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Street traffic on Market Street in downtown Philadelphia, PA, 1897.
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Horse-drawn wagons and carriages, an electric trolley car, and pedestrians congest a cobblestone Philadelphia street.

Credit: Courtesy of the National Archives

Traffic congestion downtown limited the speed of electric streetcars in urban centers. The speed and affordability of electric streetcar systems, however, enabled Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and other industrial metropolises to triple their size. They also helped bring about the reshaping of the social geography of American cities, giving rising to residential "street car suburbs" on the periphery of cities.

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