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Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011 05:57 pm

Letters to the Editor 1/20/11

More on streetcars


The automobile, the Depression and Franklin D. Roosevelt all played a role in the demise of Springfield’s streetcar system.


I read with interest your “Riding into town on a rail,” [by James Krohe Jr., Jan. 13]. However, the article missed three important points about the Springfield’s streetcar system.

The Springfield Consolidated Railway was organized in 1893 and a further reorganization in 1903 created the Springfield Railway & Light Company, in 1922 becoming the Springfield Gas & Electric Company, then becoming the Illinois Power Company. However, the coming of age of the automobile and construction of paved highways/streets started the decline in streetcar patronage.

During most of the 1920s, streets all over the city were widened to take care of the growing traffic demands of the motor age. Passenger revenue fell and expenses rose. The streetcar company took cost-cutting measures – eliminating two man crews, raising fares with the approval of the Illinois Commerce Commission, establishing bus routes in areas not served by streetcars, eliminating overlapping streetcar service, converting weak streetcar routes to buses, etc. By 1926, the streetcar company was making less than 3.5 percent on its investment, with patronage continuing to drop.

The Depression that began in late 1929 severely hurt streetcar operations. However, the power company carried along the transit operations, hoping for better days.

The enactment of legislation in the 1930s under President Roosevelt that created the Security & Exchange Commission (Roosevelt blamed Samuel Insull and the power conglomerates for the Depression) forced the power companies to spin off their transit operations.

In January 1933, the Commonwealth & Southern Company purchased the Springfield operation of the Illinois Power Company, and under the name of Illinois Electric Power incorporated the Springfield Transportation Company (STC). In April 1933, the STC spun off the electric power service to the Central Illinois Light Company. The STC did little more than realize that streetcar operation was unprofitable and the remaining streetcar lines were gradually converted to buses by Dec. 31, 1937. The STC limped along until 1968 when votes approved the public ownership of the remaining bus system under the Springfield Mass Transit District.

Stephen M. Scalzo
Park Forest


“Which office do I go to, to get my reputation back?” —Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Raymond Donovan, after being acquitted of criminal charges in 1987.

After a year and a half-long ordeal involving my arrest, charge of misdemeanor and prosecution that were clearly unsupported by the facts, I am grateful to the mostly women jury. After hearing all the evidence, this jury rendered the only verdict it could – NOT GUILTY. Everything the jurors heard the officers testify to, much of it untrue, did not constitute a crime. Those 12 jurors took little more than an hour to finally vindicate me. That quick jury verdict proved the state had no evidence of criminal conduct and justifies the belief of many that this case should never have been brought in the first place. Thank God we have the right to trial by jury in this country.

Now it is important to set the record straight. I’ll talk to anyone and don’t judge people. Two female undercover police officers walked up and sat down right next to me as I was having a drink at my neighborhood bar. They tried to bait me into selling illegal drugs and other illegal behavior. I told them I don’t have any involvement with drugs, and I don’t engage in illegal behavior. I should have walked away then instead of continuing foolish banter with them. As a public official, I should have held myself to a higher standard. For not having done so that night, I apologize.
Sam Cahnman

Alderman, Ward 5

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