Public transportation had rapid evolution in Columbus

Unlike large cities with densely populated downtowns, Columbus does not have large numbers of taxis waiting in lines outside the large buildings in the central city.  

Nevertheless, today it is not that difficult to get a chauffeured vehicle. With services like Uber and Lyft, we have all sorts of services competing with the established taxi lines.  

Ed Lentz

In earlier days when Columbus was a smaller place, one might have thought public transportation would have been less complicated and less competitive. 

Of course, that was not the case. 

An early history of Columbus observed that public transportation had a slow start before a rapid evolution.  

“Before the construction of railways, there was little demand in Columbus for anything in the way of an omnibus or hack. Stagecoaches called at the door to take up or discharge passengers. Upon the opening of the Columbus and Xenia Railway (in 1851), the omnibus made its first appearance but only to carry passengers and baggage to and from the station. In 1853, a triweekly omnibus line between Columbus and Canal Winchester was started; there was also a line to Worthington which was reported to be ‘doing an excellent business.’” 

More:As It Were: Early streets in Columbus didn’t provide smooth passage

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With the success of these initial lines, it did not take long for a bit of competition to develop.  

This 1885 photo looking east on Broad Street shows a variety of vehicles.

“In March 1855, Thomas Brockway introduced what was known as a ‘pygmy omnibus,’ a diminutive vehicle which carried four persons besides the driver. The newspapers said of these carriages: ‘The ladies find them convenient for shopping and the beaux will not use anything else for evening parties.’ But their popularity was short-lived. They were speedily and entirely superseded by the more stylish ‘hack.’” 

“The ‘hack’ was introduced by W.B. Hawkes & Co., and during (the Civil War from 1861 to 1865) this species of vehicle did a thriving business. Money was plenty, officers and soldiers were prodigal with their funds and the hackmen got the benefit. A city ordinance fixed their compensation at 25 cents per passenger, or $1 per hour. … Since the close of the war the patronage of hacks has greatly diminished.”  

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