They were everywhere. For nearly a century — from the 1850s through the 1940s — streetcars were the most common way for Cincinnatians to get where they were going.
According to a report to common council in 1887, Cincinnati City Clerk Edwin Henderson said council had filed more than 70 ordinances relating to “street railroads” to date, and Henderson’s report detailed 25 routes in service at the time.
At their peak, Cincinnati’s railway companies offered commuters dozens of streetcar routes with nearly 250 miles of track.
Compared to other transportation options of the time, streetcars had numerous advantages: more consistent and producing less visible waste than horses, they were less noisy and followed street patterns compared to trains, and were faster and offered a larger range than walking. Streetcars opened up all sorts of new areas to development as residents could travel further on their daily commutes or regular trips.
Outside of the occasional attempt to revive a streetcar line, often for tourism purposes, most cities today do not contain visible evidence of the popularity of streetcars. Cincinnati is a city that is trying: a plan is in the works for a 3.6 mile loop that connects employment and residential areas. Still, across the broader city and region, cars reign supreme with their ability to go anywhere and offer drivers individual choices.