A pair of streetcars pass each other in Munich, Germany. Electric streetcars provide urban public transportation for many residents of large cities. Although streetcar use in the United States declined dramatically in the 1930s and 1940s in favor of buses, streetcars remain popular in many European cities.
One of the cultural symbols of Melbourne, Australia, a green and yellow tram glides along on rails in the city. The city’s extensive network of tramways has expanded to include commuter lines to the suburbs. In a preservation act that attests to the importance of the trams in Melbourne’s cultural life, the National Trust classified some older trams as having historical significance.
Streetcars, also known as tramways or trolleys, are electrically powered vehicles that run on steel tracks embedded within city streets. Power for these electric vehicles is received from overhead wires, as in the case of trolley buses. Streetcars can operate as single units or in short trains of two or three cars. Streetcars often have to contend with traffic, usually resulting in slow service. A cable car is a type of streetcar that is pulled along by a cable running under the street. The only remaining cable car system in operation in the United States is in San Francisco, California.