Remember when buses looked something like this? My first memory of riding a city bus in Youngstown was when I was staying with grandparents on the South Side and my grandmother took me downtown shopping. Later on, in my sophomore year in high school I started working at McKelvey’s. They were open late on Mondays and Thursdays and so I caught a bus on Mahoning Avenue near my house to go to work. Fares then may have been only a quarter, but I was only making $1.25 an hour back then. It was only about a ten minute bus ride to cover the two miles between home and work. My father also worked at McKelvey’s and would give me a ride home at night (we were a one car family–I didn’t own a car until after college which actually saved a lot of money).
Mostly I remembered that the buses seemed old, with lots of rattles, and at that time of day weren’t very full. I don’t remember any “regulars” nor much about the bus drivers. My wife had a different story. She took the bus to college and back home and there were a number of regular passengers and they all seemed to get to know each other. Maybe the people riding the bus from the South Side were friendlier!
After college, we both moved out of town and got married. The bus system, now called the Western Reserve Transit Authority (which still operates under that name), was the main form of transportation for my mother-in-law who did not drive. Trips to the grocery store and downtown were adventures, and we were grateful for bus drivers who looked out for her and helped her as she got older.
Mass transit has a long history in Youngstown according to this blog post from the Mahoning Valley Historical Society. In 1875, the Youngstown Street Railroad Company provided horse-drawn service from the Brier Hill area to downtown. Eventually horses were replaced with cars powered by overhead electric wires. Eventually the Youngstown Park and Falls Street Railway connected downtown to the Lanterman Falls area giving birth to Terminal (later Idora) Park.
Beginning in the 1920’s, streetcars gave way to buses and the Youngstown Municipal Railway Company became the Youngstown Transit Company. As automobiles became more popular and the freeways were built ridership dropped the bus system turned operations over to the Mahoning Valley Regional Mass Transit Authority, which in 1971 became the Western Reserve Transit Authority.
I’m glad there has continued to be bus service in the Mahoning Valley. For cash-strapped college students and the elderly who either did not like to drive or could not, as well as others for whom a car was a burdensome expense, the bus, though not always as convenient, provided a way to get around when it was too far to walk. And for those who regularly commuted, it could be a social occasion as well.
Did you ever ride the buses in Youngstown? What were your memories of taking the bus?