Errands and Leisure and Miscellaneous23 Jun 2008 04:10 pm

My transportation needs today are minimal, by choice. I just don’t want to go anywhere.

Neighborhood walking accomplishes what I need: a morning walk with the dog includes a stop to buy coffee beans. On the way, another “Lassie!” exclamation nets me a pleasant conversation with a woman coming from the bakery. She is a fellow dog owner and my stop to talk helps us both wait out the showers under the awning of the food store.

Late in the afternoon, a walk to Dominick’s recharges the fish needed for a reprise of fish tacos.

Today is also the anniversary of the last run of a streetcar in Chicago, June 21, 1958. The Chicago Tribune carries a story about it: http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/chi-chicagodays-laststreetcar-story,0,5968955.story

and two days later, so does the Sun-Times:

http://www.suntimes.com/news/transportation/1019141,CST-NWS-ride23.article

Under pressure from the city, the Chicago Motor Club, and others, the Chicago Transit Authority’s surface lines went all rubber tire on this day, a combination of propane, diesel, gas buses and trackless trolleys to serve the dense street system. A headlong rush to modernity, supposedly. Ridership on the CTA still continued to drop with the expansion of the expressway system and the easy access to the suburbs. The buses rattled over streets that temporarily got smoother with asphalt instead of cobblestone-paved streetcar tracks but potholes and the hard lives of transit vehicles resulted in rattly, bumpy bus rides, worse on some of the harsher vehicles like the legendary vibrating propane buses.

Fast forward to the rebirth of light rail systems in the 80’s. Never as dense or comprehensive as streetcar systems but a far cry forward in terms of comfort and ride. Try it sometime in a city like Pittsburgh, San Diego, Toronto, Minneapolis (below) or many others. Steel wheels on welded steel rail makes for a nicer ride by far. Nice touch: the Minneapolis Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) have bike racks inside them by the doors.

A Minneapolis LRV rolls down the Hiawatha corridor, above. Below, the historic cars of the Lake Harriett line show what was lost in 1954.

Twin Cities Rapid Transit streetcars

I ponder the loss but enjoy the Summer Solstice, a long and lovely day in Chicago. A great long day to walk or ride a bike or just sit outside. A day that many people have wasted in a car.

Their loss.

One Response to “Saturday 6/21/08: Solstice, Staying Put, Streetcars”

  1. on 30 Jun 2008 at 6:57 pm Jim Garvey

    Hi George and Nancy: June 30, 2008
    I started reading your blog only recently. I’ve been to Chicago only once, so I am enjoying your travelogue, also the photos of those old street cars. I’ll stay tuned . . . Jim

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