The very first form of public
transit in Erie began in 1867. This was a single omnibus line started by the owner of the
South Erie Turn House to connect his business to the center of town. This line between
Federal Hill (26th & Peach) and town was officially chartered by the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania for operation. This operation was short lived however as the Erie City
Passenger Railway Company (ECPR) started operations a little later in 1867 and quite
literally drove the omnibus company into the ground by 1868 with its faster and more
frequent service along the same route.
There were several changes in
ownership and the names of the trolley line in Erie between 1868 and 1924 when the Erie
Railway Company (ERC) came into existence after owner, the Buffalo & Erie Railway
Company (B&E) went into receivership. The B&E ran both the city rail as well as
interurban rail service to Erie. In 1924, the ERC was split out from the B&E. Although
still financial sound, the ERC could not afford to expand the existing city system so in
1925, a subsidiary named the Erie Coach Company (ECC) was formed to run less expensive bus
service as an alternative to expanding the streetcar network.
On December 7, 1925 the first
route for the ECC was started with 4 Yellow Coach type Z's. This line was the Liberty
Street feeder and started at Perry Square and followed West 4th Street to Liberty Street
and terminated at Melrose St.
A second line started in July
of 1926 and was seasonal in nature. This line went from Waldemeer Park to the end of
Peninsula Park Road. Service was provided with the purchase of 2 Yellow Coach type X
buses. Of note, this line is still in service to this day. An additional line was the
Cherry Street line which was started in 1927 with 2 additional Yellow Coach type X buses
purchased run the service.
By 1928, bus service in Erie
had become accepted and 3 more routes were applied for with 2 of them starting in 1928
along with the purchase of 9 more Yellow Coaches (7 type X a 2 type W). The third of the
applied for routes started in 1929 and was the first rail to bus conversion. This
conversion was the single track extension of the West 26th car line and the new bus route
served this section as a feeder to the remaining car line. One more conversion and one
feeder extension followed in 1930 and brought in 3 more Yellow Coach type W coaches.
The years 1931-1935 saw much
activity. 3 more conversions, 2 feeders absorbed into existing routes and one new route in
1933 along with the purchase of more Yellows. The original ECPR rail route was converted
in 1933 as well and saw the transfer of the outer end of the Cherry Street line to the new
Peach Street line.
The conversion of some of the
heavily traveled car routes started in 1934 with the West 8th Street line being the first
of these. The introduction of the first rear engine coaches for the ECC also occurred at
this time when 6 new Yellow Coach 711's were purchased. The next heavy haul route to be
converted was the 12th Street line, also in 1934, which was done with new Yellow Coach
Additional lines continued to
be converted between 1935 and 1939 when the last streetcar line was replaced. During these
years, more Yellows were purchased for conversions, expansions and replacements of older
equipment. ECC liked the Yellow Coach very much but did try Macks and Twins in 1936 due to
Yellow not making a rear engine 23 to 25 passenger model at the time.
The ERC officially went out
of business in 1939 after transferring its assets to the ECC. The ECC also went through a
change as it technically went out of business with the ERC but was immediately reformed as
a new company. The new ECC also had a new General Manager who made a somewhat noticeable
change to the equipment.
A.F. Tideswell, the new ECC
General Manager, decided to stop purchasing Yellow Coaches. As Yellow Coach made up the
majority of the fleet, this was a major change in direction. Only 7 more Yellow Coaches
(includes the later GM buses as well) were ever purchased by the ECC and those TG-2701's
arrived in 1940. The next buses to arrive at the ECC were 1941 & 1942 Twin Coach 30-GS
models and they were to start the replacement of the Yellow Coach 711's and 717's.
The bus replacement was put
on hold for a short time due to World War II however the ODT allocated the ECC some Ford
Transit coaches in 1944. White 788's were also allocated in 1944 but were not well liked
and returned to White in 1946. The ECC liked the Ford Transits enough to purchase
additional Fords in 1946 & 1947 and had the largest fleet of Ford Transits in
Pennsylvania with 88 of the boxy buses on the roster. Beaver Coach was the next bus looked
at by the ECC. They also liked these Pennsylvania made buses and ordered 50 of them
between 1947 and 1956.
The ECC routes remained
virtually unchanged between 1939 and 1949. The first new route under the new ECC was the
41st & Sassafras line which was started in 1950. In 1953 the next new service, as well
as the last new service, was instituted as an extension of the West 8th Street line out to
By 1951, ridership had
started to decline due to the increase in private automobile ownership. A 48% ridership
drop was observed between 1950's high of over 16 million riders to 8.5 million riders in
1954. By 1955, the investors in the ECC sold their interest in the company to Myron
Proser raised the fare from
15 cents to 20 cents in 1956 to help offset losses from decreased ridership. Although the
fare increase did increase revenues, it wasn't by much. The profits were invested in new
buses in 1957 which were 10 Blue Bird modified pusher school buses in a transit
configuration. 1960 saw the purchase of 10 additional pusher school buses in a transit
configuration but this time they were Oneida bodied Marmons. These 20 buses along with
ridership declines allowed the last of the Ford Transits to be retired.
The ECC continued to
experience ridership losses and route headways were changed and some routes combined or
eliminated and by 1965, a committee was formed to consider the option of a public takeover
of the system. This option was made viable due to the Urban Mass Transit Act of 1964 which
provided funding to publicly owned systems.
The Erie Metropolitan Transit
Authority (EMTA) was formed on September 20, 1966 and immediately applied for funding for
new buses and a new garage and maintenance facility as well as enter negotiations for the
purchase of the ECC. Prosner and EMTA could not come to terms of the value of the company
however EMTA rented the equipment and operated it. A settlement was reached at midnight of
October 31, 1967 and EMTA officially became owner of the system. EMTA's first new buses
arrived just two weeks later and were 50 1967 Flxible 111DD-D5's.
During the Proser years, the
ECC paint scheme was changed from gray and white with a red stripe to a dark green and
white with a orange stripe. Also all of the Beavers were renumbered from the 300 series to
100 series with no logical order to the renumbering. Ridership continued to decline on the
system, fares were increased twice, very little if any effort to promote the system and at
the end, the ECC was a shadow of its former self by the time EMTA took operations over.