Chicago Tribune, July 4, 1954
BY THOMAS BUCK
Trackless vehicles have provided both the beginning and the end to an evolution of 104 years in Chicago’s local transportation system, historical documents reveal.
In 1850 there were horse drawn omnibuses or “intracity stages.”
Now, with the exception of four street car lines, surface transportation is supplied by motor and trolley buses.
The first horse drawn omnibus appeared in Chicago on a route. from the downtown business district to what is now Lincoln park. New York and other older cities had been using omnibuses.
22 Miles in 1854
By 1854, more than 22 miles of Chicago streets were served by omnibuses on eight routes for a total of 408 daily trips. Special horse drawn “buses” also ran between hotels and Allroad depots.
In 1859 Chicago got Its first transit vehicle on rails. This was a street car drawn by one horse in State st. between Lake and 12th sts. The car was called “bobtail” because it had no rear platform.
The “bobtail” had a speed of about 3 miles an hour. Today, because of street congestion, buses of the Chicago transit authority make only 2½ to 5 miles an hour in the Loop in rush hours. The city. wide average speed for CTA buses is 11.78 miles per hour.
Chicago’s first one-horse drawn streetcar ran along State Street from Randolph Street to 12th Street. The car was called a “Bobtail”, having no rear platform.
Put Up Fare Fight
Horse drawn omnibuses did not give way to the “bobtails” without a fight. For some years, there were fare cutting wars between the horse drawn “buses” and the new street cars.
Another type of horse-drawn bus ‘known as the “carette” was a Chicago vogue of the 1890s. One popular “carette” line operated from the old postoffice at State and Quincy sts., north in State and Rush sts. to Lincoln park.
In 1870, the one horse “bobtail” street cars were pushed asiRe for two horse care with platforms at both ends. With the two horse cars also appeared the to collect fares.
Cable Line In 1882
Chicagoans saw their first cable car line go into operation in State st. between Madison and 21st sts. in 1882. Twelve years later Chicago had the largest cable car system in the country. There were 86 miles of track and 409 grip cars, each usually drawing two trailer cars.
The first electric street car in Chicago began operating on a south side route in 1890, and in the next 15 years there was a steady changeover from horse and cable cars to electric operation.
An ordinance banning over-head trolleys prevented an early operation of electric cars in the Loop. This ordinance was repealed in 1906, and the last cable car line operating in State st. and the last horse drawn line in Dearborn st. became history.
Chicago Elevated Train Station
Elevated Came In 1892
The first elevated line with pulled by steam locomotives was completed on the south side in 1892. This original line was extended almost immediately to serve the Columbian exposition In Jackson park in 1893. By 1912, most of the present “L” system was built. The State st. and Milwaukee – Dearborn subways opened for operation in 1943 and 1951, respectively.
Hertz Steps In
The Motor Coach company went into receivership in 1920, and two years later John Hertz founder of the Yellow Cab company, stepped In to organize the operation into a new company, the Chicago Motor Coach company.
The Motor Coach company went out of business Oct. 1, 1952, when its properties were acquired by the CTA under the transit authority’s plan of consolidating local operations.
The modern trolley bus came to Chicago in 1930. However, It was not until 1947—the year the CTA began operating—that the big conversion from cars to buses got under way.
The four remaining street car lines are Broadway-State, Clark-Wentworth, Western av., and Cottage Grove av.
There now are 105 bus routes operated by the CTA—89 of which are motor bus and 16 trolley bus.
The conversion to buses is attributed by CTA officials primarily to today’s high labor costs. Only one man is needed to operate a bus, compared with two men on street cars.
On the basis of current wage scales, the to buses has produced an annual payroll saving of 35 million dollars for the CTA.
Chicago Motor Coach Company