The West from a Car Window

The West from a Car Window is the title of one of the 19th century books on my bookshelf. The “car” in question is a railway car, not that insubstantial quadricycle, the automobile. If you had asked a 19th century visitor how he traveled, he would have replied not “on the train” but “on the cars.” In early January, I journeyed up the West Coast, from LA to Seattle, by train and other public transportation. Here are a few observations from that trip.

The Streetcar Chronicles: Part I Dude, Where’s My (Street)car

Many urban transportation historians point to Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s successful campaign to rid New York City and its boroughs of the streetcar as one of the key turning points in crippling public transportation across the country. It set a trend that made eschewing streetcars a trendy thing to do. He was heard to comment that streetcars were as obsolete as the sailing ship, perhaps reflecting his drive to banish any “relics” from the city that reminded him of the “old country” (LaGuardia was an immigrant himself). Well, sixty-five years after the demise of the last streetcar in New York City, I can confidently report the that streetcar (and its similarly healthy big brother, light rail) are doing just fine.