When I first moved to the Washington region, I lived in Alexandria. There, I had my first experience in a big city with a real transportation network. From my apartment, there were so many different buses passing by - Metrobus, REX, Fairfax Connector, DASH, all in old and new colors.
Coming from Louisville, where the TARC bus is the only option, I was struck with the variety of operators and options out there. I began making simple little illustrations of these buses in an effort to illustrate the diversity of the region through its transit.
Soon, my curiosity expanded to some of my other favorite cities - Toronto, Seattle, and more. One thing lead to another, and I ended up with sixteen cities!
Throughout the entire process, I learned a lot about these sixteen cities and their transit systems. From Chicago and it's streamlined bus network - one bus operator for Chicago, one operator for all of the suburbs - to the Bay Area and it's frustratingly disjointed sea of operators, each city handles its network in a unique way.
And while there are many similarities between cities - the Bombardier Bi-Level commuter rail car, the New Flyer Xcelsior series of buses - there are many unique and interesting vehicles plying the roads, rails, waves and wires of the continent. Here are some of my favorites:
THE COLORADO RAILCAR DMUS
Colorado Railcar was a short-lived American manufacturer that marketed unique, boxy diesel multiple unit (DMU) trains in the United States. It shut down in 2008, but before it did, it built a bi-level DMU set for Tri-Rail in Miami as well as four single-level units to Portland for its Westside Express Service line.
The Liverpool Boat Tram
San Francisco's F Market & Wharves line uses a fleet of historic streetcars, but the most unique by far is the "boat tram." They were built to run along the seaside in the city of Blackpool, UK in 1934. These fun streetcars are a hit among tourists, and this particular illustration can be found hidden in the Transit of the Bay Area print along with five of its heritage streetcar brothers.
Angels Flight is a landmark of Los Angeles. At a length of 315 feet (at a 33% grade) it is said to be the world's shortest incorporated railway. Though it is primarily a tourist attraction, the funicular is an important link between two communities. Service is currently suspended after an accident in 2013.
In the 1970s, the United States experimented with peoplemovers in Detroit, Jacksonville FL and Miami. Metromover is by far the most successful of the three, and the only one that fully completed the system. The free system connects to Miami's Metrorail system, and helps spur development in the downtown region.
Norristown High Speed Line
Philadelphia's transit network is among the most diverse and unique, as most of its lines are modified off of older and sometimes outdated transit modes. The Norristown High Speed Line is particularly difficult to classify, as it is a former Interurban line. It is sometimes still referred to as such, though this mode of transportation fell out of favor in the 1920s.
The Aerial Tramways
Just two cities in the U.S. have gondola systems. The Portland Aerial Tram carries commuters up 500 feet between the city's South Waterfront district and Oregon Health & Science University. The Roosevelt Island Tramway is an icon of New York City, having transported 26 million passengers since 1976. It connects Roosevelt Island to the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Montreal's Rubber-Tired Metro
Montreal's Metro system is the only rubber-tired metro system in the collection. Rubber-tired metro systems have smoother rides and higher acceleration, though at the cost of higher energy consumption. Additionally, the Montreal Metro runs entirely underground because the cars are not weatherproof and the electrical system would be severely affected by rain and melting snow.
The Seattle Center Monorail is an elevated monorail line in Seattle. The iconic system was given landmark status in 2003. It was opened in 1962 for the World’s Fair, when 8 million people rode it over a 6 month period. It is one of only two monorails line in the United States used outside of airports and theme parks.
The Aquabus provides commuter and sightseeing services to locations all along False Creek of central Vancouver, British Columbia. Started in 1986, these multi-colored, small boats have become a recognizable sight in downtown Vancouver. Several different colored illustrations can be found throughout the Transit of Greater Vancouver print.
Las Colinas APT
The Las Colinas Area Personal Transit (APT) System is a people mover system that serves the Las Colinas area of Irving, a suburb of Dallas. The planned system was a 5-mile, 20-station system, though only 1.4 miles was opened in 1986, and closed just 7 years later. Though it has been called a ‘white elephant’ in the past, the small system reopened in the 90s and a connection to the DART light rail network has helped to boost ridership.