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Streetcars in St. Louis

December 19, 2009

Streetcars always been something that interested me ever since I was a young boy listening to my Grandfather’s stories about growing up in St. Louis.  So many stories involved streetcars, because they were such an integral part of life.  My Grandfather was born in 1905 and I can’t even imagine what it was like to live in St. Louis then.  It’s a little hard to tell from the small picture below (click on the photo for the full size version), but the red lines represent streetcar lines and show how accessible this city once was to pedestrians.

Streetcar Map 1903

St. Louis Streetcar Lines - 1903

Seeing so much [private] public transportation available is basically unfathomable from my perspective as a St. Louisian in the 21st century.  Today we are really lucky to have MetroLink (the Wikipedia’s List of Light Rail Systems in the United States by Ridership shows us as number 10; sad for many reasons but worth bragging about!), and must hope that its existance and future expansion will help us rebuild (restore) our dense urban core.  I would like to personally thank those people who paved the way for MetroLink by building the most expensive infrastructure over 100 years ago.  James Eads’ beautiful bridge is a vital part of the system and even more so is the downtown train tunnel running up Washington from the bridge to Eighth street, and then south out of the Central Business District.  Thanks to the wonderful archives of the New York Times we can get a glimpse of our city in 1873 when this article was written about the construction of the tunnel.

Newly Opened Train Tunnel Downtown

We do have a lot to be thankful for living in St. Louis and this, in addition to my ignorance about the true nature of the circumstances of the demise of the streetcar, prevent me from succumbing to bitterness about the current state of transportation here.  More about St. Louis Transportation’s Past and Present to come.

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