Monday, June 2, 2008

Thomas Edison builds the first el

From Wired, today is 125th anniversary of the debut of Thomas Edison's elevated electric railway demonstration in Chicago. The project was financed with $2 million in private funds, through the newly-incorporated Electric Railway Company. It's enough to make you nostalgic for the days when the government wasn't so involved in transportation and regulating land use, and that it was actually possible for the market to come up with transportation solutions other than the privately-owned, publicly-supported automobiles of today.

It's important to remember, though, that while government regulations was minimal enough that private mass transit companies could exist, they were still hampered by Big Brother. For example, in Chicago, the early elevated train lines didn't go into the central business district because of NIMBY opposition:

Instead trains dropped passengers at stub terminals on the periphery due to a state law requiring approval by neighboring property owners for tracks built over public streets, something not easily obtained downtown.

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