Houston’s Vanished and Current Middle-of-the-Road Rail Networks, Close Up and Personal

Here’s one way to make a graphic comparison of the tight-knit electric streetcar routes that crisscrossed tiny 1895 Houston (pop. 44,643) to today’s more spindly 22.7-mile light-rail network: Zoom way in, so that Buffalo and White Oak Bayous, not the more familiar target-like succession of looping freeways, appear as the major urban landscape feature — and stops in the Museum District and at UH line up at the edge of the frame like far-flung commuter suburbs. That’s the approach New York-based serial transit-system cartographer Jake Berman has taken in his latest in a series of now-and-then rail comparisons, also suitable for framing.

Maps: Jake Berman

16 Comment

  • Does anyone know when these streetcar lines came down?

  • in the 40’s and 50’s I believe.

    You can still see relics of it in Freedmans town. See link below where it turned north from andrews street


    the concrete strips are where the trolly lines used to be.

  • 1940 was the last year streetcars rolled in Houston.

    If you want to learn more about Houston’s old streetcar system, I highly recommend reading “Houston Electric: The Street Railways of Houston, Texas” By Steven Baron: https://www.amazon.com/Houston-Electric-street-railways-Texas/dp/0965382818

  • What do you know, the rail didn’t go to the airports in 1895 either.
    Guess if we didn’t need them then, we surely don’t them going there today.

  • ^^ Cool! Thanks for sharing.

  • GlenW is a clown. Commercial air service didn’t begin in Houston until after 1940

  • Hmmm… The Fairview St. route is missing. In fact, most are missing. At one point, there were some two dozen routes. I guess the artist thought all of the routes would make the artwork too busy?

  • Disregard my comments earlier… I just noticed the artist chose 1895 for the date of his plotted map.

  • LBC-I think it was tongue in cheek. Loosen up dude.

  • Here’s a drawing of the old network by Christof Spieler. Pretty sure it’s trustworthy. https://www.dropbox.com/s/ethnbjgxd86uymw/streetcar-system.jpg?dl=0

  • @David Crossley, the Fairview route is there. How convenient something like that would be today, and probably would be a smoother ride as Fairview is so F*ed up, it is embarrassing when visitors come to my house!

  • @Montrose Resident
    The Fairview bus route replaced the streetcar line and operated for decades. Thirty years ago a significant number of people in Montrose relied on public transportation. As demographics changed, METRO decided that ridership didn’t justify some routes through Montrose. In addition to Fairview, they also eliminated the University (Hawthorne) and Alabama (actually W. Alabama) routes.
    It’s surprising how much of a difference there is between walking one or two blocks vs five or more to the closest bus stop. I agree that a revived Fairview line would be convenient, and a trolley would be great. The question is, will residents of $500k townhomes willingly commit to giving up their cars?
    I wish they would, and think they won’t.

  • One of the streetcars ended/turned around on Grant St. @ Welch . Where Anderson Fair is behind Texas Art Supply. Of course Montrose was different in those days.. None of the overbuilt townhouses ,etc. There was room to accommodate the rail car/trolley infrastructure .

  • It’s funny how a lot of the “just give up your cars” people really just mean for _other_ people to give up their cars so that there’s less congestion for the “just give up your cars” people’s cars.
    Also, the “just give up your cars” people must not have dogs*, or play ice hockey, or go sailing or kayak fishing or camping, or participate in other sports and activities that have large equipment and take place in locations where public transportation doesn’t go and won’t go or if it did, it would take 2 hours to get there.
    * Dogs are typically not allowed on public transportation, and I suspect a lot of ride-share drivers don’t want them in their cars, either. Yet dogs occasionally need to go to the vet, and sometimes we like to take them to the park.

  • Also, there is just about zero north/south bus routes through Montrose as everything turns somewhere and heads to downtown.

  • @Linda the 56? a route that runs every 15 min all day goes north and south all the way up montrose never going downtown.