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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Washington Water Power threatens to yank its streetcars

The rise in popularity of the jitneys and an increase in fares led Washington Water Power Co. to threaten to end its streetcar service in Spokane.  (S-R archives)
The rise in popularity of the jitneys and an increase in fares led Washington Water Power Co. to threaten to end its streetcar service in Spokane. (S-R archives)
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

The Washington Water Power Co. escalated Spokane’s transit crisis by saying it might have to abandon its streetcar system altogether.

D.L. Huntington, the company president, wrote a letter that was read to a packed crowd of nearly 400 in the Spokane City Council chambers.

He said that “under existing conditions,” the company may be compelled to exit the streetcar business. Spokane’s two private streetcar systems were in financial jeopardy owing mainly to the rise of the automobile and the city’s policy allowing jitneys (private vans and buses) to run on some of the more lucrative streetcar routes.

However, many thousands of Spokane residents still relied on the streetcar system to get them to and from work. The recent fare increase to 8 cents precipitated the crisis and caused the city to retaliate by allowing jitney routes.

Meanwhile, residents of the Lidgerwood and North Division areas presented a petition signed by 750 people asking the city to resolve the crisis. WWP had already abandoned the Lidgerwood and North Division streetcar routes, creating a hardship for the area’s merchants and commuters.

“Have you five men any right to sit here and say we can’t have streetcars?” one irate woman asked the city council. “We are the people and we shall say what we shall have.”

When council members blamed the problem on WWP, the woman replied, “I don’t give a whoop what the Washington Water Power wants or does. All we want is service.”

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