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Public Transportation Operators

History

In both the United States and Europe, public transportation systems were first developed in the 19th century. As early as 1819, there was a successful horse-drawn bus service in Paris. The idea was subsequently adopted in other major cities, such as New York and London.

The first subway system, initially four miles long, was opened in London in the 1860s. The railcars were powered by steam until 1890, when the system was converted to electricity. New York, Chicago, Paris, Budapest, and many other cities followed with their own subway systems. Streetcar, or trolley, lines and elevated tracks were also built around this time. The first electric-powered elevated train system opened in Chicago in 1895.

The 20th century began with a new vehicle for public transportation: the gasoline-powered bus. Various cities throughout the United States established bus services in the first decade of the century. Trucks fitted with seats and automobiles lengthened for increased seating capacity were among the first buses. As roads improved and better equipment became available, bus systems expanded.

Toward the middle of the 20th century, some transit systems came under the ownership of automotive- or oil-related businesses that had little interest in maintaining trolley lines. Around the same time, bus systems began to receive government assistance because of greater routing flexibility and other advantages. By the 1950s, buses had largely replaced the country's trolley lines, as increased ownership of private automobiles also reduced the demand for trolleys. Subways and elevated tracks, however, stayed in service, as did a few of the trolley systems, notably in San Francisco. In the latter half of the 20th century, some American cities, such as Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, built new subway systems, while others expanded their existing underground lines.