"Peak Streetcar" - A Retrospective - 3
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 begin this post with a bit of "housecleaning:"
Of the 943 operating companies surveyed by the U.S. Census Bureau at 1917, 384, or nearly 41 percent, reported a net deficit for the year.
Of the total track length, 72,315.11 km (44,835.37 mi), 59.6 percent was classified as "city and suburban," and 40.4 percent was classified as "interurban." We emphasize that the distinction between the two categories was by no means clear-cut, and that the allocations to each category were based on the judgment of the company officials who prepared the reports. We think it reasonable to say that "at 1917, roughly 40 percent of the electric railway track length in operation was 'interurban' in character." We add the caveat that "interurban," in this case, describes a broad category of alignment configurations - everything from rural "trolley" lines to high-speed, fully-separated lines.
Total power generated and purchased: 43,876 million MJ (12,188 million kW.h)
Revenue passenger car-kilometers per total unit of power generated and purchased: 0.08 per MJ (0.28 per kW.h).
Revenue passenger car-miles per total unit of power generated and purchased: 0.05 per MJ (0.17 per kW.h).
"Boardings" per total unit of power generated and purchased: 0.33 per MJ (1.19 per kW.h).
Passenger-kilometers per total unit of power generated and purchased: 0.96 per MJ (3.46 per kW.h).
Passenger-miles per total unit of power generated and purchased: 0.64 per MJ (2.31 per kW.h).
Estimated total staff (employee) work hours: 750 million.
The source document provides no information about total employee work hours. We sought to estimate this statistic to one significant digit. We began with an average work week of 48 hours, 52 weeks per year.
To the nearest thousand, we judged 2,000 work hours per year as indefensibly low, and 3,000 hours per year as indefensibly high. Thus, we used 2,500 work hours per year as the annual average.
In similar fashion, we judged 700 million total employee work hours as indefensibly low, and 800 million total work hours as indefensibly high. Thus, we used 750 million as the estimated annual total for employee work hours.
We believe that the figure above - 750 million total employee work hours - might be somewhat high, but reiterate that we judged 700 million total work hours as indefensibly low.
Annual passenger-kilometers (-miles) per annual staff (employee) work hour: 60 (40).
The National Transit Database (NTD) includes 14 modal categories, e.g. "bus," "heavy rail." Our comparisons between the era of "peak streetcar" and today shall exclude the following categories, as explained:
Commuter rail: Major cities, e.g. Boston, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia, had extensive suburban rail systems at 1917. Moreover, many smaller centers did have significant "suburban" rail traffic as that term is understood today. However, we exclude this category because traffic carried at 1917 was not included in U.S. Census Bureau tabulations.
Demand Responsive: We exclude this category because the mode did not exist at 1917.
Ferryboat: Some U.S. cities, among them Boston, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco, were served by extensive ferryboat services at 1917. However, we exclude this category because traffic carried at 1917 was not included in U.S. Census Bureau tabulations.
Vanpool: We exclude this category because the mode did not exist at 1917.
P├║blico (shared taxi, in Puerto Rico): We exclude this category because the mode did not exist at 1917.
Alaska Railroad: We exclude this category because the mode did not exist at 1917.
"Automated Guideway" and "Monorail" differ from the two urban rail modes with reference to technology, but not with reference to service characteristics.
Therefore, our comparisons between 1917 and today shall include the following mode categories: Bus, Heavy Rail, Light Rail, Trolleybus, Cable Car, Automated Guideway, Monorail and Inclined Plane.