When I first set out on this digitization project, I wanted to record the means of conveyance of each line. I found this to be impossible however because the network was simply too dynamic and too complicated with all these different companies operating. Oftentimes one street would have multiple companies operating multiple tracks, each with a different propulsion mechanism. I had assumed that the network was operated by one company and grew in an orderly fashion over the streetcar’s whole history. How wrong I was!
The recession in 1893 largely brought a halt to street railway expansion, and ushered in an era of consolidation. Companies merged, and redundant lines were taken out of service. By the new century the Denver Tramway Company emerged with a monopoly on streetcar service operation in Denver. Expansion picked up again in the early 20th century, but at a much slower pace. By this time automobiles had become affordable to a large swath of the population and the Tramway became aware of the threat it posed.
In 1915 they commissioned an interesting survey of the mode share of people traveling in and out of the central business district. 51% rode streetcars, 38% walked, 13% drove automobiles, 6% rode bicycles, 1% drove motorcycles, and 1% used horses. They also found that compared to 1914, streetcar patronage had dropped by 9% and driving had doubled. However in subsequent years the raw numbers of streetcar patronage again increased.
It was around 1917 that the streetcar system reached its peak in terms of coverage (below) with the construction of a line to Barnum. After this was a long decline, with many lines being taken out, and the last new segment being built in 1923. Looking at ridership itself, it peaked in 1910, with 87,819,000 passengers. At the time, 3,000 automobiles were present in the city. By 1928, the number of private automobiles had increased to 78,000 and streetcar ridership declined by 59%.