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Mass Transit In The Salt Lake Valley: 1872 To 1960

By Douglas F. Bennett and James W. Woolley [1]

Digitally scanned from Utah Economic and Business Review, Volume 37, Number 9, September 1977; College of Business, Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of Utah.

The Utah Transit Authority, created in 1970, [2] has undergone a dramatic and rapid expansion during the past four years. The growth has been financed largely by federal grants and local sales tax revenues. The problems of organizing and managing a modern transit system are immense. What routes should the buses follow? How frequent should the service be? How much of the cost should be paid by public contributions versus fare box contributions by riders? These and other questions confront policy makers and managers alike.

Mass transit systems, however modern they may appear, are rooted in a rich history of successes and failures, especially in Salt Lake City and its surrounding suburbs. This article is the first in a two-part series looking at the problems and issues in the organization and management of a modern mass transit system. A review of the history of mass transit in Utah may provide a better understanding of existing problems and help to define the role which mass transit can play in Utah.

Between 1872 and 1960, no less than ten major companies were involved in the mass transit efforts throughout the Salt Lake Valley. Their operation met with varying degrees of success. Those which operated during the war years and during times of shortage seemed to enjoy more success than those operating during periods of prosperity. Passengers utilized mass transit when alternative modes of travel were not readily available. With the end of World War II and the easing of wartime shortages, the "golden" days of transit were about to end. Not only in Utah but throughout the country, few transportation planners could fully anticipate what was about to happen to all forms of mass transit. However, a close review of the ups and downs of transit companies during the 1872-1960 period could have provided, in retrospect, some clues to the problems which were to follow, and provide some insights into long-term concerns for transit operations.

Readers should keep in mind two central ideas. First, the transit industry has undergone massive technological changes with attending corporate reorganizations, intense competition from other modes of transportation a record that is remarkably similar in all cities or communities of comparable size. Second, Utah and particularly Salt Lake City, was an innovator in mass transit, especially in the development of the rubber-tired trolley freed from inflexible and expensive tracks.

The Salt Lake Railroad Company, 1872

Concern for public transportation in Utah is not a new phenomenon. In February of 1872, Brigham Young, John W. Young, S. B. Young, LeGrand Young, John Pike, Moses Thatcher, W. B. Preston, P. L. Williams, Hamilton G. Parke, and W. W. Riter organized the Salt Lake Railroad Company. Capital stock of $180,000 was divided into 3,600 shares of $50.00 par value. [3] [4]

The first public conveyance put into use by the Salt Lake Railroad Company consisted of a cart drawn by two rat mules, imported from Missouri.[5] The line began at the junction of Third West and South Temple Streets and traveled eastward on South Temple to West Temple Street where it turned southward on West Temple to First South Street. The line then turned eastward and ran southward on Main Street to Third South Street where it terminated.[6] The ride cost five cents, and was said to be somewhat less efficient than ambulatory travel.[7] Nevertheless, the line enjoyed considerable popularity.

In 1873, a dividend was declared, and Brigham Young was elected as Director. In 1874 he became President of the company. The company flourished, and declared a dividend of 2 percent twice a year until 1889, at which time Congress passed legislation limiting the extent to which a church could engage in business.[8] As a result, suit was brought to recover stock held by the Latter-day Saints Church. A receiver was appointed, but before he was able to secure the stock, it was transferred to Mayor Francis Armstrong and A. W. McCune.[9]

By this time, the first successful electrified streetcar system was put into operation in Richmond, Virginia.[10] The advantages of electrification were obvious, and the directors of the Salt Lake Railroad Company decided to electrify a portion of their line, and double the mule service on the remaining line. On February 20, 1889, capitalization was increased to $1,000,000. Five miles of the line were electrified, and on August 8, 1889 shortly after 6:00 p.m., the first electric streetcar made a successful trial run from the powerhouse on Second East Street to the east end of town, back to the Garfield depot and home to the powerhouse.[11] According to an account of this maiden run: "The car sped up grades in fine style, and people along the line stared as though an apparition were flying by.[12]

Electricity for the system was provided by the powerhouse on Second East, and consisted of a boiler room and an operating room. Four 60-h.p.boilers with twin settings were located in the boiler room, and a 200-h.p.Corless engine occupied the operating room.[13]

Electrification proved a tremendous success, and by 1890 the company operated eight cars on nine miles of track.

The Rapid Transit Company, 1890

Until this time, the Salt Lake Railroad Company enjoyed sole ownership of all public transportation facilities in Salt Lake City. But with the obvious potential in public transportation due to the advent of electricity, competition soon developed. In 1890, L. S. Hills, James T. Little,W. H. Spafford and John Sharp, Jr., all of Salt Lake City, and J. S. Cameron of Omaha, Nebraska, filed Articles of Incorporation on February 25, for the purpose of forming the Rapid Transit Company. Capital stock was listed at $500,000 and was divided into 5,000 shares.[14] [15]

The Rapid Transit Company's trackage included lines on State Street, First Avenue, Second South, lines to Murray, to the Rio Grande and Western Depot, Forest Dale, Calder's Park, Smoot's Pleasure Gardens, White Sulphur Springs, Beck's Hot Springs and the West Side Race Track.[16] [17]

Several of the Rapid Transit Company lines duplicated the routes followed by the Salt Lake City Railroad Company, but since franchises were distributed somewhat freely, no legal action could be taken. This situation gave rise, in subsequent years, to considerable acrimony on the part of both corporations.[18]

As the Rapid Transit Company grew, the obvious potential in electrified transit inspired the formation of several smaller lines throughout Salt Lake City. These included the Popperton and Fort Douglas Company, East Bench Company, West Side Rapid Transit and the Salt Lake Suburban Railway Company.[19] [20] It was apparent, however, that the smaller lines could not hope to compete with the major transit companies, and in time, all were assumed by the two large transit interests.[21]

Both major companies continued to prosper, financing their operations through sale of stocks and bonds. Bitter competition continued, however, and open fights between the crews were not uncommon. Disputes were also common with property owners, who contended that the equipment necessary for the operation of trolley cars contributed to the depreciation of their property values.

Problems of Operation

Despite the widespread public acceptance of the trolleys, they were clearly not the most comfortable means of transportation. The cars rode on a single track, and were subject to obstruction by any object which happened to be in the way. Accounts of passengers having to disembark, assisting the two-member crew in rocking the car back and forth over a bump or irregularity in the track, and then re-embarking before proceeding to their destinations, were not uncommon. Most of the cars were open, with straw strewn on the floor the only concession to insulation for the sake of warmth.[22] Occasionally, according to one conductor, pranksters would grease the rail, and then hide behind bushes lining the track, to watch as the trolley slid uncontrollably on the slippery track.[23] There was also real danger in the overhead electric wires from which the trolley cars drew their energy. According to several former conductors and motormen, the wires were subject to breakage in the extreme temperatures of Salt Lake City; and when they did break, the results were occasionally disastrous. At least one motorman was electrocuted as the overhead wire snapped, falling into the front of the car. Others recount instances when the wires were so powerfully charged that when they broke, they fused themselves instantly to the track upon impact.[24]

Growth of Lines Continues

Travel on the trolleys continued, as the passengers were undaunted by the danger and rode in ever increasing numbers. By 1892, the Rapid Transit Company operated on 30 miles of track, and increased the capacity at its power plant on the corner of Second West and Seventh South to accommodate the additional 22 motor and 13 trail cars. In 1893, the company added two miles of track and improved its existing lines. By the year 1894, the Rapid Transit Company had 33 miles of track, 26 motor and 11 trail cars.[25]

The company employed over 150 individuals. Fares were 5 cents, 10 cents, and 15 cents depending on the distance traveled, and commuter tickets were 4 cents and 7 cents. A special rate of 2-1/2 cents was charged schoolchildren.[26]

The Salt Lake Railroad Company was also experiencing considerable growth during this time period. In 1891, extensive alterations were made to the powerhouse. Overhead trolley wires were divided into six districts to facilitate more effective distribution of electricity. Garland stoves for heating purposes in cold months were installed in the streetcars, and electric headlights were used for the first time. The line was extended to Beck's Warm Springs, Fort Douglas, City Creek Canyon and the principal cemeteries in the city. Its longest line ran six miles north and south through the city, and by 1893 the Salt Lake Railroad Company had 42 miles of trackage.[27] [28] The Salt Lake Railroad Company's expanded trackage soon rendered the generating capacity inadequate. To alleviate the shortage, the railroad company negotiated a contract with the Utah Light and Power Company for electricity. The agreement apparently was unsatisfactory, however; and in 1895 the railway company broke the contract, citing expense, unreliability and inadequacy of the contract power.[29] After overhauling its own steam power house in 1899, the railroad company reverted to generating its own power. As the two transit companies grew, so did the intensity of their hostility toward each other. Duplicate lines were constructed to the dismay of the residents they were designed to serve. Property owners objected to the seemingly excessive construction throughout the city.[30]

Consolidated Railway and Power Company, 1901

Francis Armstrong, former President of the Salt Lake Railroad Company, died in 1901. A. W. McCune, who was at that time serving as the President, purchased the Armstrong estate holdings in the company, and thereby gained control over two-thirds of the stock.[31] In June of 1901, McCune proposed that the company issue second mortgage bonds to purchase $500,000 of Salt Lake Rapid Transit, East Bench Street Railway, and Popperton Place and Fort Douglas Rapid Transit bonds. When this transaction was completed, McCune resigned his position at Salt Lake Railroad Company and organized the Consolidated Railway and Power Company.[32] His stated purpose was to consolidate all streetcar properties, and on August 8, 1901, the Salt Lake Railroad Company sold all its assets (subject to lien) to McCune as agent for Consolidated Railway and Power Company. The price was $850,000. On August 10, the Salt Lake City Railroad Company property was conveyed by warranty deed.[33]

The Consolidated Railway and Power Company was incorporated under the laws of the State of Utah on August 9, 1901 by McCune, Joseph S. Wells, B. M. Ellerbeck, W. P. Reed, E. B. Ellerbeck, Spencer Clawson, R. C.Rood, G. S. Gammett, E. E. Calvert and W. E. Wilson.

Capital was fixed at $4,000,000 and was divided into 40,000 shares at a par value of $100. At the time of incorporation, only ten shares had been subscribed for, the remaining being transferred to McCune and the other owners.[34]

Indebtedness of all predecessor companies was retired by means of a consolidated mortgage on all the property. Consolidated mortgage bonds amounting to $1,472,000, due to July 1, 1921, and drawing 5 percent, were listed.[35]

Upon consolidation of all the companies into one, an immediate expansion program was initiated. The company extended its Murray line an additional 15 miles south to Sandy and built a line to North Salt Lake. In addition, a new car barn was constructed on the site of the old Salt Lake Rapid Transit barn which had burned down several years before.[36]

Perhaps among the most significant decisions made during this period was to purchase, rather than continue to generate all needed electricity. Therefore, the directors negotiated a contract, and purchased power from the Utah Light and Power Company.[37]

Despite apparent prosperity, the Consolidated Railway and Power Company came under increasing public criticism. Company car barns, overhead wires and tracks were said to be a public eyesore. Plans for the destruction of many of the more obnoxious transit buildings were never executed. Lawsuits, damage claims and complaints were increasingly frequent. Even the first known streetcar robbery in Utah transpired during the short life of Consolidated. The Salt Lake Tribune of July 11, 1903, states that two men held up the trolley on 13th East and South Temple, escaping with $21.30.[38] [39] The Salt Lake attorney harassed the company for its refusal to keep the cars clean, and even threatened an ordinance to force more sanitary conditions. The burdens seemed too difficult for the management of Consolidated to solve.

Utah Light and Railway Company, 1903

On December 30, 1903, stockholders of the Utah Light and Power Company, from which company Consolidated purchased much of its power, met and authorized a merger with Consolidated Railway and Power. The new company was known as the Utah Light and Railway Company, and the merger was completed on January 2, 1904. Articles of Incorporation were filed with a capital of $10,000,000.[40]

At the same time the Utah Light and Railway Company was being formed, one of the men whose unique vision helped to shape the West was beginning to consider the development of his own traction system in Salt Lake City. E. H. Harriman, President of the Union Pacific Railroad, had told associates that he planned to build a transit system in Utah which would be a world model. Harriman was interested in expanding Utah Light and Railway, and instructed W. H. Bancroft, Harriman's representative in the Rocky Mountain Region, and Vice-President and General Manager of the Oregon Short Line, to make a complete inventory of the Utah Light and Railway Company's assets and operating statements. Bancroft presented his findings to Harriman in New York, but advised against Harriman's involvement. "If you purchase this traction company in Salt Lake City," Bancroft is quoted as saying, "you are really to regret it. To rehabilitate it, to place it in condition of your other investments in the mountain country will necessitate an expenditure of from four to five million dollars, and this will be in addition to the money you spend to purchase it.[41]

But Harriman persisted, and in 1906, he purchased 60 percent of Utah Light and Railway Company. Seventeen companies preceded the Utah Light and Railway Company in 32 years of public transit service in Salt Lake City. The business was obviously one of some risk, but Harriman foresaw the dangers, and set out to leave his own mark on public transportation.

The new officers and Board of Directors of the Utah Light and Railway Company, consisted of W. H. Bancroft, P. L. Williams, W. S. McCormick, Heber M. Wells, W. W. Riter, Everett Buckingham, T. G. Weber, D. E. Burley and L. S. Hills.[42]

Harriman was financially able to sacrifice immediate return on his investment, and set out to revitalize and modernize the system. New hydroelectric facilities were constructed at Devil's Gate and the Jordan Steam Plant. (Eight thousand tons of steel railing were ordered to replace over 80 miles of track. This work alone took over two years.)[43]

The block bounded by Sixth and Seventh East and Fifth and Sixth South was purchased and car barns and repair shops were built to replace existing facilities in residential neighborhoods. The Salt Lake Tribune building on West Temple Street was purchased and completely renovated for office use. Preparation for the utilization of the 50 new cars began. Wooden poles were removed from the center of the street and replaced by steel poles, and Salt Lake City's underground electric distribution system was initiated.[44] [45]

As this work was progressing, Harriman left New York and traveled to Salt Lake City to inspect his new properties. In conversation with Bancroft, Harriman was pleased with what he saw: "It's all right.. .. It costs something, of course, but it makes a city. It builds up a state. Let the good work go on."[46]

In 1908, after the settlement of a franchise dispute, reconstruction work continued. A new dam and headworks was built in Big Cottonwood Canyon, and new transformers, oil switches, switchboard panels, controllers and regulators were installed at the Canyon and West Temple stations.[47]

By 1910, the Utah Light and Railway Company inaugurated the new streetcar system and corporate attention turned to the production of electricity and gas. (Work had begun on a luminous arc system to replace the carbon lights which had illuminated the city.)[48]

Emigration Canyon Railroad Company

As the work on Salt Lake's streetcar system was progressing, adventure seekers were discovering that real excitement in mass transit awaited them to the east of Salt Lake City. For years Emigration Canyon had supplied the rock and sandstone of which many of Salt Lake's buildings were constructed. Transportation of the stone, however, was both slow and tedious. In 1907, the Mormon Church solved the problem by constructing an electric railway which ran from Fifth South and University Streets in Salt Lake City to Pinecrest, high above the city atop Emigration Canyon. The railway was initially utilized exclusively for freight purposes; but in 1909, officials of the Emigration Canyon Railroad Company decided to add four passenger cars to the train.[49]

Immediately, the passenger business proved so brisk that additional passenger cars were added. Unlike the Utah Light and Railway Company, the Emigration Canyon Railroad Company chose not to number, but rather to name their cars. The names were as colorful as the route: the Oquirrh, the Red Butte, the Pioneer, the Washakie.

The route included 19 stops, including the lodge at the top of Pinecrest which was constructed by the railroad company. Among the more popular of the stops was the Wagner Brewery, where those who were so inclined could spend an afternoon, while the train carried others to the top of Emigration Canyon. En route to Salt Lake City, the train stopped at Wagner's to transport the sippers homeward.

The train, of course, could not be operated in winter months, so the transportation of both passengers and freight came to a seasonal halt when the first snows blocked the tracks.

The railroad met its demise as concrete began to replace stone as the favored foundation material. The passenger revenue alone failed to keep the line in the black; and in 1916, one of the most popular recreation trains in the Western United States ceased operation. The rails were removed from the canyon, and together with the spikes, went to aid the war effort. The cars were pressed into emergency service, and were sent to the Tacoma Municipal Railway in Washington where they hauled war workers to shipyards.

Salt Lake Light and Traction Company, August 1914

Meanwhile, in Salt Lake City in 1914, the Salt Lake Light and Traction Company was incorporated on August 8th. Capital stock was $1,000,000. There is no record of the company having conducted any operations during its 42 days of existence. The only known property owned by Salt Lake Light and Traction was a franchise for electric service in Willard, Utah, and an option to purchase the Willard hydro plant and distribution system.[50]

Utah Light and Traction Company, September 1914

On September 18, 1914, the holdings of the Salt Lake Light and Traction Company were consolidated with those of the Utah Light and Railway Company. The new corporation bore the name "Utah Light and Traction Company," and was capitalized at $10,000,000, with 400,000 shares issued at a par value of $25 each.[51]

Although the traction and electrical power businesses required different types of training and operation, they had been managed together by the Utah Light and Railway Company, which was clearly the most important company in the state in matters concerning electrical power. However, shortly after the Utah Light and Traction Company was organized, a lease was negotiated with the Utah Power and Light Company, under which electrical property was leased to UP&L for 99 years on terms guaranteeing the bonds, both principal and interest, outstanding against Utah Light and Traction Company.[52] At the time the Utah Light and Traction Company was formed, the railway system consisted of franchises and rights-of-way, four substations and necessary overhead and underground distribution systems, 192 pieces of passenger rolling stock, necessary service equipment and yard, shops and barns of sufficient capacity to properly maintain and provide storage for all passenger equipment.The streetcars were all of the pay-as-you-enter variety, and the system was generally regarded as one of the finest in the country.[53]

Golden Days of the Trolley

Those who worked on the streetcars recall with obvious fondness the "golden days" of the trolley. One motorman has noted that he ".. . used to remember 75 percent of the people who got on the car. Everyone rode ... the students, Apostle (Richard) Lyman (everyday), George Albert Smith and (Charles W.) Penrose, too. Adam S. Bennion took the trolley to the University all the time. It was a place to talk and to catch up on the gossip of the city."

But there was danger. Another employee recalls that"... the 'black frost' (grease from the trolley mixed with ice) made the cars damn hard to stop. Sometimes we would slide into whatever was ahead.

And when it snowed, even after a 10-hour day, the employees were expected to help sweep the rails. And then there were the spotters. The company hired men, dressed in street clothing, to ride the cars, keeping their eyes on the conductor to make sure that all the money found its way to the cash register ... which it sometimes didn't. They also watched for smokers. If a driver (motorman) or conductor dared smoke, he would be reprimanded by the company, but a passenger could be kicked off the coach."[54]

Changes 1914 to 1926

In 1914, a record 38.9 million passengers, each paying cash fares of 5 cents or utilizing tickets which were sold for 4 cents or 25 for $1.00, rode on the streetcars. Over 5.25 million passenger car miles were operated and an average of six revenue passengers were onboard for each mile operated. Gross revenue amounted to $1,482,143.[55]

Between 1914 and 1926, a program of track abandonment and removal began on unprofitable lines in outlying areas. (Maximum trackage level was reached in 1918, when the total was 146.12 miles.) Financial problems brought about by World War I, the market conditions for materials and labor and the increasing use of the automobile, which was eventually to virtually deliver the death blow to public transportation, began to take their toll. The increased usage of the automobile is dramatically illustrated by the number registered in Utah in the years 1914 and 1926. In 1914, 6,216 automobile registrations were recorded by the Secretary of State office records. By 1926,the figure had increased to 91,265.[56]

Financial difficulties were attributable to a number of above-mentioned factors, but employee demands could not necessarily be considered among them. A motorman beginning work in 1918 was paid 33 cents per hour[57] (or $1.34 in 1977 constant dollars).[58] Some maintain that "the conductors got more, because of the tips." After one year of employment, if the motorman had proven himself reliable, a 4 cents per hour pay increase was awarded. As the two positions of motorman and conductor were combined (the result of the invention of the fare box), the salary was increased. Hence, by 1946, an operator (as the combined position was titled) was paid 77 cents per hour[59] (or $2.40 in 1977 constant dollars).[60] [61]

The effects of shortages brought by the war were heavily felt by the Utah Light and Traction Company, and in 1917, it became necessary to ask for an increase in the fare charged to riders. The Public Utilities Commission ordered abolition of the sale of the 4 cent tickets and authorized a fare increase of 1 cent to take effect in 1918.

In 1919, the number of revenue passengers increased to 33.9 million. But with increased passenger loads, operating expenses increased. In 1920, another fare increase was approved. Cash fare was raised to 7 cents, while tickets sold 16 for $1.00. Student rates remained at 5 cents. Under the new rates the ridership level reached 34.7 million. Gross revenue was $2,069,483.[62]

With the post-war depression, both passengers and revenue declined. In 1923, only 28.2 million paying passengers rode the trolleys. In 1924, the weekly pass was instituted essentially a vehicle for fare reduction. Passengers increased by 1.5 million to 29.7 million total. By 1925, the number of passengers reached 30.2 million although revenue decreased almost $12,000 as compared with 1924. Due to declining revenue, fares were raised again on May 23, 1926. Adult cash fare was established at 10 cents, with three tokens costing 25 cents. Student tickets sold for 50 for $2.00.[63] This increase in fare brought a slight increase in revenue, but a decrease in the number of passengers. The decrease in customers continued through 1929.[64]

As the decreases continued, it became clear that the private automobile was making tremendous inroads in the transportation market. The working class owned automobiles, where previously they had to rely on public transportation. The automobile offered many clear advantages it ran at the rider's convenience not vice-versa. It could be easily maneuvered and it afforded privacy. Those who designed public transit systems, and invested huge sums of money in them were apparently doomed to see their work fail by virtue of a transportation revolution that they could not have prevented. By 1929,112,661 automobiles were registered in Utah, of which 95,661 were privately owned passenger cars.[65]

Rubber-Tired Trolley Bus

As the demands of the automobile continued to take their toll on the trolley operation, alternate public conveyances were considered. Among the ersatz trolleys suggested was the rubber-tired "trolleybus."[66] Although the buses envisioned would continue to rely on electrical power supplied by overhead wires, the obvious advantages were in additional maneuverability and ease of operation. The management at Utah Light and Traction decided to fight back the problem of decreasing customers with this type of new bus. But since there were none in operation in the United States, the problems surrounding research, development and manufacturing such a vehicle were tremendous. But, by employing considerable ingenuity, company officials and engineers managed the successful development of the buses.[67]

Their business acumen was reflected also in their marketing techniques. Knowing that financial support would be hard to find in view of the failure of similar projects, the company executives and engineers acknowledged the need to "dramatize" the final result of their research and planning. A highway bus passing through Salt Lake City was positioned in front of the Mormon Temple, where it was photographed. One of Salt Lake City's trolleys was also photographed in the same position. The two photographs were then "blended," the trolley being superimposed on the bus. The result was a photograph of an electrically powered "trolley bus" that did not exist. But, with the engineers' blueprints, and the photograph of the finished product, the Utah Light and Traction Company convinced the Versare Corporation of Albany, New York, to manufacture the buses. A contract was signed, and the buses were built.[68]

The buses began serving the city's transit users in 1928. Representatives from 26 states and 13 foreign nations were sent to Salt Lake City to study the design and operation of the phenomenal trolley buses.[69] Clearly, the age of the streetcar was drawing to an end.

In time, it became apparent that the same difficulties which had plagued the streetcar were to doom the trolley bus. While the buses were more comfortable than the streetcars, they still suffered in areas of maneuverability by virtue of their power source. Obviously, the buses had to follow the routes of the overhead wires, and were therefore limited in their capabilities for meeting the needs of the traveling urban population. The solution to the problem was to be found in a vehicle utilizing an internal power source that was not restricted by rails underneath or wires overhead. The gasoline-powered bus was the solution, and in time the replacement for all trolley-type conveyances.

For a period of several years, Utah Light and Traction continued to operate the trolleys in addition to trolley buses and gasoline-powered buses. Ridership remained fairly constant between 1935, when 15,171,442 paying passengers rode, and 1940, when 15,479,799 paid to ride.

Salt Lake City Lines

In 1939, however, Congress passed the Holding Act, as a result of which the Utah Power and Light Company, holding company of the Utah Light and Traction Company and the Western Colorado Power Company, was ordered to divest itself of its two subsidiaries. The properties of the Utah Light and Traction Company were sold to the newly formed Salt Lake City Lines on April14, 1944.[70] The Salt Lake City Lines were owned by Pacific City Lines until 1947, at which time the operation was sold to National City Lines.

The Salt Lake City Lines enjoyed great success during the early 1940's. Ridership rose steadily from a level of 15,479,800 in 1940 to 33,106,061 in 1946. In the years between 1943 and 1946, over 30 million passengers rode the bus each year. Fuel, rubber and steel shortages along with patriotic desires to help the war effort were largely responsible for the success of the bus operations. Revenues from passenger fares also reached a high point during this period. Over $2.5 million were collected at the fare box and service miles were in excess of 6.2 million in 1946.[71]

As wartime shortages began to abate, and the automobile increased in popularity, the fortunes of the Salt Lake City Lines began to fade. Ridership began to decline at a rate of about 5 percent annually between 1947 and 1949. The rate of passenger decline increased to nearly 15 percent in 1950 before settling back to a 5 percent decline in the early fifties. Between 1953 and 1956, ridership declined a dramatic 28 percent before leveling off at a 12-million passenger level in 1958. The 12-million passenger base held through the remainder of the decade.

From a high in 1946 of 33 million passengers, ridership dipped to approximately 12 million. In 15 years, there was a decline of some 21 million passengers or nearly 64 percent.

During this same period, service miles dropped from 6.2 million to below 4 million, a decrease of about one-third. The Salt Lake City Lines was caught in a squeeze. Fares were raised and service was reduced but neither approach was sufficient to offset the impending failure of privately owned mass transit in the Salt Lake Valley. A holding action was established. This holding action would become more pronounced during the 1960's. It became clear by 1960 that only dramatic changes could save privately owned mass transit in the Salt Lake Valley. No such changes were effected.

Nationally, the number of mass transit riders declined dramatically from 19 billion in 1945 to 7.4 billion in 1960.[72] In Utah, the net loss for the same period was 2,918,789, from 15,479,799 to 12,561,010.[73]

Summary

Between 1872 and 1960, the private companies involved in the mass transit efforts throughout the Salt Lake Valley met with varying degrees of success. Those which operated during the war years and during times of shortage seemed to enjoy more success than those operating during periods of prosperity. Passengers utilized mass transit when alternative modes of travel were not readily available. With the end of World War II and the easing of wartime shortages, the "golden" days of transit were about to end. The decline in transit occurred not only in Salt Lake but throughout the country. Few transportation planners could fully anticipate what was about to happen to all forms of mass transit. However, a close review of the ups and downs of the Salt Lake transit companies' history during the 1872-1960 period provides some ideas for mass transit planners of today.

Among the more important issues emerging from the 1872-1960 era for transit planners were:

1. Competitive restrictions are necessary if a mass transit system is to be modestly successful. The Utah Transit Authority now enjoys a relatively free hand which allows it to provide mass transit in a three-county area.

Legislative and other governmental bodies should thoroughly analyze the impact on existing mass transit services before either expanding or restricting the existing franchise operation or by providing specialized service to disadvantaged groups.

2. Fixed operating systems which do not provide operating flexibility are likely to cause significant capital problems without meeting the service needs of the public. Shifting populations and work centers should be a clear indicator to transit boards to avoid proposals calling for fixed rail or similar systems.

3. Transit policy makers need to design transit routes and maintain sufficient facilities and rolling stock to meet the problems of an "energy crisis" or other similar emergency. In addition to the physical facilities, contingency plans which will improve the effectiveness of the transit system should be devised. Staggered working hours for local business and the re-utilization of discontinued routes and additional equipment such as school buses, should be integrated into an emergency contingency program.

4. Integration of all mass transit services (buses, taxis,etc.) and other transit authorities should be programmed. The Wasatch Front has become too populated to allow a group of independent services to overlap each other. Transit policy can be established which will allow individual organizations to maintain their independence while providing effective and efficient service to the public.

The lessons which can be learned from previous mass transit efforts are valuable. Transportation policy makers should make every effort to avoid the problems of the past and to utilize the solutions where applicable.

The authors wish to extend their thanks to the following individuals and organizations for their cooperation and valued advice:

Grant Pendleton, Utah Power and Light Company, Public Affairs Division
Office of Central Files, Utah Power and Light Company State of Utah Archives
William Oswald, Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce Utah State Historical Society
Leonard Woods
Kendloss Jacobsen
Alma Johnson, Utah Transit Authority
The Utah Foundation

Photographs, courtesy of Utah Power and Light Company.

Footnotes

[1] Douglas F. Bennett serves as a Research Analyst with the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, and Dr. James Woolley is Associate Dean for Community Affairs, and Associate Professor, Accounting, College of Business, University of Utah.

[2] The Utah Transit Authority was established by the Utah State Legislature, with enactment of the Utah Public Transit District Act (Section 11-20-1: U.C.A.)1969.

[3] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification of Electric Plant Statements"A" to "I" Inclusive, prepared pursuant to order of Federal Power Commission, May 11, 1937; Utah Power and Light Company Central Files, Appendix to Statement "A", Salt Lake City, Utah.

[4] Street Railway Journal, "American Street Railway Investments;" April,1893, Vol. XIV, no. 4, p. 240 (xerox copy on file at Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah).

[5] Electrical West, "Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Edition," 1962, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[6] Deseret News, "Salt Lake's First Streetcars Were Drawn by Missouri Mules," May 15, 1947.

[7] Trolley Times, Number II, 1975, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[8] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification... , page 36

[9] ibid.

[10] Boyd L. Dastrup, The Electrification of Utah: 1880 to 1915; unpublished Master's thesis, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, 1976, p. 72.

[11] Salt Lake Tribune, August 9, 1889.

[12] Salt Lake Telegram, "Streetcar Makes Last Run in Salt Lake Tonight,"August 4, 1941.

[13] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification..., op. cite., page 36

[14] Salt Lake Telegram, "Streetcar Makes Last Run in Salt Lake Tonight,"August 4, 1941.

[15] Utah Transit Authority, Transit News, "The New Look," Vol. 1, No. 3, Salt Lake City, Utah, July 15, 1972, p. 2.

[16] Salt Lake Telegram, "Streetcar Makes Last Run in Salt Lake Tonight,"August 4, 1941.

[17] Utah Transit Authority, Transit News, "The New Look," Vol. 1, No. 3,Salt Lake City, Utah, July 15, 1972, p. 2.

[18] Deseret News, June 24, 1891.

[19] Utah Power and Light Company, Central Files, "Popperton Place and Fort Douglas Railway Historical File," unpublished corporate documents, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[20] Salt Lake Tribune, "Third Suburban Line," August 5, 1902.

[21] Dastrup, op. cite.

[22] C. W. McCulloch, "The Passing of the Streetcar," Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 24, 1956, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[23] Leonard Woods, former motorman and Kendloss Jacobsen, former conductor, Utah Light and Traction Company. Interviews conducted by the author, Salt Lake City,Utah.

[24] ibid.

[25] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification..., op. cite., page 38

[26] ibid.

[27] Street Railway Journal, "American Street Railway Investments;" April,1893, Vol. XIV, no. 4, p. 240 (xerox copy on file at Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah).

[28] Dastrup, op. cite.

[29] Street Railway Journal, "American Street Railway Investments;" April,1893, Vol. XIV, no. 4, p. 240 (xerox copy on file at Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah).

[30] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification..., op. cite., page 43

[31] ibid.

[32] Utah Foundation, "Problems in Mass Transportation 1972," Research Report No. 312, October, 1972, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[33] Salt Lake Area Public Transit District, "Preliminary Application for Capital Facilities and Equipment Grant," Binder 9, December 15, 1969, (signed, J. Bracken Lee), unpublished document, Chamber of Commerce Files, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[34] Utah Transit Authority, Corporate Historical Files, unpublished financial data, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[35] Tax Foundation, Inc., Urban Mass Transportation in Perspective, New York, New York, April, 1976, p. 15.

[36] Dastrup, op. cite., page 76.

[37] Dastrup, op. cite., page 72.

[38] Salt Lake Telegram (quoting Salt Lake Tribune, July 11, 1903).

[39] Trolley Times, Number II, 1975, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[40] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification..., op. cite., pages 44, 45

[41] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification..., op. cite., page 112

[42] ibid.

[43] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification..., op. cite., pages 113, 114

[44] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification..., op. cite., pages 118-120

[45] Trolley Times, Number II, 1975, Salt Lake City, Utah, page 44

[46] Salt Lake Tribune, September 9, 1907.

[47] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification..., op. cite., pages 120-121

[48] ibid.

[49] For a fuller discussion of the Emigration Canyon Railroad Company, see Ira L. Swett, "Interurbans of Utah;" Interurbans Special 55, 1974), Copyright, Ira L. Swett, 17309 Alexandra Ave., Cerritos, California. Privately distributed.) The discussion of this company is taken from Mr. Swett's study.

[50] Utah Power and Light Company, "Salt Lake City Historical File,"Corporate Files, Central Files, unpublished data, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[51] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification..., op. cite., page 131

[52] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification..., op. cite., page 132

[53] Salt Lake Telegram, "Streetcar Makes Last Run in Salt Lake Tonight,"August 4, 1941.

[54] Woods and Jacobsen, op. cite.

[55] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification..., op. cite., page 133

[56] Bureau of Economic and Business Research, Utah Economic and Business Review,University of Utah, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1947.

[57] Woods and Jacobsen, op. cite.

[58] Calculations taken from base data published in Handbook of Labor Statistics,U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, D.C., 1972, and U.S. Department of Labor News, July, 1977.

[59] Woods and Jacobsen, op. cite.

[60] Calculations taken from base data published in Handbook of Labor Statistics,U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, D.C., 1972, and U.S. Department of Labor News, July, 1977.

[61] Salt Lake Tribune, "Ex-Conductor, 97, Recalls Trolley Delights, Dangers," December 1, 1975.

[62] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification..., op. cite., page 136

[63] Utah Light and Traction Company, Reclassification..., op. cite., page 136

[64] Utah Transit Authority, Corporate Historical Files, unpublished data, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[65] Bureau of Economic and Business Research, Utah Economic and Business Review, University of Utah, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1947.

[66] Salt Lake Tribune, "Salt Lake Streetcar Era Ends with Track Removal,"August 4, 1946.

[67] C. W. McCulloch, "The Passing of the Streetcar," Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 24, 1956, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[68] ibid.

[69] ibid.

[70] Utah Transit Authority, Transit News, "The New Look," Vol. 1, No. 3, Salt Lake City, Utah, July 15, 1972, p. 2.

[71] Utah Transit Authority, Corporate Historical Files, unpublished data, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[72] Tax Foundation, Inc., Urban Mass Transportation in Perspective, New York, New York, April, 1976, p. 15.

[73] Utah Transit Authority, Corporate Historical Files, unpublished data, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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