Cleveland’s public transportation began like nearly all of the urban areas in this country. First with horse drawn cars and then a few cable cars and then electrified with electric trolly cars. Cleveland had electric trolleys up until the 1940s when they began to replace them with electric buses – so called trackless trolleys. Cleveland had trackless trolleys up until the last line was converted to diesel buses in 1962. The Lorain Av. Line on the west side of town. Contrary to popular belief, the city’s decision to got the diesel bus route was because of the the new heavy rail system that was to be expanded to the airport. The first in the country to do so. It was feared that the city could not provide enough electric power for both the electric buses and the heavy rail.
Cleveland’s bus and rail system – including the light rail/trolly system that ran to the suburb of Shaker Heights was pretty good. There were also connecting lines to systems in Lakewood, North Olmsted, Maple Heights, Brecksville, Garfield Heights and Euclid. In the 1960s through the early 1970s ridership was pretty heavy. Especially during rush hour where even with express buses running every 10 minutes or so, the buses were packed.
When I was living here in the early 1970s 90 some percent of the riders and all of the drivers were white. I ride the bus system now more than in the last few months since my car is down for the count. But even a year ago I would ride the bus and rail lines simply because driving down town and trying to navigate the Interstate system here is simply crazy making. Cities are not made for cars. They are made for people.
So why then are nearly 90 percent of the riders here blacks ? Yes I know all about the economics of the situation. But this is also the case on those lines that run in and to and from the outer suburbs which are almost all white.
Why is the white folks here now no longer ride public transportation ? Even with gas prices going through the roof and not likely to go down ? Why is it that what was once the preferred way of getting from the east side to the west side of town only used by blacks and a few other minorities ?
My impression of the system is quite positive. The buses and trains are well maintained and though I wish some ran a bit more often, they still run pretty well. The drivers and other employees are always helpful. You can generally bring you bicycle along on the buses and trains and except for a few stops, the light rail system accommodates wheel chair access well. And all the buses do too.
Does this also go along with the feeling I get here of two different universes – one white and one black – that interact only when necessary ? A kind of self segregation as it were.
I spent 70 years in the south. Mainly Florida and find this to be odd. Even when I was in Atlanta on occasion there was more inter racial mingling. In Miami and Tampa and Jacksonville all kinds of people rode the buses and trains. Miami now has a pretty slick light rail now too.
I find this all rather odd and rather sad.