Make your own free website on
A Raisin in the Sun: Chicago in the 1950's/1960's
Taxis and Public Transit in Chicago in the 1950's
White-on-Black Crime in the 1950's
Employment Opportunities for African-Americans in Chicago
Abortion in the Black Community in the 1950's
Emmett Till in Chicago in the 1950's
Taxis and Public Transit in Chicago in the 1950's
Voting Rights
Contact Us
Black Women Doctors
Topics Investigated

Sara Jones


Comp II

Dr. Baird

Taxi Fare

Population increased rapidly in the 1850s, the demand for public transportation arose. The first public transportation vehicles were omnibuses, which were horse-drawn carriages seating 20 to 30 people developed in France in the 1600s. The first omnibuses in 1852 were put out of business by the newly arrived railroads. Omnibus operators probably filled seats with local commuters willing to pay a nickel to avoid walking. Cabs at the time cost 30 cents a ride and livery stable operators charged three dollars a day to rent a horse and carriage.

Poor drainage in Chicago streets led to the replacement of omnibuses with street railways beginning in 1859. The earliest horse cars were little more than omnibuses fitted with steel wheels to run on rails spiked to the planks that covered streets.

In 1855-56 the mainline railroads began hauling local passengers to summer resorts and offered discounted or commuted fares. As resorts grew, they became suburbs, and the residents who rode the trains to work each day in Chicago became known as commuters.

As Chicago's population massively increased, the street railway company executives began looking for more ways to carry the increasing number of commuters. Dummies, which were small steam locomotives that pulled streetcars, were not successful. After 1882horsecar lines were successfully converted to cable cars. After 1890 people used electric trolley cars. Traffic congestion in downtown Chicago in 1892 led to the construction of the city's first elevated railways. The Loop Elevated was opened in 1897.

Motor buses appeared during World War I but did not make much of an impact on public transportation for a decade. In 1958 the Chicago Transit Authority finished its program to replace streetcars with buses.

Public ownership of mass transit systems began in 1945 with the Chicago Transit Authority and developed on a piecemeal basis for the next 40 years as the privately owned companies got into financial difficulty because of dwindling rider ship. The use of taxes to subsidize mass transit began in 1975 after the creation of the Regional Transportation Authority.

Chicago's public transportation system had grown into one of the largest in the world run by several public authorities in the twentieth century. Commuter railroads consisted of more than five hundred miles of lines served by 130 locomotives and 970 passenger cars providing approximately 75 million rides a year. Pace carried 39 million riders on more than 600 buses and 300 Para transit vehicles. The largest of the public transportation systems in 1997, The Chicago Transit Authority, carried 287 million riders on approximately 1,900 buses and 130 million on 1,150 rapid transit cars.

Private automobiles accounted for 79.7 percent of all commuter trips in the metropolitan area in 1990, and mass transit 15 percent. But the geographic distribution of these proportions suggests that availability of mass transit alternatives played a crucial role. Of the 774,000 people who entered downtown Chicago on an average day in 1980, only 202,582 came in private autos. Most of the people rode buses, trains, or taxis.


Young, D. M. (1998). Public Transportation. Retrieved March 12, 2007, from

ASUMH--Composition II, Spring 2007