Pittsburgh Motor Coach Company
and the Steel City's Trackless Trolley
On January 31, 1925, the Pittsburgh Railways Company, best known for providing streetcar service throughout the Steel City from 1902 through 1964, added buses to its fleet of vehicles by purchasing the Pittsburgh Auto Transit Company. Renamed the Pittsburgh Motor Coach Company, a subsidiary of Pittsburgh Railways, the transit firm began with six established routes.
Additional Pittsburgh Motor Coach Company routes were created as supplements to existing Pittsburgh Railways trolley lines. These routes were considered "deluxe" service and cost a premium twenty-five cent fare. The original routes all served the East End. In 1927, the first non-easterly route was implemented in the South Hills, running to Mount Lebanon.
The Pittsburgh Motor Coach Company continued to expand its deluxe route bus system until 1937, when legislation by the Pittsburgh City Council cut fares to fifteen cents. As a result, PMCC retired the deluxe buses in favor of less expensive standard transit buses. Existing deluxe routes were redesignated as "through routes", with a nickel higher fare than the trolleys.
In 1951, during a restructuring of the parent corporation (The Philadelphia Company), the Pittsburgh Motor Coach Company was renamed the Motor Coach Division of Pittsburgh Railways. It remained that way until taken over by the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) in 1964.
The Pittsburgh Motor Coach Company, or the Motor Coach Division of Pittsburgh Railways, was but one of several independent carriers offering bus service throughout the Pittsburgh region.
In the South Hills area, the Brentwood Motor Coach Company offered service in areas removed from the main trolley lines, including sections of the Brookline neighborhood. Most of these transit companies were also acquired by the Port Authority in the early sixties.
Pittsburgh's Trackless Trolley
In 1936, when Pittsburgh Railways was busy introducing the sleek, modern PCC streetcars to the city, the Pittsburgh Motor Coach Company was experimenting with trolley-coaches. It was part of a three part company transit initiative for the city of Pittsburgh that included trolleys, trolley-coaches and standard buses.
The trackless, electrified trolley bus drew power from overhead wires the same as a traditional traction car but the vehicles were distinctly different. The obvious change was that the vehicle rode on four rubber tires and had the ability to move laterally fifteen feet on either side of the overhead power lines.
To promote the trackless trolley in downtown Pittsburgh, a demonstration loop was put up around the Gulf Building. Afterwards, a twin trolley-coach was put in service in September of 1936.
This demonstration project lasted two weeks, failing eventually in large part due to the public's fascination with the new PCC streetcars (on rails). The belgian block streets around the city also proved a rather rough ride for trolley-coach passengers. This Steel City initiative was perhaps the shortest lived trolley-coach operation in the country, lasting only a few weeks.
Despite failing in the Pittsburgh market, the Trolley Bus has had a long and successful history in major cities around the globe, including Rome, Athens, Geneva and St. Petersburg. Here in the United States, the system operates in cities like Seattle, San Francisco and Dayton.
More Photos of Pittsburgh's Trackless Trolley - 1936
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