"Peak Streetcar" - A Retrospective - 1
A respected colleague coined the phrase "peak streetcar" to describe the maximum extent of the electric railway industry in a given country. Here in the U.S., the era of "peak streetcar" occurred about the year 1917.
We present the following statistics, compiled by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, for the year 1917, to give an idea of the "dimensions" of "peak streetcar."
U.S. Population: 102,172,800.
U.S. Urban population: 42,286,000.
"Urban population" was defined (at 1917) as the number of people who lived in cities "with 10,000 inhabitants or more."
Number of operating companies: 943.
This included all tramway, electric interurban railway, and metro ("rapid transit") operators. It included a small number of operators that reported only goods (freight) traffic.
The number above was exclusive of "electrified steam railroads" - that is, of companies which operated parts of the national railway system that had converted to electric traction, in part or in whole.
Most operators were for-profit private-sector enterprises. We note that 1917 was, in general, a year of financial hardship for the U.S. electric railway industry.
The U.S. had a very small number of municipal public transport undertakings in 1917. The Municipal Railway of San Francisco ("Muni") was the largest and best known. We note in addition that significant amounts of public capital were used to build metro (subway) infrastructure in Boston and New York.
Kilometers (miles) of road: 52,496.10 (32,547.58).
"Length of road" (or: "length of first main track") is a historic term for "system length" or "route length." Of the figure above, about 510 km (315 mi) was composed of metro ("rapid transit") lines in Boston, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia.
Kilometers (miles) of all tracks: 72,315.11 (44,835.37).
This includes second track, other main track (third and fourth), sidings and turnouts, and tracks in depots (carbarns).
Of the track length above, 43.6 km (27.06 mi) was located outside of the U.S.
Most of the system and track length length stated above was worked by electric traction at 1917. Some lines continued to use animal, steam or cable traction, but this accounted for a small share of the total.
Passengers: 14,506,914,573.
This statistic is inclusive of all passengers carried, i.e. "revenue," "transfer" and "free." "Free" passengers were, typically, company employees but not always: in some cities, police officers and mail carriers were permitted to travel without payment of fares.
This statistic is exclusive of motorbus passengers. Motorbuses did exist in 1917 and had even begun to replace the weakest electric railway lines, but details of operations were not tabulated by the Census Bureau. A very few early trolleybus ("trackless trolley") lines opened from 1910, but none remained in operation at 1917.
About nine percent of total passengers were carried by metro services in Boston, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia.
The statistic is exclusive of passengers carried by suburban ("commuter") rail services.
Rolling stock
Passenger cars: 79,914.
Parcels (Express), goods (freight), baggage, post (mail): 11,534.
Works (service): 11,155.
Electric locomotives: 357.
A small number of companies owned steam locomotives.
Revenue passenger car-kilometers (car-miles): 3,367,449,248 (2,087,818,534).
Revenue passenger car-hours: 199,052,633.
Staff; Salary and wage expense
Total staff (employes): 294,826.
Total salary and wage expense: $267,240,362, equivalent to about $4.6 billion today.
In nominal terms, the average annual compensation per staff member was $906.43, equivalent to about $15,000 today.
Total Railway Operating Receipts (Revenue): $650,149,806, equivalent to about $11.1 billion today.
Total Railway Operating Expenditures (Expenses): $421,250,838 equivalent to about $7.2 billion today.
Net operating revenue (including net revenue from auxiliary operations): $257,230,438 equivalent to about $4.4 billion today.
Taxes: $45,756,695 equivalent to about $780 million today.
Operating income: $211,473,743 equivalent to about $3.6 billion today.
Derived Statistics
Average travel distance: 3 km (2 mi).
We estimated the above using the technique described by D. J. Reynolds.
(See: Reynolds, D. J. 1971. Research Monograph No. 3: The Urban Transport Problem in Canada, 1970-2000. (Prepared for the Honourable R. K. Andras, Minister Responsible for Housing, Government of Canada.) Ottawa.)
We explain how to use this technique in Traffic Density: What Does That Mean? (publictransit.us Special Report No. 7.2), scroll down to 2.) Calculation.
Annual passenger traffic density: 0.9 pass-kilometers (mi) per kilometer (mi) of system length.
Metro services carried about nine percent of total passenger traffic but metro lines accounted for less than one percent of total system length. Therefore, the annual passenger traffic for "surface rail" lines was about 0.8 pass-kilometers (mi) per kilometer (mi) of system length. This, we note, is a remarkably small number with reference to passenger traffic carried by today's light rail transit (LRT) and modern tramway ("modern streetcar") lines.
Annual "boardings" per capita, total population: 140.
Annual "boardings" per capita, urban population: 340.
Annual pass-kilometers (pass-miles) per capita, total population: 430 (260).
Annual pass-kilometers (pass-miles) per capita, urban population: 1,000 (600).
Annual car-kilometers (car-miles) per car-hour: 17 (10).
The ratio of annual car-km (car-mi) to annual car-hours is a productivity indicator rather than a measure of commercial speed. The actual commercial speed will be higher than this ratio.
Annual pass-kilometers (mi) per car-kilometers (mi): 13.
Annual car-kilometers (car-miles) per staff member: 11,400 (7,100).
Annual pass-kilometers (pass-miles) per staff member: 148,000 (92,000).
Annual operating expense as a percentage of annual operating revenue: 65 percent.
Taxes as a percentage of annual operating revenue: 7 percent.
Total salary and wage expense as a percentage of annual operating expense: 63 percent.
We will provide more information in subsequent posts as we dig it out.