A tram suburb is an urban residential settlement that was developed along the tracks of the electric tram and was extremely popular in North American cities in the 19th century. While other forms of transportation such as horse-drawn carriages and cable cars had brought the suburbs with them, they were not planned as efficiently as the tram suburbs. The rise of the automobile in the 20th century saw the decline of the tram suburbs.
The history of the tram suburb is intertwined with the history of the electric tram or electric railways. The Russian Fyodor Pirotsky invented the first electric tram in 1880 which operated in a small Russian town known as Sestroretsk. The 1884 World Cotton Centennial Fair held in New Orleans exhibited electric trams. Frank J. Sprague of Richmond, Virginia, established the first commercial electric tram in the United States in 1888. The adoption of this new mode of transport was welcomed by the city authorities and, at the turn of the 20th century, the United States has exceeded 20,000 miles of tram tracks. The low tram fares combined with the affordable cost of land located away from the city meant that people moved away from the city and developed settlements that became known as tram suburbs. These suburbs also attracted business people who opened grocery stores, shops and grocery stores along the tracks, usually at the intersections of tram tracks.
Advantages of the tram periphery
The suburbs of the tram have aroused considerable interest especially by middle-class workers due to many reasons. These suburbs had been properly planned with an emphasis on future expansion, and this was a breath of fresh air given that almost all the cities of the time had small or even future plans. Even the suburbs of the tram had a charm thanks to the simple, economical and efficient mode of transport provided by electric trams that made it possible and convenient for people to live away from the chaotic city center. The suburbs were also relatively smaller than other existing neighborhoods that led residents to have proper social interaction.
Examples of tram suburbs
Most of the large cities of North America housed many of these tram suburbs. Richmond, Virginia was the city with the first electric tram in the United States and had some of the oldest suburbs in the country that included Westover Hills, Highland Park, Ginter Park, Highlands Springs, Barton Heights and Woodland Heights. In Atlanta, the first suburb that stood along the tram tracks was Adair Park which was created in the 1890s and was inhabited exclusively by a white community only. Other Atlanta suburbs include Kirkwood, Virginia Highland and Inman Park. In Austin, the first tram suburb to be established in the city was Hyde Park, which dates back to 1891. In the American capital, Washington DC, tram tracks stimulated the growth of suburbs that included Uniontown, LeDroit Park, Brookland and Brightwood. In Canada, the tram suburbs were established in Toronto and Ottawa. The suburbs of Ottawa included the Glebe while the suburbs of Toronto included West Hill, North Toronto, Riverdale and Cliffside.
Decline of the suburbs
The use of trams reached its peak in 1923 when the number of commuters worldwide reached 15.7 billion. After 1923, the world saw the rise of the automobile with manufacturers like Henry Ford focusing on the mass production of economic units. The decline of the tram marked the decline in the growth of tram suburbs.