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ELECTRIC STREET RAILWAYS. Electric street railways played a central role in the development of thirty-three cities in Texas during a span of eighty-five years. The railway systems in Texas totaled more than 600 miles. The streetcar was a visible part of the urban scene, and during the age of electric traction no city seemed complete without it. Until the family automobile became commonplace, the streetcar was an important mode of transportation. During the first half of the twentieth century electric cars dominated the downtowns of the larger cities during rush hours. In some cities the extent of urban development was governed by the radius of operation of the street railway. Population growth followed the car lines. Commercial development and residential areas were built away from the downtown area. By providing fast and frequent transportation at a low fare the railway made growth in the size of cities possible. Distant points became a few minutes from downtown. The electric streetcar represented the most significant development in city transportation. This would continue as the most important vehicle in urban transit until the time of World War II. Texas had the largest number of cities with electric streetcar systems of any state west of the Mississippi River. In some of the larger cities of Texas the first day of operation of the street railway was front-page news in the local newspaper.

Robert A. Rieder


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Robert A. Rieder, "ELECTRIC STREET RAILWAYS," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed November 29, 2015. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.