When it came to the traffic problem, the mayor of Asheville John H Cathey he did not mince words.
“I would be willing to let the Asheville Power and Lights Company run their automobiles through City Hall if it would stop the congestion in Pack Square,” he told Civitan Club members over lunch on November 7, 1923.
His words, published in the edition of November 8, 1923 The Asheville Citizenthey were echoed by others in the community for much of that year.
Eleven months earlier, in a January 6 editorial, the paper called for action to remedy the problem. “Moving cars often block the tracks, inevitably in most cases, and when stationary they block tram traffic by parking too close to the rails, without possible excuse.” The Asheville Citizen declared. “Many times a day, streetcar passengers are delayed as motorists and conductors get off to push parked engines from the right-of-way, and the streetcar schedule is immediately thrown into disarray.”
For April, urbanist john nolen submitted a proposal to the Board of City Commissioners to reroute the streetcar system. Among the recommendations made, Nolen suggested removing the current transfer system, which required all carts to be assembled at Pack Square at the same time. He also proposed that the streetcar line be removed from Patton Avenue and rerouted to College Street.
On July 13, 1923, The Asheville Citizen reported that the commissioners were finally beginning to consider the issue. The newspaper, however, seemed convinced that there was only one solution.
“[T]The only hope of relief seems to lie in a radical reorganization of the service that will mean abandoning the position as a common transfer point”, declares the editorial. “This does not mean that there would be no transfers there, but that all the cars would not meet there at fixed intervals. We must confess that we regret the approval of the old order, but the conditions seem to make it obsolete and require a new arrangement despite the difficulties to attend to it due to the lack of double track.
Less than two weeks later, the newspaper reported on rumors that a revised streetcar schedule was imminent. “[I]Word came out yesterday, from a source believed to be authoritative, that the bosses of the Asheville Power and Light Company are just as eager to ease the congestion in Pack Square as the city commissioners.
But no new schedule came.
Instead, on September 19, The Asheville Citizen reported that CS Walters, the recently appointed vice president and general manager of Asheville Power and Lights, presented the mayor with the costs associated with Nolen’s plan. The construction of a new line through College Street, as well as the introduction of new direct service to West Asheville, would cost about $200,000 (almost $3.5 million in today’s currency).
In the next day’s newspaper, The Asheville Citizen expressed strong support for the proposed plan, writing:
“The fact that the Power and Light Company believes that it can improve its transportation system to better serve the people of Asheville is demonstrated by its willingness to invest a considerable sum of money in a transportation business in which the Company is now engaged. losing money. The Company believes that Asheville cannot do without commuter rail service, despite the increasing number of automobiles and other motorized vehicles. The Company believes that if the service is reorganized to do away with current delays and the inconvenience of after-hours cars, the public will naturally give the trams greater patronage. Mr. Walters proposes a long-range plan for a more adequate service. He must receive the cooperation of the people to make his ambition come true.
However, subsequent coverage on the matter did not appear in print that year. Instead, on December 21, 1923, The Asheville Citizen informed readers that a new streetcar schedule was established to take effect on January 1, 1924, “to eliminate congestion in Pack Square[.]”
Beginning in 1924, the updated schedule appeared regularly in the newspaper’s daily publication. Opinions in this regard were less frequent.
But on March 26, 1924, the subject resurfaced:
“While congestion in Pack Square has been greatly eased with the trolley schedule opening on January 1, and general satisfaction has been expressed with the outcome, the need for new equipment is urgently felt by the local utility company, said Mr. Cathey, and since every city that has employed the one-man car system has found an improvement, Asheville plans to follow suit.”
Ultimately, the city would act. On January 13, 1925, The Asheville Citizen reported on the successful introduction of the new model:
“The one-man streetcars now in operation give the assurance of going all out for the convenience and speedy locomotion promised by Asheville Power and Light Company officials. Six of the new models are already in use and others will be placed on other lines, in accordance with the company’s current plans, and Asheville may well look forward to the day not too far off when it will be seven and a half years old. -Half-minute hours in all its lines of cars.”
The newspaper noted that the new models, constructed of steel, were also lighter than the old cars and evidently “fool-proof” in terms of operation.
“Its good lines and general appearance will do not a little to make the whole town more presentable to visitors and at the same time foster a sense of community of having the best foot forward,” the article states.
Editor’s Note: Spelling and punctuation quirks are preserved from the original documents.