The Ohio Museum of Transportation

Ohio's Transit History

The Community Traction Company


Toledo's Community Traction Company (CTC) began operations on February 1, 1921 after acquiring the operations of the Toledo Railway & Light Company (TR&L). This acquisitions' actual history began in 1914 with the City of Toledo and the TR&L in a court battle over a fare reduction. The TR&L operated on a day to day basis as it's franchise expired in 1914 and was not renewed due to the tensions of the 2 cent decrease in fares that the City demanded.

In 1919, a referendum was passed by the voters to find a new operator for the TR&L system. What followed the passing of the referendum was rather surprising. The owner of the TR&L pulled all streetcars out of town and across State lines into Michigan via an interurban line connection. As no franchise existed for the TR&L so no legal action could force service to resume, the City had little recourse but to approve a fare increase in 1920 to bring back the TR&L service until a new operator could be found.

During the time that the trolleys were absent from Toledo, a rather large jitney transport sprung up with over 1,500 jitneys running in the Toledo area. Even with the large number in service, public transportation in Toledo was extremely chaotic.

As is the case with most takeovers, a dispute arose over the value of the company. Henry L, Doherty, owner of the TR&L claimed the value to be $11 million while the City claimed it to be closer to $8 million. The dispute was settled for $8 million after the city threatened municipal ownership using eminent domain laws.

One of the first moves by the new CTC operation were the abandonments of 2 trolley lines in 1921 and one additional line in 1922. None of these were replaced by bus service but by the jitneys. City Council voted to regulate the jitney service to protect the CTC in July of 1921. This started to reduce the number of jitneys in service and then in January of 1922, all jitneys were banned from the Downtown area. This action reduced the number down to just under 80 running on 9 routes.

Around December of 1922, the CTC applied for and received approval to institute bus service on a portion of the Oak Street car line which was also approved for abandonment. This marked the first rail to bus conversion in the CTC system and commenced on April 2, 1923 with 4 new Garford coaches.

The first heavy haul bus route operated by the CTC was the Front Street line whose rail operations had to be abandoned in 1926 due to street reconstruction. In 1927, the Indiana line was converted to bus. Between the 2 lines, 30 new Mack and White buses had to be purchased to hold service.

By the mid 1920's, a proposal was submitted to takeover the 9 routes currently operated by jitneys. This proposal included some rail abandonments as well which would have bus substitutions. This plan was debated in City Council for several years until July 5, 1928 when approval was finally given to an exclusive franchise for the CTC. The CTC was given 30 days to negotiate the purchase of the the jitney operations and they reached agreement will all but 3 of the operators who refused to be bought out. These operators continued to operate until they were arrested and the buses confiscated.

Although the CTC received approximately 65 buses from the buyouts of the jitney operators, 69 new buses were ordered ahead of time and the majority of the jitney buses were sold or scrapped. As far as the routes acquired in the buyout, the Dorr-Palmwood line was immediately discontinued as it competed with existing service. The Ottawa line was restructured into a new route known as the Lincoln Avenue line. The Elm Street line was left intact. These three routes were the most important to the CTC of the 9 jitney lines. It is unclear if the remaining 6 lines were left intact at this time.

1928 also saw additional rail to bus substitutions and rail abandonments with the Point Place and Western Avenue lines replaced Bancroft Belt line abandoned as two other bus routes duplicated its service. Additional rail lines were abandoned with the Short Belt line going in 1931 and the Erie line in 1933.

Another acquisition occurred in June of 1930 as the CTC acquired the operation of the Maumee Valley Transportation Company (MVTC). The MVTC was not absorbed into the CTC but operated under it's own name as a subsidiary company. It provided service from Maumee to Perrysburg.

The trolley coach made its arrival to Toledo in 1935 when Mack convinced the CTC that trolley coaches were the best choice to replace the Dorr Avenue rail line which was scheduled for street reconstruction. Mack quickly constructed 7 CR model trolley coaches in December of 1934 and had 6 them on CTC's property in time for operation on January 31, 1935. The 7th one was sent to Portland for a short time as a demonstrator.

In addition to the start of trolley coach operations in 1936, the remaining Oak Street line (a portion of it was already abandoned in 1923 as the CTC's first rail to bus substitution) was converted to bus operation. 1937 saw the South and the Broadway lines converted to bus and the City decide that the remaining rail lines be converted as soon as possible.

The Broadway line was then converted from bus to trolley coach operations on October 27, 1938. The Starr Avenue and the East Broadway line was converted to bus operations in 1939 which left 4 rail lines in the city. Only one more rail line was converted to bus, the LaGrange line, before conversions were halted due to World War II.

Between 1945 and 1948, 171 new buses were purchased to complete the conversion of the remaining rail lines as well as replace older equipment. The Nebraska line was converted in 1947 and the Cherry Street line was converted in 1948. The final line to be replaced was the Long Belt line on December 21, 1949. The trolley coaches were removed from service on May 28, 1952 ending the electric era in Toledo.

Between 1952 and 1954, service remained about the same except for a steady decline in ridership which was happening at most systems due to the popularity of the automobile and the start of urban sprawl. In 1954, 4 separate fare increases took place, night service was eliminated and a 10 day walkout occurred which made 1954 not a very good year for the CTC. The CTC also made the first offer to sell off it's operation to the City. The City formed a committee to study the proposal and a price was negotiated but the proposal never made it to the voters.

Even with the troubles of 1954 and the offering of the system to the City, the CTC acquired the Holland-Sylvania Lines (HSL) in January of 1957. The HSL, like the MVTC, was kept under it's own name and operated as a subsidiary. Additional offers to the City were made to assume service during this time but the City wasn't interested as the CTC still had time left on it's current franchise.

The next year of note is 1969 when the MVTC and HSL were fully absorbed into the CTC. A new route structure was also implemented using the HSL route numbering system as the basis for the entire CTC system. Although the system wide numbering system was implemented, it only showed on schedules. The livery of the buses was also changed from traction orange to red at this time.

Ridership as well as the fleet size continued to dwindle. The bus fleet dropped approximately 50 coaches every 10 years between 1950 and 1970 while the ridership dropped from 40 million in 1950 to 10 million in 1970. By 1970, off-peak service was virtually unused. The CTC made yet another offer to the City for them to take over the service at this time. It wasn't until the CTC told the city that it would not reapply for a it's soon to expire franchise and would refuse to run service after the franchise expired that anything was done.

A regional transit authority was formed to take over the CTC operations. Voter approval of a property tax increase referendum to fund the system was passed on January 19, 1971 and the new agency, the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) assumed operations on June 1, 1971 after paying $1,940,000 for the CTC's property.

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This page updated on August 13, 2004