Detroit United Railway streetcar system, 1905
Detroit, like most cities which grew up in the early 20th century, used to have a truly massive streetcar system, and all of it was run by an evil monopoly known as the Detroit United Railway. In short, you could get anywhere on the D.U.R. or one of its subsidiaries, with trains that were frequent and fast. Today, a transit line is considered frequent if a bus or streetcar comes every 10 minutes or less; in the early 20th century, this was considered a bare minimum level of service in urban areas and even in inner-ring suburbs. This level of service, though, is only financially feasible in the absence of alternatives. At the turn of the 20th century, if you didn't want to walk, you just didn't have any plan B. Cars were still expensive toys for the rich. Buses hadn't been invented yet. Horses were slow, and of course, you had to feed and water them.
This gave the D.U.R. a monopoly over transport, and with this monopoly came a tremendous amount of power. All of this meant that the D.U.R. was a target for progressive reformers who wanted the Government to break the stranglehold of the D.U.R. by seizing control of the railroad.
This map shows the D.U.R. and its connecting services near its height in 1905. The map also shows the "interurbans" (suburban electric rail lines) which went out to places which are considered the urban perimeter even today, like Ann Arbor, Pontiac and Port Huron.
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