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Historical Aspects & Transit Holocaust – Minneapolis Urban/Suburban System

Even as late as 1949, the Minneapolis-St. Paul electric railway system (Twin City Rapid Transit, or TCRT) was extensive, providing connectivity via high-quality public transport over 440 miles of track linking Minneapolis with St. Paul and numerous suburban and rural parts of the metro area. Extensive portions of the system – particularly the suburban lines – operated on private rights-of-way which facilitated highspeed operation. This extensive network provided effective public transport connectivity throughout the metro area via an attractive, understandable, and fundamentally cost-effective system.

Through most of the 1940s, TCRT followed a policy of investment in improvements to the system. Of the fleet of 773 streetcars in service in 1949, 141 were relatively new PCC streamliners acquired in 1944, 1945, and 1949.

Yet, as in many other US cities, Minneapolis's one-sided subsidization of roadways – leaving the transit system to fend for itself – belied a public policy dedicated to motorizing the public and bestowing priority and transportation supremacy upon the automobile. After World War II, inflation hiked operating costs, forcing an increase in fares. This, plus "free" publicly provided roadways, led to a drop in ridership which ultimately undermined TCRT's efforts to upgrade its system.

The postwar drop in ridership also promoted an environment for corporate skulduggery, including the intervention of organized crime figures and a management operative from National City Lines, all of whom assumed TCRT management in a kind of corporate coup. This sinister coalition proceeded to scrap the entire system, in effect cannibalizing the magnificent infrastructure and rolling stock to generate a short-term profit windfall. Meanwhile, the local political establishment basically sat on its hands and watched as the entire electric rapid transit system was destroyed. By the end of 1954, it was gone.

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