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El Paso - August 2018

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El Paso, TX — First Generation Timeline

August 2018

The El PasoTimes in an historical post on its website has published a timeline for the end of El Paso international streetcar service into Juarez, Mexico. The modern streetcar line using rehabilitated PCCs will stop short of the international border:

The timeline behind the end of international streetcars between El Paso, Juárez
Patricia Long, El Paso Times

Click here for the article's orignal sige.

On Aug. 3, 1973, the El Paso Times warned that a strike by Mexican workers could mean the end to international streetcars:

El Paso's International streetcars may become a thing of the past due to a strike by members of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union, which has halted the system since Tuesday morning.

The workers, formerly toll collectors on the Mexican side of the Santa Fe Bridge, are striking due to the elimination of their jobs. El Paso City Lines, which operated the streetcars, cut the collectors when it made the bridge a free crossing to the U.S. side.

Joe Diaz, line manager and vice president, said the toll operation cost more in salaries and business expenses than was collected in tolls.

The jobs and tolls were eliminated July 25 and the striking workers Tuesday morning impounded a streetcar at the bridge by halting service on the single track.

On Aug. 8, the mayors of Juárez and El Paso met to discuss the fate of the "internationally-famous El Paso-Juárez trolley line, known as the only one serving two nations."

Captured streetcar returned
The meeting resulted in the return of the streetcar being held by the striking workers and El Paso Lines' 1908 franchise to operate the service was canceled and the company was given 30 days to remove the trolley tracks that circled the downtown Juárez area.

On Sept. 8, the Times reported that the city had agreed to purchase the streetcars, raise the fare and make a go at running the trolleys internationally.

El Paso enters streetcar business
The city of El Paso went into the streetcar business Friday with the announcement by Mayor Fred Hervey of the negotiated purchase of El Paso City Lines cars for $150,000.

Hervey termed the deal a gamble because although the city owns the 15 streetcars, no actual agreement has been reached with the Mexican government for operation in Juárez.

He did, however, speak optimistically about continued international trips.

"It is anticipated that the city of Juárez will cooperate with the city of El Paso in making possible the resumption of the streetcar service between both cities", a release from the mayor's office said.

Monorail system proposed
It was noted in the mayor's release that while the city will improve the service, both cities must realize that alternate and more modern methods will be considered, meaning the proposed monorail system.

By Oct. 11, the Juárez Chamber of Commerce spoke in opposition of the return of the streetcar service as not to delay construction of a recent government-approved monorail system:

"The Chamber of Commerce official said the chamber has sent telegrams to Mexican President Luis Echeverria opposing any moves for the granting of a new streetcar concession forfeited by the El Paso City Lines several weeks ago because of labor troubles.

"Many Juárez merchants, it was said, welcome a 'tourist' trolley service like the early 'mule-drawn' trolley cars that would really be a tourist attraction. On the other hand, the merchants are opposed to resumption of service with the old and antiquated streetcars that frequently broke down."

Although the Juárez Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, were opposed to the return of the streetcars, Juárez Mayor Mario Jacquez petitioned the Ministry of Communications and Transportation for authorization to resume service. And in January 1974, Mayor Fred Hervey and Juárez Mayor pro tem Lic. Eugenio Calzada Flores flew to Mexico City to present their case before ministry officials.

By August 1974, there was an international taxi "problem." El Paso had required taxis from Juárez to carry liability insurance and meet other requirements, and in return Juárez implemented stiff requirements for El Paso taxis operating in Juárez. 

Complete ignorance blamed
The Binational Planning Committee on International Mass Transit met and recommended a moratorium for taxi regulations by the two cities until Dec. 25. The El Paso City Council voted against the moratorium and on Aug 30, the Times reported:

"The 'complete ignorance' of Mexican law and procedure on the part of Mayor Fred Hervey and the City Council Thursday was blamed by a high-ranking Juárez official for the current taxi transportation difficulties between the two cities.

"Also, Mayor Hervey repeated demands for resumption of streetcar service are another major obstacle, acting Juárez Mayor Lic. Eugenio Calzada Flores said."

In September 1975, Juárez Mayor Dr. Raul Lezama expressed some optimism that the mass transportation problem between El Paso and Juárez, in particular the return of streetcar service, “is on the verge of solution.”

On Dec. 17, the Times reported that efforts by Mayor Don Henderson to get a response from officials in Mexico City on the city’s offer to have Mexico run the international streetcar line were unsuccessful, so the State Department interceded.

The city offered the franchise to Mexico for $1,500 a month.

Juárez vote on streetcar return
In September 1976, Mexican President Luis Echeverria decided that the citizens of Juárez would have the final word on the return of the streetcar service. It was announced that a special Juárez City Council meeting would be open to the public during which authorized representatives of the community, labor groups, civic organizations and others should be allowed to approve or reject Henderson’s proposal on resumption of the service.

The special council meeting and vote was held Sept. 21. The votes were 30-7 for streetcars, with one abstention.

Ray Salazar became El Paso’s mayor in 1977. In June, he said there was little future for intercity streetcars. Salazar said the tracks on San Antonio Avenue caused complications for the completion of El Corredor, a Downtown revitalization program. “I’ve told them to pull the tracks up” in the El Corredor area, he said.

Salazar said the city had been offered $170,000 for the street cars, but he did not think the offer was high enough to accept.

The final blow to the international streetcar program came Oct. 20 when, at the request of Juárez Mayor Manuel Quevado, Street Department crews crossed into Juárez and used electric saws to cut down all electric trolley poles: 76 poles were cut down along the streetcar loop, 24 from Avenida Lerdo, 36 along Avenida Juárez and 17 along Avenida 16 de Septiembre.

Trish Long is the El Paso Times' librarian and spends her time in the morgue, where the newspaper keeps its old clippings and photos. She may be reached at tlong@elpasotimes.com.


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