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Unbeknownst to some, Boston is not only the birthplace of American liberty but it is also the birthplace of American mass transportation systems. It started as a family-operated ferry service and has evolved into something the originators could’ve never imagined. The Hub’s transit system is the oldest and fourth largest in the nation and has a history longer than that of American independence.
1631 was the year mass transportation began. At the time Boston was just a peninsula connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. There were no bridges and people were only able to travel with inefficient access created a journey that would last days if going from Winnisimet (Chelsea) to Boston.
Exclusively, sailboats and rowboats carried freight and passengers on the three-mile run across Boston Harbor, from the foot of Hanover Street to Winnisimet Street, Chelsea for two hundred years. In 1793, the first stagecoach operation was started between Boston and Cambridge over the West Boston Bridge. Over the next fifty years, stagecoaches operated from Boston directly to other cities in New England.
During the 1820’s a new form of local transportation entered into the public. The Omnibus was longer than a conventional stagecoach, it had lengthwise seats along either side and a door at either end. omnibuses made several stops along an assigned route. Their competitors; Stagecoaches; went directly from one city or town. These omnibus’ were that they could operate during winter as efficiently as in summer. The one drawback was the inability to carry large loads.
This is when the horse-drawn car comes into play. During 1856, people realized that implementing rails the transportation would be faster and smoother. Prior to this happening the omnibus would have to traverse through holes in the ground creating a very slow and bumpy ride. On March 26, 1856, the first horsecar line started operation from Central Square, Cambridge to the West Boston Bridge to Bowdoin Square providing optimal transportation. As electricity entered the scene horse-drawn vehicles became a thing of the past.
The latter part of the 19th century, electric cable cars were now providing the transportation needs of the people. The usage of electricity has indeed become our 21st-century standard. Only the future holds the answers to what new innovative transportation will lead us onward.