Trolley Forward: Promoting Colorado's Streetcar History Using GIS StoryMaps

A session by Ethan Raath, Nate Rogers, Barbara Stocklin-Steely and Jennifer Wahlers
Mead & Hunt, Colorado Department of Transportation and ARCH Professionals, Inc.

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About this session

Streetcars, or trolleys, were once the principal mode of public transport in hundreds of North American cities and towns, including 14 communities in Colorado. During the late-19th and early-20th centuries, trolley systems operated in Aspen, Boulder, Colorado Springs/Manitou Springs, Cripple Creek/Victor, Denver, Durango, Englewood, Ft. Collins, Grand Junction/Fruita, Greeley, Leadville, Littleton, Pueblo and Trinidad. Learn how a recently completed statewide initiative to document and map all 14 of these historic streetcar systems was initiated and how technology is being used to bring this information to the public. Explore an interactive ArcGIS StoryMap and learn how this technology can be used to promote local history and historic preservation efforts in your community.

The recently completed "Historic Streetcar Systems of Colorado" historic context study was completed in 2020 by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) along with its partners Mead & Hunt, AECOM and ARCH Professionals. This 1-1/2 yearlong study did a deep dive into the history of trolley systems in Colorado, including the technology used, and factors unique to Colorado, such as extreme climate, streetcar lines providing transport for agricultural and mining workers, and minority-owned streetcar systems.

Attendees will gain a basic understanding of the unique role streetcars played in Colorado’s history, but more importantly through this case study, attendees will learn how new technologies can be used to further local history awareness and build public support for historic preservation efforts in their own communities. This session will provide ideas on how the streetcar study and ArcGIS Story Map could become a basis for local history and heritage tourism initiatives. Users can access the ArcGIS StoryMap tool to retrace the steps of streetcar lines in their own communities, and look for physical evidence of streetcar systems such as embedded tracks in the street, electric streetcar poles, waiting stations, etc.

The web-based ArcGIS StoryMap is a valuable online research tool in the time of COVID-19, and a model of how historical studies and reports can remain current during social distancing times.