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The Transit Problem
This article appeared in the City of Dayton Annual Report for 1942, pages 81-84
The Transit Problem
O. F. Mauch
     At the end of 1942, the public transit situation in Dayton, due to the war emergency, had undergone a number of radical changes, with possibly more to follow in the new year.
     Being one of the key defense centers of the country, Dayton experienced a war boom and an estimated population increase during 1941 and 1942 of approximately 44,000. This, added to a normal population of about 200,000, was the cause of a considerable influx of automobiles and a serious traffic crisis in 1941. However, the traffic situation was relieved to some extent by the freezing of auto tire stocks and toward the end of 1942 this crisis began to turn into a public transit problem, as more and more workers were forced to turn to public conveyances for transportation.
     For a number of years the transit lines of Dayton have been gradually converting from rail to rubber tire coaches. This change-over was accelerated during 1940 and the early part of 1941, with the result that when tire-freezing orders were issued in December, 1941, of the twelve lines operating in Dayton, only two were still on rails. This naturally added to the problem of trying to increase facilities.
     The problem was further aggravated by the tremendous expansion of Wright and Patterson Felds [sic], beyond the city limits. It is estimated that employment at the [p. 81]fields has increased approximately 900 per cent in the past two years. Inasmuch as most of these workers were recruited from Dayton, it threw a tremendous burden upon the Cincinnati and Lake Erie Transportation Company, the only line serving these fields. It, like other companies operating in the City, had only recently converted from rail to motor coach.
     This, then, was the problem confronting transit companies: a great increase in population (the area population of Dayton at the end of 1942 was over 315,000); many autos put out of circulation due to tire rationing; and finally, conversion from rail to rubber tire coaches at a time when there would be the greatest difficulty in securing tires for replacement, and especially new equipment.
     In the early part of 1942 it was still possible to expand existing transit facilities, and this was done by the addition of twelve electric coaches and ten gas coaches by four of the local lines. This took care, to some extent, of the demand for increased service on the regular lines. What was needed was additional service cross-town, both east-west across the north part of the city, and north-south across the eastern part. Such additional service, especially if continued to Wright and Patterson Fields, would relieve considerably the congestion on the regular lines, ad also the C. & L. E. line, which could no longer cope with the traffic problem to the fields, due to its inability to expand beyond a certain limited extent.
     With the aid of the Army Air Service Command at Wright and Patterson Fields it was possible early in 1942 to institute important cross-town bus service running directly to the two fields. One of these lines was operated by the St. John Transportation Company, a rural transit firm serving the suburban area around Dayton. The St. John Company installed a line starting in the west end of town at Western Avenue and Wolf Creek Pike and running through lower Dayton View, Riverdale, crossing the Miami River at Helena Street and continuing across North Dayton via Leo Street, thence to Wright and Patterson Fields. This company also started a new line from the Greyhound Bus Terminal in the center of town out through North Dayton, and thence to the fields.
     The other cross-town line was placed in operation by the Dayton-Xenia Railway Company. This line started at Watervliet Avenue and Smithville Road, in the southeast end of town and proceeded directly north on Smithville Road to the intersection of East Third Street, and thence to Wright [p. 82] Field. In addition to these lines, the City Railway Company inaugurated an auxiliary motor bus service from the end of its rail line on East Third Street out to the fields by way of East Third Street.
     During this period one other service was furnished by the St. John Transportation Company to suburbanites at Miami Shores, a community south of the city that has grown considerably in the last few years. This line entered Dayton at the South Broadway bridge, then over Miami Chapel Road to Stewart Street and Patterson Boulevard to downtown Dayton.
     These were the new services installed in 1942. In the meantime, with a crisis rapidly developing in private auto transportation due to the tire situation, an emergency transportation committee was appointed and organized by the Mayor of Dayton in an effort to cope with the problem. This committee exerted its efforts on three projects, to-wit: Alleviation of traffic congestion to speed up public transportation; staggering of working hours to spread peak overloading of public carriers, and car sharing to save rubber and keep private cars running. The success of this program was indifferent, due to the failure of the public to understand the critical nature of the emergency.
     In the latter part of 1942,Dayton was jolted out of its complacency by an order from the Office of Defense Transportation cutting public transportation about 25 per cent effective December 1, 1942. The order, exempting the St. John Transportation Company and related lines to Wright and Patterson Fields, directed all other lines operating in the city to cut to about 75 per cent of mileage operated in September, 1942. In addition, complete suspension of service was ordered on the following lines:
     City Railway: Philadelphia Drive-East First Street line, and Kammer Avenue-Richard Street line east of Jefferson Street.
     It was ordered to suspend service during off-peak hours on the Kammer Avenue-Richard Street line east of Jefferson Street.
     Dayton-Xenia Railway: Suspend all service north of Fifth Street.
     Peoples Transit: Suspend the Soldiers Home line west of Dearborn Avenue and the Wayne Avenue line east of Wilmington Avenue.
     As was to be expected, numerous protests were received from both industry and individuals; the latter put out by the inconvenience to which they would be subjected, and the former genuinely concerned about the effect of the order on employment.
     Now, as the result of protests [p. 83] from various war industries, the City has obtained a promise from ODT to review its order in the light of the possible effect transit curtailment may have on the war effort in Dayton. But whatever the outcome, it appears that Dayton’s transportation problems are just beginning and unless some relief of the tire and gas situation is forthcoming, the problem in 1943 will be much more acute that in 1942. [p. 84]