“[T]he main theme of those who opposed the Charles River scheme was that street railways interfered with driving. Opposition on narrow Inman Street was particularly strong: “Grant the location through this street, and we cannot have a carriage stop at our doors,” said Theodore C. Kurd. Magazine Street was wider, but L. H. Sanborn still protested : “I think the driving public of Cambridge and the vicinity should have a little show for themselves. … The driving public want one avenue to get out of Ward Four without any interruption.” H. Roberts said that Oxford Street was “the only avenue where there is not a track, and the only street, it seems to me, where we can really drive with any safety.” Linn B. Porter, editor and owner of the Cambridge Chronicle, said that the plan to put tracks on Mount Auburn Street “proposes to ruin the one long avenue to the cemeteries which is now free from obstruction; and whom will this line accommodate? … the poorest part of the population … where a street railway is about the only thing they don’t need.”
A sense of civic duty is injected:
“”The fair-minded Colonel Higginson, who lived on Buckingham Street and personally preferred not to have rails on Mount Auburn Street because of inconvenience in driving, made a balanced statement in the later hearing: “I think horse cars almost always injure a street…. But so few people own vehicles, and so many people travel by horse cars, that the convenience of the few in that respect ought to be sacrificed to the public good.””
The good colonel also takes a swipe at Harvard men:
“Higginson spoke of his experience coming home to Cambridge in the late afternoon when he was in the Legislature: “Of those one hundred days, be they more or less, when I rode out in a Cambridge horse-car, I never once had a seat; never. Not on a solitary occasion did I have a seat all the way from Bowdoin Square to Harvard Square. The pressure upon the cars was so great, and the natural courtesy of members of the Legislature towards ladies is so great, that somebody always had to stand up, and I found myself always that somebody. I noticed that the young gentlemen of the University were often wearied by their excessive devotion to athletic exercises, and were not able to stand up to make room for ladies; and consequently I, not being directly in the athletic line, was able to do it.””
We’ve been through this before; they’re called jitneys. The street railway companies fought tooth and nail against them 100 years ago because they were a direct threat to their business. The jitneys went away, even where they weren’t illegal, but the street railways died anyway, since their real competition was the private automobile, which took away the passengers and clogged the streets.
OK, so jitneys didn’t have WiFi (because, for the most part, radio didn’t exist), and they didn’t have algorithms to predict where routes should go (because there were no good coders back then) , but they are still cream-skimmers in that they’ll be taking customers away from the MBTA.
Does that mean they should be banned? Of course not! If they can do the job better than the T then so be it, but the T is going to serve routes and populations that a profit-motivated service never will because the T’s motivator is (or should be!) moving people and not profit.
The article mentions traveling from Brookline to Kendall Square in Cambridge and how, if you took the T, you’d have to take a trolley in to Park St and the Red Line out to Kendall/MIT whereas the private bus takes you there directly.
Amusingly, the Route 1 Mass Ave bus featured in the article (and reproduced above) almost makes that trip as it runs from Harvard Square along Mass Ave, and then thorough the South End crossing a number of rail lines. But if you look at the T’s map, you’ll find a CT2 bus — CT for Crosstown — that makes almost the same route as described for Bridj passing through both Brookline and Kendall Square (well, a few steps away) without going downtown.
So if the service already exists what does that say? It says to me that Bridj is more along the lines of a service that wants to serve passengers who don’t want to share a vehicle with those people.
This is a pretty interesting solution to a problem seen in older areas. Here in Oklahoma, where we really, really like our PLSS grid, this type of thing happens only rarely but back east — say in the Boston area — it’s common. And, in fact, several stills in the article are of Boston and Cambridge. Cambridge has even legally declared some streets as “shared streets”.
What’s interesting to me is that it’s counter-intuitive, that taking out signals makes things better for the motor vehicles as well as the pedestrian. It is possible that some motorists have changed their route to avoid this intersection, but I only have this film to judge from and certainly don’t have before and after vehicle counts to show what’s happening regarding vehicle movement.