It is widely agreed that letting our nation's street car system go was one of the worst decisions politicians and planners made during the 20th century. Throughout the Southeast, there used to be an extensive network of electrified street cars. Cities as small as Wrightsville, North Carolina, had their own systems that gave easy and efficient transportation to thousands of residents. Unfortunately, in the mid 20th century these systems were either destroyed or left to deteriorate. Today, there are still remnants of these systems in the form of disused tracks and heritage cars. And in some cities, light rail and streetcars are making a comeback.
Streetcars provide a critical link in the rail transportation chain. Allowing travelers to complete the last mile of their journey without the need for cars. Unfortunately, we are seeing a lot of streetcar projects face major headwinds due to cost and frankly bad information. Grand systems across the Southeast have been either trimmed down into BRT/BRT light, which carries significantly fewer people and higher operating cost in the long term or they are canceled altogether. Our hope is to change this.
We designed this map to show how many of these systems existed and how many exist now. Originally, we planned to show the entire Southeast, but upon further research, there was no way to fit all the systems on one map. So we are breaking it down into a new series. With these maps, we want to remind people that their communities likely had a rail transit system that worked well.
Did your community have a streetcar system?