This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Why the Trolley was never on Central Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona


When most people look at old photos of the trolleys, or Street Cars, of Phoenix, they imagine that they went up and down Central Avenue, but they didn't. And the reason for that is the same reason that wealthy neighborhoods fight against public transportation to this day.

Let's go back to Phoenix soon after the turn of the century. The wealthiest people were building their big mansions on North Central Avenue, from north of Van Buren all of the way up to the canal, which is just north of Northern Avenue. That's where the really respectable "Old Money" was in Phoenix, and the Central Corridor, as it's now called, between Bethany Home Road and Northern, is still a wealthy area, protected by money, lots of it.

If you're wealthy, back at the turn of century and now, you don't use public transportation. You don't stand on street corners waiting for a bus, or a trolley, you used private transportation. And as you go by in your carriage, or SUV, you probably don't even look at the people who are huddled in the rain, or the extreme heat, as you go by. And you hope that those people don't come anywhere near your neighborhood. Yes, this is snobbery.

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So the trolley couldn't bring these "undesirables" into wealthy neighborhoods. People in the wealthy neighborhoods didn't want to see groups of people standing around, waiting for public transportation. Wealthy people didn't want to see people walking through their neighborhoods. And of course public transportation brings young people, whose sense of humor can sometimes lead to vandalism, and property damage. Or at the very least, loitering.

So the trolley didn't go up Central, where the wealthy neighborhoods were, it skirted around it, like on 3rd Street (still a nice neighborhood, don't get me wrong, but not too snooty for public transportation!) and then it cut through the wealthy neighborhood at Orangewood on its way to Glendale.

Image at the top of this post: the trolley crossing Central Avenue at Orangewood in 1915. It never ran on Central, and the wealthy people probably weren't even happy that it even crossed it, briefly.