Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Fog 31° Fog

100 years ago in Spokane: Jitneys (think old-fashioned Uber service) undercut 8-cent streetcar fare

June 15, 2021 Updated Wed., June 15, 2022 at 3:57 p.m.

By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

The new 8-cent streetcar fare (up from 6 cents) was causing consternation throughout Spokane.

Auto drivers were picking up people at streetcar stops and giving people free rides to save them from paying the high fare.

One driver said he “loaded his car to the running boards” because “I don’t believe the fare increase was justified.”

Another driver said of the streetcar companies, “They’ll never get any of my money. I have a little car and it is going to be filled with people who object to paying the 8-cent fare.”

Meanwhile, the Spokane City Council was under increasing pressure to allow jitneys (private cars and vans) to carry passengers. Jitney operators said they could carry passengers for a nickel, thus undercutting Spokane’s struggling streetcar companies. At least 38 applications for jitney routes poured into city offices. The city indicated it was in favor of allowing jitney service, although it said it wanted to regulate it.

The president of the Streetcar Men’s Union issued a dire warning to the City Council.

If jitneys were allowed, he said that every streetcar in the Spokane Traction Company system would be put back in the barns and the men would walk off in protest.

“I believe practically all the Traction streetcar employees are willing to quit for at least eight to 10 days,” said the union president. “No law can compel us to work.”

The two main arguments against the jitneys were that they were allowed to use the city’s existing infrastructure without having paid to build it, and that the jitneys would only serve the lucrative interior routes, leaving passengers in the outlying areas in the lurch.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.