The first mule-drawn streetcars begin service in El Paso.
- The most widely-recognized mule, Mandy, is known more for her stubborn streak than her timeliness.
- Four different mule car companies operate in the Paso Del Norte Region.
- The companies built and maintain their own international bridges, charging tolls for foot and private vehicle traffic. The bridges are subject to U.S. and Mexican regulations despite being privately owned.
After various car company consolidations and associated legal challenges are resolved, the El Paso Electric Railway Company forms and begins laying the first tracks for the new electric railway.
The mule-drawn streetcars are replaced with electric streetcars.
- The first electric streetcar leaves for Juárez on January 11, 1902.
- Electric streetcars can carry roughly four times as many passengers as the mule-drawn cars.
- Electric streetcar operators are specially licensed. The operators transition from possessing ‘horse sense’ for mule-driving to receiving training for electric streetcar operation.
The Ysleta Interurban line opens, connecting El Paso to Ysleta.
The streetcar lines serve Downtown, Sunset Heights, Kern Place, Segundo Barrio, Highland Park, Morningside Heights, Fort Bliss, Government Hill, Washington Park, Ysleta and Juárez.
- Always a tourist destination because of the proximity to an ‘exotic’ foreign country, El Paso becomes even more attractive with the streetcars safely transporting passengers to Juárez for a drink during Prohibition.
- Streetcar usage peaks in 1920 with 103 cars and 64 miles of track, serving 19 million passengers.
The Ysleta line ends due to an increase in bus usage.
- The El Paso Electric Railway Company changes its name to the El Paso Electric Company, but retains a Transportation Division for streetcars.
The Electric Railway President’s Conference Committee forms. Made up of transit leaders from across the nation, the Committee’s goal is to develop a prototype for a more modern and quiet streetcar. The result is the design of the PCC car, with its art-deco design.
The only remaining lines are Fort Bliss, Highland Park and Juárez; all others have been replaced by buses.
- During WWII, abandoned streetcars are sent to scrap drives and bus ridership increases due to gas rationing. Women drivers handle a number of the bus and streetcar routes.
The first 17 PCC cars arrive from San Diego.
Three additional PCC cars, also purchased from San Diego, are brought to El Paso, increasing the PCC fleet total to 20.
After a temporary suspension of service into Juárez due to reconstruction of the area’s international bridges, the streetcar service resumes. During construction, buses were used to replicate the streetcar service.
Employees of El Paso City Lines begin a strike that includes blockage of PCC #1516 at the base of the Santa Fe Street Bridge while returning from Juárez on July 31. Service never resumes, marking the end of international streetcar service between El Paso and Juárez.
The City of El Paso submits a proposal to the U.S. Urban Mass Transportation Administration to construct a downtown people mover for El Paso and Juárez. El Paso is not selected for the project.
Officials from Pan Am Savings present El Paso City Mayor Westfall with a $4,000 check to support a feasibility study to restart the streetcar service. As part of the presentation, Pan Am and City officials are pulled in two PCCs from the Cotton Street maintenance facility to the Toltec Building.
Bernard Johnson Inc. submits a study for a $7.8 million, 2.2-mile streetcar system for the Downtown area. The streetcar would serve the border crossings, without crossing into Juárez.
The City’s Urban Design Division of the Planning Department completes a “Marketing and Feasibility Analysis for an International Transport System in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez Central Business District.” The analysis determines that “El Rapido International Trolley System” – a bi-national trolley concept that was part of the Paseo de las Luces Binational Planning Project from 1987 – is viable and that market demand will support future expansion. The study also notes that the market demand is strong enough for an El Paso only route, if complications were to arise with implementation of international service.
Kimley-Horn and Associates prepares a study recommending a 0.64-mile line connecting San Jacinto Plaza and Oregon Street, with a projected ridership of 6,000 passengers a day.
Kimley-Horn prepares a follow-up report to answer City Council questions and evaluate various streetcar technologies. The report recommends refurbishing the existing streetcars, in part to celebrate the historical significance of the Paso Del Norte region.
A two-phase streetcar revitalization study is conducted by the City. A double-tracked, 0.64-mile streetcar route is recommended and $13.5 million is budgeted to restart the streetcars connecting the Plaza to the Santa Fe Bridge. This route, however, never went into effect.
The Goodman Corporation prepares a report as part of a mobility needs assessment that includes the development of a light rail system.
Jacobs Carter Burgess submits a study similar to the Bernard Johnson feasibility study. The “El Paso Historic Trolley Streetcar Initiative” is presented to the City of El Paso and Sun Metro. The study proposes a 2.13-mile loop serving the international bridges, San Jacinto Plaza, the Civic Center Complex and Union Depot. The study estimates the rail installation and infrastructure improvements to be $24.6 million, and the rehabilitation for 9 PCC cars to be $40.4 million.
Cambridge Systematics, as a consultant to TxDOT, is tasked with development of a major transportation study for the El Paso ports of entry. A rail feasibility study researching the reintroduction of the streetcars to El Paso, which was completed by HNTB, is included in the study. The “Rail Transit Study” identifies four possible downtown/port of entry routes, and includes engineering feasibility, market demand, economic benefits and project constraints.
As part of an initiative led by City Representative Steve Ortega, the El Paso City Council uses the 2010 Rail Transit Study to engage the URS Corporation, which begins work on the environmental and engineering services needed to restart the streetcar service. This effort marks a definitive shift from study to implementation.
Under the leadership of Ted Houghton, then-chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, TxDOT approves $97 million in construction funding for the streetcar restoration and implementation. Because of its ability to manage non-traditional transportation projects, the funding is awarded to the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA). The City assigns its environmental and engineering work to the CRRMA for use in the CRRMA’s management of the construction of infrastructure and rehabilitation of the vehicles.
The CRRMA contracts with Paso del Norte Trackworks to complete the infrastructure necessary to reintroduce streetcar service to El Paso. Infrastructure components include the placement of 4.8 miles of track, installation of five separate power substations, construction of a maintenance and storage facility, placement of over 400 overhead contact system (OCS) poles and stringing of OCS wire to power the vehicles.
The CRRMA contracts with the Brookville Equipment Corporation to renovate several of the PCC cars. After spending forty years in the El Paso desert, six of the City’s remaining nine PCC cars are sent to Pennsylvania for rehabilitation. Vehicle rehabilitation includes stripping the cars down to the bare frames and rebuilding with modern amenities and safety features, all the while maintaining the cars’ historic feel. Among other vehicle components, the frames, trucks, traction motors, and dash components are rebuilt or replaced.
In April, the first shipment of steel girder rail, on which El Paso’s streetcars will run, arrives in the Sun City in from Austria. Each length of rail is 59 feet long and weighs approximately 2,300 pounds. About 900 pieces are used throughout the entire project.
- The first rail is laid in May, along Oregon Street near the University of Texas at El Paso.
Rail work continues along the streetcar route through August. Utility relocations, street reconstruction and laying the concrete track slab all become a fact of life for El Pasoans from the Southside to Downtown to Kern Place.
- Thousands of El Pasoans sign the final piece of steel rail in August, before being placed in the street and welded into place, completing the 4.8-mile figure-eight route.
The Maintenance and Storage Facility (MSF) is completed and the CRRMA turns control of it over to the City of El Paso’s Mass Transit Department (Sun Metro). The MSF will serve as the home base for streetcar operations, where each vehicle will leave to begin its daily service and return at the end of its run. The CRRMA also turns over the two major project components (infrastructure and systems) to the City in October.
PCC No. 1506 arrives in March.
PCC No. 1512 arrives in April.
PCC No. 1504 arrives in June.
PCC No. 1514 arrives in July.
PCC No. 1515 arrives in October.
PCC No. 1511 arrives in November.
Construction activities on the El Paso Streetcar Project are complete and electric streetcar service, using fully refurbished PCCs, officially resumes in El Paso.
The intent of the rehabilitation was to retain the look and feel of the historic vehicles, while incorporating the modern conveniences of today’s transit systems. The car bodies are 80 years old, but the interiors include a number of modern features.
The modern upgrades include: HVAC, a modern propulsion system, wheelchair lifts and restraints, interior and exterior cameras, wifi, LED lighting and bike racks.
PCC No. 1511 has a different seating arrangement than the rest – perimeter seating, which is reminiscent of the streetcars that went to Juárez.
Brookville created all designs for reproductions of historic elements in the cars, such as the light fixtures. However, the fixtures include modern LED lighting.
Historical images provided in part by the Special Collections Department of the University of Texas at El Paso Library and the Border Heritage Center of the El Paso Public Library. Modern images provided by Barracuda Public Relations and Sun Metro.