Hunter Morrison, Senior Fellow, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs
Akshai Singh, Member, Clevelanders for Public Transit
Moderator: Ginger Christ, Reporter, Plain Dealer
This panel will discuss the role transportation plays in creating more equitable communities. It will tackle how to offer affordable public transit and design infrastructure to meet the needs of residents throughout the region and examine the funding challenges in doing so.
Co-sponsored by the Urban Community School, Case Western Reserve University Siegal Lifelong Learning Program, League of Women Voters-Greater Cleveland, Cleveland.com plus Lakewood, Heights and Cuyahoga County Library Systems
Transportation in Greater Cleveland by James A. Toman
James A. Toman has authored or co-authored 18 books on various Cleveland topics, particularly those relating to the downtown district and to public transportation. An inveterate collector of Cleveland streetcar photographs, he has also photographed most of the streetcar, light rail, and subways systems in North America. He holds a doctorate in education/clinical counseling, and retired in 2006 after 43 years in the teaching field.. His last educational post was as dean of the Social Sciences/Human Services Division at Lorain County Community College.
Technology Creates a Modern Transportation Era For thousands of years, humankind depended on muscle power, animal or human, to move people and goods from one land location to another. that would finally change in the 18th century with the invention of the steam engine. It revolutionized the way in which work was accomplished, and it ushered in the “modern age.” The first successful use of steam power for transportation was the work of John Fitch. In 1787 his steamboat traveled along the Delaware River in Philadelphia. It was Robert Fulton, in 1807, however, whose steamboat Clermont successfully plied the Hudson river between New York City and Albany, that ultimately marked the arrival of the age of the steamboat. While the challenge of using steam to propel shipping along the waterways had been met, it wasn’t until 1825 that its application to land travel arrived. This took the form of a steam locomotive, invented by George Stephenson in England. It was four years later, in 1829, that his Rocket locomotive traveled between Liverpool and Manchester averaging 30 miles per hour. The Rocket proved that steam railroads were the wave of the future. The first steam train serving Cleveland came in 1850. It connected the city to Chicago and New York City.
The use of steam locomotives for city transportation, however, was really not feasible. The noise, smoke, and soot that accompanied them made them unsuitable for an urban environment. As a result, the city version of the stagecoach, the horse-drawn omnibus, continued a while longer in cities like Cleveland as the main means of transit.
The omnibus was faced with its own set of problems. The omnibus mainly had to travel along unpaved streets, which after rain or snow, often became impassable for the clumsy vehicles. thus, the idea of putting the omnibus on rails built in the streets offered real advantages. These street railways, as they were known, were pulled by teams of horses and proved considerably more reliable than the omnibuses. Cleveland’s first two horsecar lines, one operating along Woodland Avenue and the other along Euclid and Prospect Avenues, opened within days of each other in 1859.
In 1860 the population of Cleveland reached 43,417, an increase of over 250% from the previous census in 1850. The increase in numbers also meant that people were spread over a larger area of the city, making transportation increasingly important. This trend made the investment in street railways ever more attractive. Entrepreneurs interested in laying rails in city streets needed to apply to the city of Cleveland for a franchise. By 1875 nine separate companies were operating street railways in the city. Street railway leaders, however, were not content to continue operating with horse- drawn cars, and so the search continued for a suitable replacement power source.
In 1879 Cleveland inventor Charles Brush had installed electric lighting along Public Square. Its reliability as a lighting source suggested that it might also be the answer to powering the street railways. Two other Clevelanders, Edward Bentley and Charles Knight, gave the idea its first successful trial. On July 26, 1884, a mile of electrified line on Central Avenue was tested. Cleveland became the first city in the nation to have an electricity- powered streetcar line. the Bentley-Knight system, utilizing a trough buried between the rails, encountered problems, especially when rainwater would flood the power conduit. It was discontinued after a month of operation.
Another system was then under development in Richmond, Virginia, the work of Frank J. Sprague. His system brought electric power to the streetcar via an overhead wire. A trolley pole on the car’s roof took in the power and transferred it to the car’s electric motors. It was the Sprague system that proved most effective and was adopted in most cities across the country. Cleveland opened its first Sprague installation on Euclid Avenue, from East 118th Street to East 55th Street, in December 1888. Electrification from East 55th Street to Public Square was completed in July 1889.
Even as electricity brought about the triumph of the streetcar in public transportation, in Germany Karl Benz began building the first automobiles, powered by internal combustion engines. the automobile would soon challenge the dominance of the streetcar, and within 50 years it would become the dominant force in urban planning.
Creating a Transportation System While electrification represented significant technological progress for public transit, it also meant that additional capital would be needed to build electrical power plants, substations, and the overhead distribution network. Recognizing the advantages of economies in scale, the street railway operators saw an answer in mergers between the separate companies.
By 1893, the various independent lines came under the control of just two companies, the Cleveland Electric Railway Company and the Cleveland City Railway Company. In 1903 Cleveland city railway company merged into the Cleveland Electric Railway Company. The consolidation, however, did not bring peace to the local public transit scene.
By 1900 Cleveland’s population had jumped to 381,768. It was the seventh largest city in the nation. automobile ownership that year was estimated at 150. this meant that public transit was of vital importance to almost every Clevelander, and naturally there were different concepts about how public transit should be operated and managed.
The Cleveland Electric Railway Company was a private company. It viewed its investment in public transit as a sound way to generate dividends for its stockholder. Ridership in 1903 passed the 100,000,000 mark, and with fares set at a nickel, the company was showing a solid profit.
The railway company’s vision about public transit, however, contrasted sharply with that of Cleveland Mayor Tom Loftin Johnson, who led the city from 1901 to 1909. Johnson, a Progressive in public policy thinking, believed that public transit was a service which should operated by the city at the lowest possible cost to passengers.
At the time Ohio law did not authorize cities to own public transit operations, so in the interim, Johnson and his allies created the Municipal Traction Company. Organized as a holding company, its aim was to lease Cleveland electric railway’s lines and operate them in trust until such time as city ownership became possible. True to his Progressive ideals, Johnson advocated a three-cent fare instead of the five-cents which was then being charged.
Naturally, his point of view alarmed Horace Andrews and John Stanley, the leaders of the Cleveland Electric Railway Company, who were not interested in ceding control of their properties or finding their profits squeezed. But Johnson’s allies had the upper hand. The city could choose not to renew the franchises under which various lines were then being operated. Facing that threat, Cleveland Electric Railway Company reluctantly agreed to lease its lines to a newly created Municipal Traction Company.
The battle, however, was not over. With reduced income, the municipal traction company was unable to meet its workers’ wage demands. to save money routes were revised, much to the riders’ displeasure. a strike followed, but when that had been settled, disgruntled employees conveniently chose not to collect fares from the passengers. Ultimately municipal traction company could not pay its debts, and in 1908 the local streetcar lines went into receivership.
The case was held in the federal district courtroom of Judge Robert W. Tayler. He determined that the street railways belonged to the private company, renamed as Cleveland Railway Company. He also held that the railways operated over streets belonging to the public. His solution was to set up a 25-year franchise for the Cleveland Railway Company, but to make it subject to oversight by a Cleveland Traction commissioner. The commissioner was authorized to determine routes and schedules for the company, but the company was to be entitled to an annual 6% return from its operations. the new organizational scheme thus recognized the interests of both private and public factions. It went into effect on March 2, 1910.
The privately-owned Cleveland Railway Company operated the city transportation system until 1942, when the city of Cleveland established the Cleveland Transit System and purchased the railway’s assets.
Building a union railroad station—another battle Just as the streetcar industry was critical for transportation within the city, the steam railroad played that same role for transit and commerce between cities. Cleveland was in need of a new passenger railroad depot.
While the traction issue had been settled by a court, the site for a new Cleveland railroad station was to be decided by the voters. It was a contest between a lakefront site at the northern end of the mall and one on Public Square, the former favored by the city’s establishment and the latter by two entrepreneurs on the rise – Oris Paxton and Mantis James Van Sweringen.
In 1903, behind the leadership of mayor Tom Johnson, a Group Plan Commission unveiled a plan which would clear 101 downtown acres. Its centerpiece was a 500-foot wide central mall, stretching from Rockwell Avenue north to the bluff overlooking the lake front railroad tracks. New government buildings would be built along the mall perimeter, giving Cleveland an impressive new civic center, befitting the city’s ever increasing status. Most of the buildings proposed in the Group Plan were built. Plans for a new railroad station, however, languished.
At the time Cleveland had several railroad stations, each serving different railroad companies, but the main Union Depot, at the foot of West Ninth street, was the busiest. It served both the Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads. It had been built in 1865, and it was in deplorable shape and filthy from decades of pollution from the steam locomotives that served it. The first site to greet most visitors to the city, it was a civic embarrassment.
The city fathers were intent on completing the Group Plan with its location at the northern end of the mall. That location, however, did not please the railroads that entered Cleveland from the south: the Erie, Nickel Plate, Baltimore and Ohio, and Wheeling and Lake Erie railroads. nor did a lakefront location benefit the Van Sweringen plans for creating an express route for their rapid transit line from Shaker Heights into downtown.
Ultimately, the decision about the location of a new station was left to the voters. On January 6, 1919, they went to the polls and by a 3:2 margin selected Public Square as the site for the development. In doing so the voters set into motion the Cleveland Union Terminal Project, which over the next 15 years would significantly alter the city’s skyline and create for Cleveland its most famous landmark. Simultaneously, however, their decision left the long-time civic vision to complete the Mall Plan unfinished. Over the 100-plus years since the Group Plan was first presented, Clevelanders have been vocal in demanding that the basic mall layout not be compromised. That issue has bedeviled plans over the years, and it remains a challenge to the present time.
Voters, politicians, and a subway
Sometimes voters decide, and sometimes elected officials get the final word. Three times Cleveland developed plans for a downtown subway, but none of these ever came to fruition, each for different reasons.
The first plan for a downtown subway was the result of the dramatic increase in passengers on the surface lines of the Cleveland railway company. Between 1910 and 1920, annual passenger totals climbed from just over 225,000,000 to nearly 451,000,000. Downtown Cleveland had become the place to shop, not just for inhabitants of the city, but for the entire Northeastern Ohio region. Streetcar traffic and the increasing number of automobiles, which numbered over 40,000 by 1920, were choking the downtown street network.
The Detroit-Superior Bridge (now the Veterans Memorial Bridge) opened in November 1917. It had been designed with two decks, the top one for pedestrians, bicycles, and automobiles, and the lower deck for streetcars. The separate right of way for the streetcars was intended to speed their way across the Cuyahoga River, and suggested to city planners additional transportation advantages that could come from a subway.
The plan called for modern streetcars operating over the outer portions of existing routes, then joining traffic-segregated rapid transit rights of way, before dropping into a downtown subway loop. It was a plan similar to those then operating in Boston and Philadelphia (and which continue to the present time in those cities). The down- town subway loop would have been built beneath Huron Road, East 13th Street, Superior Avenue, and West Third Street to Cleveland Union Terminal. It would have connected the uptown shopping district (Halle’s and Sterling’s, Bonwit Teller) with the stores clustered near Public Square (Bailey’s, Higbee’s, and May’s).
In 1945 the city of Cleveland hired a Chicago consultant, Deleuw, Cather and Company, to review the modernization plans. Its report held that the city only needed a single rapid transit line, rather than several, but it supported the idea of a downtown subway. Plans for the rapid transit line went forward, and today’s red line, the portion from Windermere to West 117th street (later extended to West 143rd street and later to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport) was the result. It opened in 1955. The subway portion of the plan, for which a $35 million bond issue had been approved by voters in November 1953, was in the planning stages.
Highway improvements were also getting increased attention. In 1940 county voters approved a bond issue to finance the next stages in highway improvements. Automobile registration in the county had skyrocketed to 350,000, a more than eight-fold increase in just 20 years. Motorists faced daily gridlock on the existing street network. Limited access freeways were seen as the answer, and work began on the Willow Freeway (today’s I–77).
In 1944 a comprehensive plan for future freeway development was published. it called for “Outerbelt” freeways, serving the perimeter of Cuyahoga County, as well as radial freeways with downtown as their axis.
Substantial progress of translating this system of limited-access roads, however, did not occur until after 1956 when Congress passed of the Federal-aid Highway act to establish the interstate system. The first portion of a revised highway plan, generally designed along the lines of the 1944 version, was the Innerbelt Freeway. Its first segment opened to traffic in 1959.
The plan for the downtown subway became the focus of heated debate. While its advocates cited the need for a rapid transit system with more than one downtown station, the plan was vigorously opposed by Cuyahoga County engineer Albert Porter. He contended that population was shifting to the suburbs, public transit ridership was falling (by 1959, from its peak in 1946, 250 million riders since its peak in 1946), and that downtown was losing its pre-eminence as a destination. Ultimately, his arguments prevailed, and in December 1959, the county commissioners decided not to issue the subway bonds.
At the same time, taking advantage of the federal support for building the interstate system of Highways, local planners moved forward. Beginning in 1956 with the downtown Innerbelt, the road-building project eventually resulted in 116 miles of super-highway within Cuyahoga County.
Beginning in 1960 Cleveland Transit System officials proposed a series of six new rapid transit lines that would radiate from downtown to all corners of the county. It was their belief such an investment was the only way to mitigate the pull of decentralization. None of these was ever built.
The automobile had become the highest priority in transportation planning, and it would remain in that position right up to the present time.
Regionalization begins to take hold
In 1950, the city of Cleveland reached its all-time peak in population, with 914,808 city dwellers. Cuyahoga County’s population also continued to grow, reaching 1,389,582; the city’s population accounted for 66% of the county total.
But then things began to change. At first the loss of city population was modest. Between 1950 and 1960, Cleveland lost just over 4% of its residents. By 1970 the out migration to the suburbs had accelerated, the city losing another 14% of its citizens, and for the first time more people were living in the suburbs than in the central city. Cuyahoga County’s population had climbed to 1,720,835.
During the 1970s the trend became even more severe. Cleveland lost another 177,057 residents during that decade, and for the first time the county also saw its numbers shrink. Besides the loss in numbers from Cleveland itself, the suburbs had also begun to lost numbers. Altogether, the county’s population fell by 222,435 to a total of 1,498,400.
Not only had the population begun to move ever farther from the mother city, but Cleveland’s strength as an industrial and manufacturing was also being eroded, as plants and jobs moved to the southern states and out of the country as well. These demographic changes translated into a dollar drain, and the city could no longer afford to operate elements of its infrastructure. The response was recognition that the burden of supporting urban life had to be spread more broadly.
One of the first steps towards regionalization came in 1968 with the establishment of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA). The agency was charged with establishing priorities for future transportation and water quality projects.
Soon came a series of other transfers, responsibility being shifted from the city to county and/or regional bodies. In 1968 the commercial waterfront became the responsibility of the newly established Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority. In 1970 the Metroparks assumed control of the Cleveland Zoo. The Cleveland sewer system was turned over to the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in 1972. In 1975, the Cleveland Transit System, deeply in debt and bleeding ridership, was turned over to the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. And then in 1978 the state of Ohio established the Cleveland Lakefront State Park to manage the city’s lakefront park properties.
In the course of a decade the city of Cleveland was able to shed financial responsibility for all of these assets, and turn them over to a countywide authority for their future operation. It was a real start towards regionalization, but that effort seemed to stop at the county’s borders.
In transportation, for example, the new Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority was authorized to serve the broader Northeast Ohio region, but doing so would require adjacent counties seeking the service to support it financially. None of the neighboring counties chose to do so.
The 1980 census revealed a drastic drop in the city’s population, to 573,822. For the first time Cuyahoga County also showed a loss, with some 220,000 fewer residents than just one decade earlier. The steps taken towards regionalization during the 1970s were proving to be only a temporary solution. A broader support network was needed. It took some time to develop a plan that would advance the regionalization effort. In 2004 the Greater Cleveland Partnership (formerly the Greater Cleveland Growth Association and itself a product of merger among area advocacy and development groups) launched a three-year plan to “mobilize private-sector leadership, expertise and resources to create jobs and leverage investment to improve the economic vitality of the region.” One component of the plan resulted in the major chambers of commerce in the region joining to form Team NEO, a business-development agent for 16 Northeast Ohio counties. Another was the formation of the Cleveland Plus marketing alliance to coordinate a general marketing strategy and program for the region. These programs helped not only to promote the region to the rest of the country, but they also served to raise the consciousness of the local population (about 4,000,000 in the 16-county area) of the importance of working together to advance the region. One manifestation of this local consciousness was the approval by Cuyahoga county voters in November 2009 of a new charter for more effective county government. The resulting vision from these efforts is essentially threefold: 1) sustainable economic development, 2) population stabilization, and 3) quality of life across the region.
These are the 21st-century challenges that now face Northeast Ohio, and a broad consensus has been achieved about them. NOACA, the agency responsible for local transportation planning, in its Connections 2030: A Framework for the 2030 Transportation System, reflects this consensus. in particular, NOACA has identified revitalization of the region’s urban core as a primary focus. It has also produced a goal to “establish a more balanced transportation system which enhances modal choices by prioritizing goods movement, transit, pedestrian and bicycle travel instead of just single occupancy vehicle movement and highways.”
The first half of the 20th century emphasized improvements in the public transit system. the second half of the century was focused on the automobile. Public policy at the start of the 21st century endorses yet a third vision.
New Challenges for Transportation in Greater Cleveland
Many ideas have been advanced to achieve the goals to achieve the three fold goals for revitalizing Northeast Ohio. as with most ideas of this kind, there are both advocates and critics, not mention a plethora of obstacles that must be faced and surmounted to bring these plans to life. east of them tackle the challenge from a different perspective.
Three highway projects are on the planning frontline in 2010. Two represent a reconstruction of existing highways and the other a return to a long dormant idea.
The most costly of these projects involves the rebuilding of the Innerbelt Freeway, a task made necessary by the deterioration which the fifty-year-old downtown bypass route is experiencing. The project calls for a second bridge to be built across the Cuyahoga Valley. When that project is completed the existing bridge will be completely rebuilt. The project also involves the re-engineering of the lakefront “Dead Man’s” Curve, as well as reducing the number of on/off ramps between the curve and the bridge.
As is typically true of most Cleveland projects, this one has experienced considerable public criticism, centering around bridge design and the impact on downtown venues from fewer access points.
The second highway project involves rebuilding the West Shoreway (also designated as Ohio Route 2). The reconfiguration would cover the highway from Baltic Avenue on the west side to downtown. The plan envisions changing the limited-access, 50-mph freeway into a tree-lined boulevard with a 35-mph speed limit. It would add three entrance/exit points along the route, thus making Edgewater Park and adjacent properties more accessible to the west side neighborhoods that flank the highway. Such an improvement is seen as enhancing the prospects for the continued revitalization of the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. The project is seen as contributing to the goal of improved quality of life for city dwellers.
The third project carries the name Opportunity Corridor. It is a 2.75-mile boulevard running from the eastern terminus of interstate 490 at East 55th Street east to East 105th street at the edge of the city’s University Circle medical, educational, and cultural hub. NOACA has given the project a high priority.
The current plan represents a significant reconfiguration of the long-abandoned Clark Freeway which would also have traveled east from East 55th street, but its path would have carried it through Shaker Heights, significantly disrupting both residential and park settings. It was vetoed by the residents of that suburb.
The new routing would have minimal impact upon residential neighborhoods, running through mostly abandoned industrial sites and along the rapid transit right of way that traverses the area. The highway is seen as a significant economic development tool, opening up some 350 empty acres to new industrial construction and the attendant jobs that these would generate. The plan also addresses quality of life issues, making the University Circle attractions more directly accessible from the area’s existing interstate highway system.
The Port of Cleveland
Cleveland’s very existence is due to its geographic location at the confluence of the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie. Cleveland was founded in an era when water transportation was the primary means for moving freight. The Port of Cleveland has continued to be an important part of the region’s commercial network.
As the regional priorities have changed, however, a growing consensus has emerged that the location of the port, on downtown lake front land, may not be the most promising future use of that area. A 2004 City of Cleveland planning document called for major redevelopment of the downtown waterfront for residential and recreational use.
A preliminary proposal to address this interest suggested relocating the port facilities farther east to a newly created dike area near East 55th Street. The cost of such a move, the time required for its implementation, and changes in personnel on the Port Authority board and its management team, however, spelled the end of active consideration for the idea
Instead, at least in the short term, port officials are looking more closely at underutilized port land west of the Cuyahoga River, and they are pursuing plans to increase the capacity of the port to handle container shipping via Montreal and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Such a development is seen as attractive to international shippers, considering the congested nature of ports on the eastern seaboard. Another aspect of this plan would envision facilities to handle truck traffic ferried across Lake Erie from Canada.
An urgent problem faced by the community is the need to build a new dike to handle dredging from the Cuyahoga River. The current dike at the east end of Burke Lakefront Airport will have reached capacity by 2014, and the port needs to determine a new site for the more than 300,000 cubic yards of sediment removed from the river and harbor each year.
Passenger Railroad Service
Passenger rail service for Clevelanders is limited. As of 2011, Amtrak trains connect Cleveland with Chicago, the Lake Shore Limited and the Capitol Limited. The eastern portion of the Capitol Limited route connects Cleveland to Washington, D.C., and the Lake Shore Limited connects with New York city and Boston.
In 2009, the federal government’s stimulus plan authorized a $400 million plan to connect Cleveland with Columbus and with Cincinnati, via Dayton. The so-called 3C route was warmly greeted by then Governor Ted Strickland, although critics cited limitations to its appeal for travelers. Because the plan would have had passenger trains sharing existing track with freight trains (although some of the route would have been improved by additional passing sidings), the passenger service’s top speed would be limited by existing safety regulations. Critics felt that while rail service would be more comfortable than intercity bus travel, its inferior schedule speed would be a deterrent to broad acceptance.
Newly elected Governor John Kasich rejected the 3C proposal in one of his first acts upon taking office in 2011.
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has also studied the development of a commuter rail network. In its Transit 2025 document, it offers the possibility of developing rail connections between Cleveland and Painesville, Aurora, Akron, Lorain, Elyria. A rail link beyond Lorain to Sandusky via the existing Nickel Plate corridor has more recently been given a closer look, but any prospects for such a line carry a completion date at least ten years into the future.
The two smaller airports serve to siphon smaller private and corporate aircraft from Hopkins, thus relieving congestion there. In light of the fact that neither smaller airport has achieved the promised benefit that was forecast for them, should operations be consolidated at one of them?
If Burke were to be closed, 450 acres of valuable lakefront land would be opened for commercial and residential redevelopment. Its central location, however, in comparison to Cuyahoga’s location 11 miles east of downtown, makes Burke a more appealing to the business traveler.
While planners suggest changes in the current status of the two smaller airports, officials continue efforts to improve the infrastructure and operational features of both facilities. A decision about the future does not appear imminent.
Pondering Past and Present Policy
Past Ponderables 1. The first of the six downtown department stores closed in late 1961. If the downtown circulator subway (rejected by the commissioners in 1959) had been built, would it have allowed downtown to remain a vibrant shopping district, or might it have slowed the decline, or was the eventual death of the Euclid avenue shopping zone inevitable? 2. Would the proposed development of a more extensive rapid transit system, connecting inner and outer ring suburbs to downtown, succeeded in offsetting the pull of outmigration from the city; might it have mitigated the appeal for the suburban office parks that sprang up in the suburbs? 3. Construction of the interstate highway system in the county made cross-county travel much easier for motorists. the highways, however, required a right of way that resulted in the demolition of hundreds of homes in Cleveland and which often severed neighborhoods. to what extent was the highway construction program the cause for accelerating the loss of city population and of increasing urban blight? Present Ponderables 1. Have such organizations as NOACA, Team NEO, and Cleveland Plus correctly identified the priorities which are most critical to the revitalization of Cleveland and of Northeast Ohio? Are there other priorities that should be added to the list or which should replace the current emphases? 2. Are the projects being proposed as addressing the region’s most compelling needs well chosen to meet the established priorities? are these likely to achieve the goals toward which they are pointed? 3. What data can be summoned to either support or criticize plans for a) highway changes; or b) commuter or intercity railroad development, or c) port relocation, or d) airport consolidation?
The story of the public rejection of a highway that was planned to go through the Shaker Lakes as well as other residential areas in Cleveland Heights. Article written by Marion Morton for the Cleveland Heights Historical Society.
LAKE TRANSPORTATION. The Great Lakes transportation industry has had a major impact on Cleveland, and conversely, the city has played a significant role in its development over the years. The south shore of Lake Erie provides the outlet for many rivers; historically, a town developed at the mouth of most of them. Only 3–Toledo, Cleveland, and Buffalo–emerged as major cities, with water transportation as the focus. For all 3, the catalyst was canal construction, with each serving as a terminal point. Although the inception of the railroad allowed other communities along Lake Erie’s shore to compete with Cleveland for lake navigation business, the city’s strategic location led to the development of a thriving shipbuilding industry. With the advent of large-scale steel manufacturing and its accompanying demand for large capital investment, lake transportation became more specialized. Dockside equipment and specially designed ships capable of handling heavy bulk commodities such as iron ore and coal were introduced. Thus, the historical relationship between the Great Lakes maritime industry and the local Cleveland scene experienced 3 relatively distinct stages.
The first 4 decades of lake transportation in Cleveland (ca. 1800-40) were typical of the lake trade generally. Even though the steamboat made its first appearance off the mouth of the CUYAHOGA RIVER in 1818, there was no noticeable impact until better harbor facilities were built. For another decade Cleveland remained largely a way port for the sidewheel steamers running between Buffalo and Detroit. The town basically was serviced by small 2-masted schooners, some of them locally built. They ranged in size from 44′ to 90′ in length, the size of a modern tugboat or good-sized yacht. Their trade was locally oriented; they brought manufactured products to the community and took on locally grown produce for their outbound cargo. Many schooners were owned on a percentage basis by local merchants and forwarding agents in consortium with their counterparts in Buffalo. Prominent among Clevelanders in this role were Charles M. Giddings and Noble Merwin.
In 1841 the Ericsson screw propeller Vandalia revolutionized lake steam navigation; the propeller wheel, located at the stern, pushed the ship through the water. The steam propeller, relatively cheap to build and to operate, had several advantages. It carried an increased payload, was more maneuverable, and was of a shallow draft, satisfying the physical limitations imposed by Cleveland’s undeveloped river and lakefront harbor conditions. All of these characteristics tied in nicely with the warehouses, grain elevators, and other docks built along the banks of the Cuyahoga and the Old River Bed to accommodate the prosperous canal years. The screw propeller also made the steam tug feasible, which meant schooners could be towed through the narrow river entrance, along the winding river, past other vessels lying at docks, to their destination.
With the added benefit of strong stands of white oak in central and southern Ohio, the Forest City became one of the leading wooden-shipbuilding centers on the Great Lakes, rivaling even Buffalo. Large numbers of both sailing vessels and propellers were built in Cleveland. Production of new ships during the period 1846-70 was influenced by 3 factors: rising freight rates, particularly in the grain trade; construction of railroad-owned lake fleets to serve as connecting links in transporting passengers and freight; and the replacement of ships in the lake fleets when disasters caused extensive losses. The emergence of Cleveland as a shipbuilding center, along with its advantage as a canal terminus and, ultimately, the north-south railroad connection to southern Ohio coal fields, ushered in the prosperous lake-shipping period that followed the end of the Civil War.
The exploitation of the iron-mining districts of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota in the 1860s through the 1880s made Cleveland the “hub” of the Great Lakes maritime industry, previously dominated by Buffalo and Chicago with their extensive grain interests. During the late 1840s and 1850s, 4 Cleveland firms and their predecessors were pioneers in this development. The CLEVELAND-CLIFFS INC., PICKANDS MATHER & CO., M. A. HANNA CO., and the Cleveland Rolling Mill Co. (later American Steel & Wire) brought the steel-manufacturing industry to Cleveland. The complete regional bulk transportation industry, which included loading and unloading docks, river and harbor improvements, shipyards, fleets of specially designed bulk freighters, and RAILROADS required huge capital expenditures. All were necessary to transport iron ore, coal, and limestone from the mines to the steel plants in the most cost-efficient manner possible.
In 1869 the Cleveland shipbuilding firm of Peck & Masters built the first ship designed specifically for the iron-ore trade, the 211-ft. wooden-propeller R. J. Hackett, with the pilothouse at the bow, followed a year later by a schooner barge, the Forest City. During the same period, Clevelander Robert Wallace, of Wallace, Pankhurst & Co., built a portable steam engine to assist in unloading iron ore along the docks lining the Old River Bed, replacing horses and cutting the time in half. A 400-ton cargo now could be unloaded in 1 day. By 1880 federal harbor-improvement appropriations dramatically improved Cleveland’s facilities, as a west breakwall was built into the lake to protect the river entrance from prevailing northwesterly winds and waves. In that same year, Cleveland docks received over 750,000 tons of iron ore. Clevelander Alexander E. Brown devised an improved hoisting machine that enabled the heavy ore to be unloaded directly from ship to railroad cars or to dock storage areas. By the late 1890s, the Hulett ore unloader had been introduced (see GEORGE H. HULETT† and ). With each innovation, the turnaround time was significantly reduced for ships, enabling them to head back up the chain of lakes for more cargo.
A river and harbors act, passed by Congress in 1892, guaranteed a 20′ channel from Duluth to Buffalo. By that time, Cleveland had added a central breakwall and had nearly completed an east leg to provide protection for the growing maritime trade of the city. By 1890 Cleveland also was well established as a principal builder of steel-hulled ships. Robert Wallace and his associates, owners of the Globe Iron Works, formed Globe Shipbuilding in 1880. In 1882 the Globe Works launched the iron-hulled Onoko, the prototype for the Great Lakes ore fleet, and 4 years later they built the first steel-hulled bulk carrier on the lakes, the Spokane. That same year, 1886, Cleveland ore receipts exceeded 1 million tons. The closest rival in the ore trade was Ashtabula, whose rail connections fed the steel centers of the Mahoning Valley. Between 1886-90 the number of steel-hulled ships jumped from 6 to 68–most were owned by Cleveland-based shipping companies.
Very early in this movement MARCUS A. HANNA† began the Cleveland Transportation Co., and Hanna Co. owned or operated vessels in the ore and coal trades up to the 1980s. As a sign of the times, the Vermilion, OH, trio of shipbuilders/vessel owners Philip Minch, Isaac Nicholas, and Alva Bradley moved their operations to Cleveland during the early 1880s, investing in steel-shipbuilding companies and steel-hulled ships. From that evolved the Kinsman Marine Transit Co. (See AMERICAN SHIP BUILDING CO.). Other prominent independent vessel owners and operators, each of which controlled several ships by 1900, were the WILSON TRANSIT CO., Gilchrist Transportation Co., Hawgood Transit, the Corrigan interests, Bessemer Steamship Co., Pittsburgh Steamship Co., Bradley Transit Co., and HUTCHINSON AND CO. Thus the pattern was established that lasted until after World War II. Steel-hulled ships replaced wooden ones, and sailing ships disappeared. Corporate mergers occurred, names changed, and new companies appeared. But Cleveland remained the center of the Great Lakes bulk transportation industry.
At the same time as the ore trade increased in Cleveland, so too did the shipping of bituminous coal. Coal often meant a return cargo for vessels heading back up the lakes, especially to Milwaukee and Lake Superior ports. From 1890-1945 Cleveland averaged annual shipments of over 1 million tons of coal, most of it transported in Cleveland-owned hulls. Until shortly after the turn of the century, another important commodity to Cleveland marine operations was the receipt of lumber from the upper lakes. Although Cleveland could not compete with Tonawanda, NY, as a lumber port, it reached its zenith in 1892 by receiving over 7 million board feet. After that, the trade dropped off rapidly as the timber resources disappeared.
The Detroit & Cleveland Steam Navigation Co. inaugurated regular overnight passenger service between Detroit and Cleveland in 1869. It lasted until 1951. The huge sidewheel steamers were a familiar and popular sight, first as they docked near the old Main St. bridge over the Cuyahoga River, and later at the elaborate terminal constructed on the lakefront at E. 9th St. The CLEVELAND & BUFFALO TRANSIT CO., incorporated in 1892, also operated sidewheelers–to Buffalo, Toledo, the Lake Erie islands, and Cedar Point until it ceased operations in 1939, the victim of the automobile.
As the Great Lakes shipping industry became more organized and centralized in Cleveland, the city also became the regional headquarters of various support organizations. In 1880 the Cleveland Vessel Owners Assn. was formed to protect and to promote the interests of the shipping companies, evolving into theLAKE CARRIERS ASSN. in 1892. The U.S. Coast Guard 9th District, covering all of the Great Lakes, has its headquarters in Cleveland, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also maintains a depot at the foot of E. 9th St.
The period following World War II has seen many changes in the Great Lakes shipping business. The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959, and many agents maintained offices in Cleveland. The appearance of the lakefront docks changed as warehouses and coal docks were dismantled to make way for other dock facilities to better serve the ocean-going vessels. The lake’s transportation industry underwent dramatic changes because of restructuring in the steel industry. Iron ore shipments dropped dramatically in the 1970s. Several fleets disappeared, including those operated by M. A. Hanna and Cleveland-Cliffs. The last of Cliffs’ vessels is now a museum ship docked at the E. 9th St. Pier (see STEAMSHIP WILLIAM G. MATHER MUSEUM). Others in the 1980s reduced the number of vessels in operation. The increase in size of lake vessels offset some of the reduction in numbers of ships. Diesel-powered 1000-footers were built at nearby Lorain shipyards and elsewhere. These vessels were much too long and wide (105′) to navigate the Cuyahoga River. Smaller vessels of 600-700′ now carry iron ore to the modernized LTV Steel mills. Economic recovery by 1994 resulted in the movement of 115 million tons of cargo on the Great Lakes by the 58 U.S. flagged ships–the highest total since 1988. Stone, cement, coal, and iron ore remain mainstays of waterborne transportation in Cleveland. The GREAT LAKES TOWING CO., incorporated in 1899, once held a near monopoly on lake towing. The company operates a repair yard on WHISKEY ISLAND. Four Hulett unloaders stand at the adjacent Cleveland and Pittsburgh ore dock, no longer in operation because self-unloading vessels replaced the older, “straight deckers.” Revival of the traffic in bulk cargo, primarily iron ore, has kept Cleveland at the heart of the transportation industry on the Great Lakes.
Richard J. Wright (dec.)
Timothy J. Runyan
Cleveland State Univ.
Havighurst, Walter. The Long Ships Passing (1972).
Thompson, Mark L. Steamboats and Sailors of the Great Lakes (1991).
TRANSPORTATION has been of vital importance to Cleveland–a principal factor that explains why the city grew into a major metropolis. Initially, that meant Cleveland’s access to water; a town site along the mouth of the CUYAHOGA RIVER made real sense. Much of the community’s early history involved LAKE TRANSPORTATION, with scores of sailing schooners, brigs, and barks that transported intercity cargos. Eventually, steam-powered vessels appeared, and quickly took over much of the carrying trade. The first steamboat on the Great Lakes, the 330-ton WALK-IN-THE-WATER, made its maiden voyage in 1818; by 1840 more than 60 steamboats served the lakes, and many called at Cleveland’s docks. These vessels were faster, and in most cases could carry bigger payloads, than their wind-driven counterparts. The value of the Great Lakes to Cleveland also increased because of internal improvements to these waterways–lighthouses, deeper harbors and channels and the like–made them more useful to shipping interests. The opening of the Welland Canal between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie in Nov. 1829 enhanced the overall value of the Great Lakes to Cleveland, and construction in the 1850s of the Sault Canal around the falls of the St. Mary’s River at the foot of Lake Superior had an even more pronounced effect. Most of all, the city’s iron and steel industry blossomed. The basic components of these metals–iron ore and limestone–could be transported to sites along the Cuyahoga River by an inexpensive all-water route from the Lake Superior country.
While heavy cargoes dominated Lake Erie commerce, especially after the Civil War, boats also carried people. Daily passenger service between Buffalo and Detroit via Cleveland began in 1830, and the “Forest City” became home port to several of the leading Great Lakes passenger carriers. As late as the first quarter of the 20th century, the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co. and the CLEVELAND & BUFFALO TRANSIT CO. boomed the merits of pleasure and overnight business trips by water: “Spacious stateroom and parlors combined with the quietness with which the boats are operated ensures refreshing sleep.” But by World War II, the automobile and airplane–the same transportation forms that would greatly reduce intercity rail passenger travel–virtually killed lake passenger service, and the piers at the foot of E. 9th St. became quiet. Modernization also affected freight-carrying vessels on the lake. Great “fresh-water whales”–the long bulk carriers–appeared early in the century and continued the tradition of transporting raw materials to Cleveland plants. By the 1960s these distinctive boats shared water space with oceangoing ships. Completion of the artificial channels and locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway project in 1959 made the latter’s entry possible, and thus Cleveland became an ocean port. The mariner’s map of the world had been altered significantly.
While an evolutionary process was at work on the Great Lakes, Cleveland’s other important water route, the OHIO AND ERIE CANAL, eventually stopped being a transportation artery, but not for several generations after its opening. Even though Cleveland’s population in 1820 totaled only 606, it could still rightfully claim to be a premier lake port. Therefore, state officials wisely selected the community during the early 1820s to be the northern terminus of the projected 308-mi. canal. When completed in 1832, the “Great Ditch” linked Lake Erie at Cleveland with the Ohio River near Portsmouth. A usage pattern somewhat resembling the one seen for lake commerce characterized the Ohio Canal. At first both “hogs and humans” traveled this waterway; the latter boarded specially fitted packets. Admittedly, it was smoother than the ride provided by the various stagecoach lines, but canal travel was extremely slow and unavailable during cold weather or occasional flooding. This means of transportation reached its zenith in the 1840s but declined dramatically with the advent of railroads. Freight, which included wheat, flour, whiskey, pork, salt, limestone, and coal, continued to move by canal long after packets disappeared. Even as late as 1900, the low rates charged by boat owners still attracted bulk cargoes, mostly coal, from east-central Ohio into the ClevelandFLATS. But eventually railroads, in particular the Cleveland Terminal & Valley, conquered the venerable Ohio Canal.
Steam RAILROADS revolutionized Cleveland transportation. By the outbreak of the Civil War, only a dozen years after the arrival of the first steam locomotive, this means of intercity transport was firmly established. The vast majority of people selected railroads for personal travel and to meet their shipping needs. All recognized that water competitors were slow and were universally susceptible to the vagaries of the weather, especially thick winter ice. Furthermore, the railroad offered convenience; businesses tended to choose a railroad rather than a water location. By the post-Civil War era, the flanged wheel had become virtually synonymous with transportation. Yet the Railway Age did not last forever. The first major challenge to the dominance of steam trains came with the introduction of the electric INTERURBANS. Clevelanders in 1895 could brag that they had one of the country’s first intercity traction lines, the Akron, Bedford & Cleveland Railroad. Within a decade, residents had the services of a half-dozen interurban systems that radiated out of the city to the east, south, and west. Interurbans, with their frequent runs, attractive rates, and noticeable cleanliness, siphoned off tens of thousands of potential steam railroad patrons, and captured much of the highly profitable package express and less-than-carload freight business. At times the Cleveland-area steam roads slashed charges or increased trips, but usually they let the interurbans have much of the traffic.
Just as steam railroads showed their vulnerability to interurbans, the latter proved to be even more susceptible to competition. Gasoline-powered vehicles speedily replaced those propelled by electricity. After the dawn of the 20th century, Cleveland emerged as a major center of the AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY, and per capita ownership of the horseless carriage soared. In 1916, for example, Cuyahoga County’s automobile registrations totaled 61,000; 10 years later the figure stood at 211,000. Cleveland’s long-standing ties to the automobile are represented nicely in the career of resident Frank B. Stearns (1878-1955). In 1898 Stearns launched a manufacturing concern, the F. B. STEARNS CO., to build automobiles of his own design and established himself as an important American automobile maker. He also participated in several road races to demonstrate the remarkable potential of this new method of transport. In Jan. 1900 he helped found the Cleveland Automobile Club, the nucleus of the powerful and influential American Automobile Assn. (see OHIO MOTORISTS ASSN.). Services offered by the Cleveland Automobile Club helped expand automobile usage in the area by the 1930s.
Better roads stimulated automobile sales after World War I, and they also did much to encourage expansion of bus and trucking operations. Cleveland’s early intercity bus companies operated relatively short routes; in fact, their system maps closely resembled interurban maps. In 1925, for example, travelers could board vehicles of the Cleveland-Ashtabula-Conneaut Bus Co. on PUBLIC SQUARE for travel to these communities and numerous intermediate points; they might select a run of the Cleveland-Akron-Canton Bus Co., a carrier that followed much of the route of the Northern Ohio Traction & Light Co., or they could opt for buses of the Cleveland-Warren-Youngstown Stage Co., among others. In the 1930s these smaller firms gave way to larger ones. The Cleveland-based Buckeye Stage System served Columbus, Cincinnati, Elyria, and Sandusky; and the Cleveland-based Central Greyhound, associated with Greyhound Lines, operated throughout the eastern Midwest. The remaining smaller operators eventually either folded or merged with Greyhound or its major rival, Continental Trailways. Ultimately, in the 1980s both of these bus giants became one firm.
Although Cleveland never evolved into the region’s leading motor-carrier center, it benefited enormously from the steady growth of this transportation form. But in terms of truck production and truck transport, Cleveland profited greatly from the early innovations of the WHITE MOTOR CORP., which sent 5 experimental trucks in 1902 on a successful round-trip run from New York City to Boston. That company, which for several decades was Cleveland’s largest independent manufacturer in any field, remained in the forefront of truck development and production and also sported a sizable bus-building division. Small trucking concerns, often equipped with White vehicles, appeared before World War I; most provided intracity cartage. But with the triumph of the state’s good-roads movement in the 1920s and early 1930s, and subsequent heavy spending by Congress on federal highways, companies became regional and even interregional in scope.
The massive construction of the interstate highway network after 1956, the growing power of the Brotherhood of Teamsters, and other factors gave rise to motor-carrier consolidation. Cleveland was serviced by the industry’s “Big 5”: Roadway, Consolidated Freightways, Pacific Intermountain-Express, Yellow Freight, and McLean Trucking which, with federal deregulation in 1982, became only Roadway, Consolidated Freightways, and Yellow Freight. These companies and their competitors took advantage of the Cleveland market through such improved roadways as the Ohio Turnpike and interstates 71, 77, 90, 271, and 480. The presence of a vigorous motor-carrier enterprise and, to a lesser degree buses, reduced Clevelanders’ dependency on water and rail. Even though rubber-tired vehicles freed the shipper, local businesses here commonly experienced stiff competition from those in other communities who lacked access to a sophisticated Cleveland-type transportation infrastructure. The truck, more than any other transportation form, challenged Cleveland’s claim as the “best location in the nation.”
Clevelanders, though, could smile about their good fortune with AVIATION. Throughout the life of commercial aviation, the city benefited from virtually unequaled air service. Even prior to regularly scheduled passenger operations, Cleveland and a select number of other places enjoyed access to airmail flights. When the public began to travel by air after the mid-1920s, the local terminal never lacked for carriers. In the 1930s a number of companies provided service, but by World War II only 3 dominated: American, Pennsylvania-Central (subsequently Capital and then United) and Central itself. While regulators in the late 1940s opened the city to other strong firms, the number of carriers remained stable. Deregulation in 1978, however, ushered in a plethora of companies, and Cleveland became more of a “hub” operation. United, Cleveland’s largest airline, gradually left the area, and USAir and Continental replaced it as the primary carriers operating out of Hopkins Airport.
Passengers who used CLEVELAND-HOPKINS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT after the early 1960s enjoyed easy access to Public Square and other east and west side locations, for Cleveland could claim to be the city with the first rapid-transit line connecting its airport to the downtown area. The Cleveland Transit System (later the GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY) was merely the latest operator of Cleveland’s surface rail network. Like most sister cities, Cleveland experienced all types of intracity transportation (see URBAN TRANSPORTATION). The earliest rolling stock to appear on its streets was the horse-drawn omnibus, the 19th century forerunner of the taxi. Omnibus runs started in 1857 and connected the railroad station and lake docks with various public houses. Soon though, the horse (and occasionally the mule) pulled an omnibus-type car on flanged wheels over light rails fixed in the streets. By the Civil War, these “streetcars” rolled on EUCLID AVE.. as far as Erie ( E. 9th) St., turning south on Prospect Ave. and east to the corporation limits. While horse lines flourished in the postwar period, they disappeared in the 1890s. Most communities with horsecars converted to the much more efficient and economical electric trolleys introduced in 1887.
While this transformation likewise occurred in Cleveland, an intermediate phase took place, the cable car phenomenon of the 1880s and early 1890s. Cleveland joined such places as Chicago, Cincinnati, Kansas City, and St. Louis in using cable cars. While inferior overall to the future trolley, the cable car was more desirable than the horsecar, largely because of its greater speed and lower operating cost. In the 1890s Cleveland’s 261,000 citizens rode cars belonging to the Cleveland City Cable Railway from UNION DEPOT up Water (W. 9th) St., and then east on Superior Ave.; or they could change to the Payne Ave. line that continued eastward to Lexington and Hough avenues. In 1893 the CCC became part of MARCUS HANNA†’s WOODLAND AVE. AND WEST SIDE RAILWAY CO., which took the name Cleveland City Railway. The cable lines continued to run throughout the 1890s, even though the faster and more reliable electric cars spread quickly throughout the city. The higher costs of cable operation and the difficulty of expansion led to conversion of the Superior line to trolleys in 1900; the remainder of the system met a similar fate a year later.
Not only did Cleveland’s developing electric streetcars spell doom for the horse and cable cars, but the substantial profit potential and the high capitalization requirements led to the unification of various electric lines in 1893. The result was the creation of 2, at times competing, systems, the CLEVELAND ELECTRIC RAILWAY CO. and the Cleveland City Railway Co. The local press called the former the “Big Consolidated” and the latter the “Little Consolidated,” which common parlance soon shortened to “Big Con” and “Little Con.” The urge to form a private monopoly led to merger of the “Big Con” and “Little Con” in 1903, creating “ConCon.” Although the city finally had its streetcar lines under a single management, consumers wanted a 3-cent fare, not the prevailing charge of 5 cents. Progressive mayor TOM L. JOHNSON† led the battle for a permanent solution to the “streetcar problem”–MUNICIPAL OWNERSHIP. During the Johnson years, reformers repeatedly fought “ConCon” over the fare issue through such consumer-sensitive alternative car lines as the Forest City Railway Co. (1903), Municipal Traction Co. (1906), Low Fare Railway Co. (1906), and Neutral St. Railway Co. (1908). With the establishment of the CLEVELAND RAILWAY CO. in 1910, a prolonged period of reasonable rates ensued, but true public control did not occur until 1942, when the CRC was purchased by the City of Cleveland and became the Cleveland Transit System.
The same technological change that affected the nature of 20th-century intercity travel likewise affected urban transit. “Jitney” buses invaded Cleveland streets before World War I but usually could not compete with the 3-cent trolley fares. Conventional buses joined the Cleveland Railway Co.’s transportation fleet during the 1920s, and eventually the trolley disappeared from Cleveland’s streets; the last streetcar rattled into its car barn from its Madison Ave. run on 24 Jan. 1954. Yet the use of rail transit did not end. The SHAKER HEIGHTS light rail line had since 1914 carried thousands of patrons daily (seeSHAKER HEIGHTS RAPID TRANSIT). Then in 1948, Mayor THOMAS A. BURKE† obtained a commitment from the federal government’s Reconstruction Finance Corp. to buy City of Cleveland revenue bonds to build a crosstown rapid-transit network. After a charter amendment gave an expanded transit board the necessary authority to manage such an operation, the Reconstruction Finance Corp. made the loan for $29.5 million in July 1951. Ground was broken on 4 Feb. 1952, and by the mid-1950s the “rapid” connected Windermere on the east side with W. 117th St. and Madison on the west side, through Terminal Tower on Public Square, and it entered the airport a decade later. In 1975 a revamping of the city’s transit system produced the Regional Transit Authority, which included the Shaker Hts. Rapid; thus the area’s rail and bus operations came under one governing body. During the 1980s, however, the continued exodus of population from the central city has reduced passenger travel on RTA. In 1994 the Gateway project, new home to the CLEVELAND INDIANS and the CLEVELAND CAVALIERS was directly connected with RTA at TOWER CITY CENTER and its use by fans was expected to improve the system’s ridership.
While competition between the various modes had characterized much of Cleveland’s transportation, the complete picture reveals striking examples of coordination and cooperation between transport forms. Obviously, intracity transit operations historically have united local stations and terminals. Trucks and buses, too, have served as vital links in the transportation chain. Less apparent have been the ties between the intracity water, rail, and air carriers. Steam railroads almost from their inception have made connections with lake vessels, especially those that hauled bulk commodities such as coal. In time interurbans offered interchange arrangements with passenger boats. The Northern Ohio Traction Co. established through tariffs for travelers on its system who were bound for Great Lakes cities on the Cleveland & Buffalo or Detroit & Cleveland boats. In the same vein, the NICKEL PLATE ROAD, virtually alone among Cleveland steam roads, promoted steam-electric railroad interchange of freight. A company advertisement in the early 1920s announced proudly: “A physical connection is made with the Nickel Plate Railroad at Cleveland, which permits the movement of Electric Railway Freight Cars into the Nickel Plate Freight terminal for the interchange of both carload and less-than-carload freight.” Like the Nickel Plate, the interurbans were hungry for any type of revenue business, and they commonly established remarkably creative relationships with other types of transport. The most fascinating are 2 traction companies’ dealings with the infant airline industry. In Feb. 1926, officials of the Northern Ohio Traction Co. inaugurated “Freight Aeroplane Service.” Package freight (largely automobile-related) moved by interurban to Cleveland, and then was trucked to the airport for a flight via the “New Ford Air Mail Service” to Detroit. Two years later, on 28 May 1928, the Cleveland & Southwestern claimed to be the first railroad in the nation to offer a through coordinated rail-air service. Interurban passengers purchased a Cleveland-to-Detroit airplane ticket on STOUT AIR SERVICES, INC. from any of 10 stations: Oberlin, Elyria, Wellington, Medina, Wooster, Ashland, Mansfield, Crestline, Galion, or Bucyrus.
Ultimately, the automobile and the motor truck reduced the service given by most of the incumbent forms of public transportation. Since the 1930s, these have been the modes that have altered dramatically the landscape of Cleveland and America; they have truly made the 20th century “the age of the rubber tire.” Cleveland, of course, has continued to benefit from those old 19th-century traffic arteries, Lake Erie boats, and the railroads. Moreover, it has exploited well the advantages of air service. Cleveland remains one of the best-served places in the nation.