This session presents three innovative research projects exploring urban transportation history from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. By using compiled financial and statistical data, as well as archival research, Barrieau revisits the history of the Canadian streetcar industry. King and Wachs explore the history of how ballot box measures have guided transportation infrastructure planning in Los Angeles, California, for over 100 years. Finally, Lahoorpoor studies the relationship of modal choice (tram vs. trains) and how these modes influenced urban form and density over a period of 70 years in Sydney, Australia.
Trains, Trams, and Terraces: Population Growth and Network Expansion in Sydney: 1861–1931
Bahman Lahoorpoor, The University of SydneyShow Abstract
David Levinson, The University of Sydney
This paper examines the changes that occurred in the tram and train networks and density of population in Sydney between the early 1860s and 1930s when both trains and trams were developing. A set of statistical analysis has been conducted using panel data representing 593 districts of Greater Sydney at suburb (neighborhood) level over each decade from 1861 to 1931. We find that trams and population density are positively associated in a positive feedback process, tram deployment leads population growth and population growth leads tram deployment, both satisfying a Granger causality test.
A Canadian Electric Streetcar Industry History (1861–2019)
Pierre Barrieau, Université de MontréalShow Abstract
This paper is an attempt at studying the history of Canadian streetcars as an Industry instead of in case-study form. The last significant attempt having been completed in 1966 when Due completed his research focusing solely on the Canadian interurban streetcar industry, there was a need to revisit the subject by tackling all urban streetcars. Since then, streetcars morphed into Light Rail Transit (LRT) and recently got deployed or redeployed in many Canadian cities, making it relevant to produce new knowledge on the matter. Our aim is to go beyond anecdotal evidence and individual histories by employing operations and financial data compiled on every network and Industry wide. We will show the evolution of the streetcar industry throughout Canada, from horse-drawn streetcars to LRT and AGT. As shown, electric streetcars brought a significant Paradigm Shift that changed the face of urban and interurban mass transit, leading to the deployment of extensive streetcar networks. However, as the Kondratiev’s Wave and Marx’s tendency of the profit rate to fall predicted, the Industry encountered difficulties that proved hard to overcome, leading it to a downfall that opened the way to new technologies, more adapted to current needs, and to a larger role for the State.
Centuries of Ballot Box Transportation Planning in Los Angeles
Hannah King, University of California, Los AngelesShow Abstract
Martin Wachs, University of California, Los Angeles
Since 1980, many have marveled at Los Angeles’ “innovation” of funding transportation through ballot measures that are raising billions for transportation improvements. In fact, historically much transportation infrastructure in LA was financed by local voter-approved revenues. It began in 1868 with a narrowly-approved $225,000 bond measure to build the region’s first railroad, followed by an 1876 measure to grant the Southern Pacific railroad a $602,000 subsidy to entice the company to route its transcontinental line through the region. Angelinos voted on an additional 23 different transportation-related ballot measures between the passage of the Good Roads Act (1908) and the end of the New Deal (1937) – a key period of Los Angeles’ history that saw dramatic population increase and with it political contention over the direction of the region’s growth. Overall, these early transportation measures fared well with voters. Of the 25 transportation-related ballot measures in Los Angeles County from 1860 to 1960, only seven (28%) failed to pass, a far better record than non-transportation measures of which 21 of 31 (71%) went down to defeat. Whether or not, as some contend, Los Angeles missed a golden opportunity to create the backbone of an effective transit system that would have reduced the need for automobiles and to spend many billions on freeways, it is clear that local voters have long faced competing visions for the future of Los Angeles and arguments over whether to fund transportation systems to serve these visions.
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