By Dr. Miguel Juarez

Before El Paso’s highways were built, public transportation was vital to the neighborhoods along Alameda in El Paso, Texas. The Interurban Streetcar to Ysleta was a method of transportation for the middle class and for citizens who did not have automobiles and who could afford the fare. When it was built in 1913, the Interurban ran east from downtown El Paso along Alameda Street, which later became part of the Bankhead Freeway or Highway 80.

Railroads were linked to El Paso through the emerging transportation technology of the period, first the mule car and later the electric streetcar via the Interurban to Ysleta. The arrival of El Paso’s railroads fueled the development of commuter railways.

In his book Streetcars at the Pass, Vol. 1, the late historian Ronald E. Dawson shows mule cars connected areas of El Paso County in the 1880s and 1890s. He explores not only the development of public transportation but also the creation of suburbs emanating from downtown El Paso. He writes, “historians and writers, in the past, have found it too easy to credit the automobile with the fluidity and mobility of early twentieth century society, but a significant amount of credit for the growth of the suburbs and neighborhoods of El Paso should go to the development of the streetcar routes from 1902 to 1925.”[1]

They were replaced by bus routes in the 1930s and 1940s. Edward Weiner writes that “electric rail systems were the backbone of urban mass transportation by World War I with over 1,000 railway companies carrying some 11 billion passengers by 1917.”[2] According to Dawson, the proposed route of the Interurban Street Car to Ysleta reached Concepcion Street via Alameda, which was two blocks south of present-day Lincoln Park.[3]

Dawson describes the Interurban to Ysleta route took: “There were eight platforms and shelters built for stops…the regular stops were Val Verde, Bosque, Awbrey, Franklin, Porcher, Cadwallader, Cinecue Park, Valdespino, West Ysleta and Ysleta.”[4] He states that “fares ranged from 10 cents to Val Verde for 30 cents for the ride all the way to Ysleta.”[5]  He said residents along the path appreciated the service so much “that mothers would often flag down a passing car to hand the trainman pieces of cake or pie.”[6]

Do you remember any stories about the Interurban to Ysleta?

[1] Ronald E. Dawson, Streetcars at the Pass, Vol. 1, “The Story of the Mule Cars of El Paso, The Suburban Railway to Tobin Place, and the Interurban to Ysleta,” Journal of the Railroad & Transportation Museum of El Paso, No. 1. (New York: iUniverse Inc., 2003), 1.

[2] Edward Weiner, “Urban Transportation Planning in the US, a Historical Overview,” Office of Economics, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, Office of the Secretary of Transportation, Technology Sharing Program, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C., OT-T-93-02 (November 1992): 12, from David R. Miller, ed., Urban Transportation Policy: New Perspectives (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1972).

[3] Ibid., 65.

[4] Ibid., 72.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Miguel Juarez

Miguel Juárez was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. He is a multi-disciplinary scholar, artist and Paseño (El Pasoan) and the Editor at El Paso News. He has an Master of Art degree in Library Science...