Letter of the Day (Oct. 7): Streetcars

  • Updated: October 6, 2013 - 9:00 PM

The dismantling of the Twin Cities’ old system was undesirable and even a bit sordid.


The Minnesota Transportation Museum has won a 2001 Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Award for its restoration of the 1940s streetcar PCC No. 322, shown here at the Linden Hills stop on the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line. See article Thurs May 24, 2001. Photo courtesy of the Mpls Heritage Preservation Commission. ORG XMIT: MIN2013090421414655

Photo: Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission,

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An Oct. 2 letter stating that streetcars are more trouble than they’re worth confuses the issue by making a historical case for a present situation. It is with this historical recollection I take exception.

First, consider that the Twin Cities were laid out geographically by the streetcar line. Second, streetcar lines constitute actual physical connections of communities in a way that streets do not. Third, streetcars did travel many places where there were no roads. In the winter, streetcars even plowed the streets.

The buses that replaced the streetcars were uncomfortable, stuffy, smelly and crowded. On the outside, they were ugly and emitted copious exhaust. Many times in the winter, a crowded bus would bypass a stop for lack of room.

You might consider, too, that most of the great cities of Europe have streetcars. San Francisco has a system, too, but that beautiful city was just one Italian mayor away from having General Motors buses. We got the buses.

A final point of clarification: The Twin City streetcar line was a private company, so the “officials” the letter says were so celebratory were the same ones who went to prison for their part in the scheme to eliminate streetcars. Most experts agree that the speed of the dismantling was astounding in what was a sad loss. But, then, how can you miss something that’s already gone?

DON ROHRER, Woodbury

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