and Traction Company. In Salt Lake City, around half of the population utilized streetcars on a daily basis. Passengers paid 5 cents for trips around towns such as North Salt Lake, and 35 cents for round trips to Saltair. A record of 38.9 million fares was collected in 1914 [6].

By 1923, nine million dollars was invested in Salt Lake City’s streetcar system to serve the markets with 144 miles of tracks and 217 streetcars. The monthly ridership of the streetcar system was three million [6].

In order to serve the existing markets better and save money, the company prohibited transfer privileges. The company designed a ticket with seven faces on it, five men’s faces and two women’s faces. When a patron requested transfers, the conductor would punch out the face that was most closely related to the patron’s appearance [6].

Growth of Streetcar in UtahEdit

The Utah Light and Traction Company maintained the streetcar line [7]. In the 1930s, the company began replacing the trolley lines with bus routes. In 1946, the last trolleys were replaced by buses. By 1949, General Motors replaced more than 100 electric streetcars with buses. Cities across the US started to pave over the old tracks [6]. The company had ceased operation in the streetcar line in the 1950s, and the buildings were redesigned and functioned as bus storage. In 1969, the property was demolished [8].

In the 1970s, people started to notice that gasoline-powered engines were worse than animal-drawn streetcars. The issues of pollution and congestion on the highways arose [6]. The transportation officials in Utah identified an economical and effective light rail system to solve the problems. The initial planning for a light rail system started in the 1980s. However, policy issues arose that the public was concerned about the cost-effectiveness of rail, impact on the neighborhood, and sharing the road with other transportation modes such as automobiles. The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) addressed their concerns by conducting simulation models. After the analysis, normal traffic flow and minimal impact on the existing road were found [9].

They invested 312 million dollars in implementing TRAX light rail system [6]. TRAX light rail system began its service in 1999. The success of the investment in the system by the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) had led to an increase in transit ridership. The idea of transit-oriented developments (TOD) attracted more opportunities in the areas [9]. Planners also designed the rail system to allow private investors to take advantage of accessibility. Private developers desired to locate near transit stations, where the areas were population-dense.

Mature Phase of Streetcar in UtahEdit

The transportation officials invested another 118 million dollars for a 2.5-mile TRAX line for Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympics [6]. The line was opened in 2001. The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) extended the TRAX line in 2003, 2011, and 2013. The agency opened the S Line in 2013, which was the first modern streetcar line in Utah [9]. In order to adapt to the market of private land development, UTA was required to deliver 70 miles of the rail extension. Influence by policy values, UTA encountered political barriers of a non-negotiable project delivery deadline by 2015 [9]. By planning ahead and obtaining right-of-way, rail cars, and materials early, UTA avoided project delays and took advantage of lower prices.

UTA learned from their experience from the 1980s when the fixed policies, safety concerns, and impact on traffic were preventing the implementation of a light rail system [9]. UTA was being persistent and used simulation models and other analysis to prove that the light rail was the best alternative to accommodate population growth in Salt Lake City. Despite there were obstacles of high expense and political constraints, UTA demonstrated that a sustainable and efficient light rail system could address the issue of rising population. To better serve the needs of the existing and future conditions, UTA would secure federal funding, create strategic partnerships, and employ project delivery methods [9].

Quantitative AnalysisEdit


Data of year and miles of track was obtained from 1894 to 1920 and analyzed for the first era of the electric streetcar system in Salt Lake City, Utah [10]. Table 1 shows the year and miles of track for the electric streetcar system. Miles of the track was plotted on the y-axis, and time or year on the x-axis. An S-curve was obtained and shown in Figure 1.

Table 1 Miles of Track

Year Miles of Tracks (Miles)
1894 42
1897 42
1898 42
1899 47
1900 47
1901 47
1902 76
1903 76
1904 80
1905 80
1906 88
1907 91
1908 94
1909 98
1910 101
1911 111
1912 122
1913 130
1914 141
1917 145
1918 145
1919 146
1920 146

Figure 1 Actual Miles of Tracks

It was found that the birth phase of the first electric streetcar era was from 1889 to 1901 when the number of miles of track were stable and were less than 50 miles of track. Since the obtained data only began from 1894. According to the discussion in section 1.3, Salt Lake City’s first electric streetcar system began its operation in 1889, and rail tracks were extended to 42 miles by 1891. The obtained data from 1894 had a track length of 42 miles, which supported the findings.

At the mark of 1902, a sudden increase in miles of track was found from the data. Based on the discussion in section 1.4, it was when Utah Power Company purchased all three electric streetcar companies in Utah and merged them into one company named Consolidated Railway and Power Company. Therefore, the sudden increase in miles of track was due to the merging of companies. From 1902 to 1916, a constant increase or linear growth in miles of track was identified from the obtained data. According to the discussion in section 1.4, it was when Edward H. Harriman and his Consolidated Railway and Power Company began improving the streetcar system and modernizing the maintenance shops and power lines. Thus, the growth phase of the first electric streetcar era was determined from 1902 to 1916.

From 1917 to 1920, the plot of miles of the track showed a stable or a flat line, indicating that the streetcar system was entering a mature phase. The number of miles of track was around 145 and remained around 145. Based on the discussion in section 1.5, it was when approximately half of the population in Salt Lake City were utilizing the streetcar system on a regular basis. Therefore, started from 1917, the first electric streetcar era entered a mature phase in its development.

Linear RegressionEdit

A linear regression model was created and the predicted values of miles of track were estimated. The R square value for the model was 0.87, implying that 87% of the variation in miles of track could be explained by variation in time. A t-statistics number of 12, revealing that the predicted miles of track were statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. Both the actual miles of track and predicted miles of track were plotted on the same graph against time, as illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Actual and Predicted Miles of Track

The two intercept points indicated the two infection years – 1902 and 1917. The two infection years supported the discussion in section 2.1, as 1902 and 1917 were the critical transition points in the three phases of the life cycle.

Reference ListEdit

[1] R. Preservation, "U.S. Streetcar Systems," [Online]. Available: [Accessed 24 March 2021].
[2] Britannica, "Streetcar," Britannica, 29 Oct 2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 24 March 2021].
[3] J. Brown, "The Modern Streetcar in the U.S.:," Journal of Public Transportation, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 43-61, 2013.
[4] V. Vo-Duc, "New streetcar S-line set to open Dec. 8 in Sugar House," DeseretNews, 5 Sept 2013. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 24 March 2021].
[5] UTA, "S Line to Sugar House," UTA, 2021. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 24 March 2021].
[6] J. M. Hunter, "From Mules t om Mules to TRAX : A Brief Hist o TRAX : A Brief History of Salt Lak y of Salt Lake City's Mass," Brigham Young University, 2002. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 24 March 2021].
[7] B. L. Dastrup, "Electrification of Utah 1880 to 1915," Utah State University, 1976. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 24 March 2021].
[8] T. S. H. MUSEUM, "History," TROLLEY SQUARE HISTORY MUSEUM, 2021. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 24 March 2021].
[9] UTA, "History," UTA, 2021. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 24 March 2021].
[10] McGraw, Electric Railway, McGraw, 1800.