Public transportation has evolved rapidly in Columbus

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Unlike large cities with densely populated downtown areas, Columbus does not have a large number of taxis lining up in front of large downtown buildings.

Nevertheless, today it is not that difficult to get a vehicle with a driver. With services like Uber and Lyft, we have all kinds of services competing with established taxi lines.

In the early days, when Columbus was a smaller place, one would have thought that public transportation would have been less complicated and less competitive.

Of course, it was not.

An early Columbus story observed that public transportation got off to a slow start before evolving rapidly.

“Before the railroads were built, there was little demand in Columbus for anything like an omnibus or a hack. Stage coaches called to the door to pick up or unload passengers. When the Columbus and Xenia Railway opened (in 1851), the omnibus made its first appearance, but only to carry passengers and baggage to and from the station. In 1853, a three-weekly highway line between Columbus and the Winchester Canal was launched; there was also a line to Worthington which was supposed to ‘get a good deal’. ”

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With the success of these first lines, it didn’t take long for a bit of competition to develop.

This 1885 photo looking east on Broad Street shows a variety of vehicles.

“In March 1855, Thomas Brockway introduced what was called a ‘pygmy omnibus’, a tiny vehicle that carried four people in addition to the driver. The newspapers said of these cars, “The ladies find them convenient for shopping and the beautiful won’t use anything else for parties. But their popularity was short-lived. They were quickly and completely replaced by the more elegant ‘hack’.

“The ‘hack’ was introduced by WB Hawkes & Co., and during (the Civil War 1861-1865) this kind of vehicle made a successful business. The money was plentiful, the officers and soldiers were stupendous with their funds and the hackers took advantage of it. A city ordinance set their pay at 25 cents per passenger, or $ 1 an hour. … Since the end of the war, the patronage of hacks has declined considerably. ”

Part of the reason for their decline was competition from a tank company.

“A line of tanks was established in 1878 and has met with much favor. On April 23, 1881, a tank company was organized with CC Corner as president. The Columbus Transfer Company was incorporated on September 17, 1881.… On December 30, 1881, an announcement was made that the company had purchased the property from WB Hawkes & Co., including their omnibuses, horses and other equipment. In 1882, the Transfer Company erected large stables and war rooms on Naghten Street (Nationwide Boulevard) between High and Third.

Hawkes did pretty well.

With the success of his hacks and a complementary line of diligence, Hawkes was able and willing to practice more than a little practical philanthropy in his town. Observing that Starling Medical College and Hospital – near where the OhioHealth Grant Medical Center is today – had provided medical assistance to downtown Columbus, Hawkes decided to bring in the same type of helping the Franklinton neighborhood west of the Scioto. Hawkes Hospital was a success and eventually became Mount Carmel Hospital.

“In 1886, Palace Livery Stable introduced the Hansom Cabin, which was considered the first of its kind to be used in Ohio. And… it was also the last. These vehicles did not prove to be popular. The hackney-coach, or as it is commonly known, the hack and the coupe have replaced all other means of street transport except private horse-drawn carriages.

One of the reasons why all of these forms of transport were less successful was the poor condition of most roads. and rather intense competition from emerging streetcar lines in most parts of the city.

In the early 1890s, the plethora of small neighborhood streetcar lines merged, were electrified, and became the Columbus Railway Power and Light Co. This company eventually divested itself of its transportation services. The company became the Columbus Transit Co. and eventually the Central Ohio Transit Authority. The Power and Light Co., after some corporate changes, became part of American Electric Power.

Streets and roads became easier to use with asphalt paving, which met public demand and the growing use and popularity of the automobile. Through all of these changes, the driver of a rental vehicle continued to provide services to customers who needed a way to get to desired and hard-to-reach places quickly, safely or economically by others. means.

Columbus is an urban area without mountains or large bodies of water, and there has always been and remains a need for a variety of public transportation.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for News from the ThisWeek community.



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