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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Seven-cent streetcar fare looms on the city

Spokane was rising up against what it deemed an economic outrage: the seven-cent streetcar fare, reported The Spokane Daily Chronicle on March 10, 1919. (The Spokane Daily Chronicle Archives)
Spokane was rising up against what it deemed an economic outrage: the seven-cent streetcar fare, reported The Spokane Daily Chronicle on March 10, 1919. (The Spokane Daily Chronicle Archives)

Spokane was rising up against what it deemed an economic outrage: the 7-cent streetcar fare.

Streetcar fares had been a nickel since virtually the beginning, but now Spokane’s two privately owned streetcar companies were attempting to push through a 2-cent fare boost. Both companies – The Washington Water Power Co. and the Spokane Traction Co. – claimed with some justification that they were losing money as streetcar ridership dropped.

Yet the city commissioners, responding to public opinion, passed a resolution calling such an increase “unjust and inadvisable.”

The city did not technically have jurisdiction over fare increases. A state Public Service Commission was in charge of such matters.

However, the city did have some leverage, because it granted the streetcar franchises. The city had already threatened to yank the WWP franchise over a related issue, when the company attempted to abandon some streetcar routes.

The city could also exert pressure on the Public Service Commission, which is what the resolution attempted to do. The resolution urged the commission to withhold ratification of any fare increase.

The city and the streetcar companies were already negotiating another possible solution to the streetcar crisis: merging the two companies. However, the city commissioners said that any such agreement was predicated on retaining the 5-cent fare.

The Spokane Daily Chronicle’s editorial page weighed in against the 7-cent fare, saying it would cost riders $5 million per year.

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