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The El Paso Streetcar

In November 2018, a part of El Paso's past returned to the city's streets- the El Paso Streetcar.  Forty-four years after the last streetcar ran on city streets, the city inaugurated a new service.

El Paso's first streetcar system began as horse-drawn cars in 1881.  Twenty years later, the first electric streetcars began operation.  The electric cars were operated by the El Paso Electric Railway Company.  At its peak, the El Paso Streetcar system consisted of 64 miles of track running seventeen lines.

By the end of the Second World War, El Paso was down to a single line, the line that linked El Paso to Juarez, Mexico.  This line was the only local transit line to serve two different countries.  It was highly popular with tourists and residents of both cities.

Well into the early 1970s, the streetcar was a popular option for travel from Juarez to El Paso and vice versa.  Here passengers board in El Paso bound for Juarez.  (Public Domain)

The El Paso Streetcar service to Juarez ended in 1973.  That year, a strike supporting former Mexican toll collectors blocked cars from entering Mexico, ending service there.  A year later, all streetcar service in El Paso stopped.  Over the next thirty years, numerous studies and proposals - including a light rail line or a people mover - were made to restore service between El Paso and Juarez.  Over time, the studies found limiting operations to El Paso the most feasible.

Fast forward to 2014, when the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority received $97 million to restore streetcar service to El Paso.  

The current El Paso Streetcar Route

The current El Paso Streetcar system is a 4.8-mile figure-8 loop that services the University of Texas - El Paso, Downtown, Government complexes, the Arts District, and the area near the international bridges.  The fleet consists of six restored PCC (Presidents' Conference Committee) cars.  The restored cars are the same cars that ran along El Paso and Juarez streets from 1950 - 1974.  These cars first had been in operation in San Diego.  In 1950, El Paso purchased 20 PCC cars from the San Diego Electric Railway.  A year earlier, in 1949, San Diego had ended their streetcar network.  The cars were shipped from San Diego to El Paso and put into service.

Refurbished PCC Car #1511 has a perimeter seating arrangement.  This was a common feature on many of the Juarez-bound cars.

With the end of service in El Paso, nine PCCs moved into storage near El Paso International Airport.  Six of the nine were fully refurbished as part of the new streetcar line.  The cars were painted to match the livery of the 1950s.  Inside, the cars retain the look and feel of the classic PCCs but with modern amenities - air conditioning, wifi, wheelchair lifts, and bike racks.

Initially, the new service charged $1.50 per ride.  Currently, it is completely free to ride the El Paso Streetcar.  Typical service has four cars running at a time- so on average, you can expect a car to go by your stop every 15 minutes.

Beginning in September 2023, El Paso's streetcar system will operate seven days a week. Hours will be 7 am to 7 pm Monday-Thursday, 7 am to 11 pm Friday, Noon to 11 pm Saturday, and Noon to 6 pm Sunday.

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