The DTA's mission is to provide a public transit service that is safe, convenient, efficient and affordable.
Celebrating 125 years of Public Transportation
History of Public Transportation in the Twin Ports
Building the Track - It all began when the Duluth Street Railway
was incorporated on October 25, 1881. The following month the Minnesota State Legislature
granted the company a fifty year charter on the condition that one mile of track
be operating within one year. Construction of a rail line on Superior Street between
8th Avenue West and 3rd Avenue East started in 1882 and was completed in 1883.
First Mule-Drawn Rail Car Goes into Service - On July 6, 1883,
many of Duluth's 6,000 residents lined up along Superior Street to watch a mule
drawn car on rails inaugurate the area's first public transit system. The car set
a brisk pace as it rolled from Third Avenue East to Eighth Avenue West a distance
of eleven blocks. The original line was extended during the late 1880's. By the
end of the decade, the company was operating fifteen horse-cars and 178 mules on
about 4.5 miles of track.
First Electric Streetcar - In 1890, donkeys and old gray mares
were replaced by the first electric streetcar; and in the following two years all
of the rail lines were electrified. Financial difficulties forced the company into
receivership for a short time during August, 1891. Between 1891 and 1897, the system
expanded and additional lines were built. The Electric Railway System grew rapidly
to almost 30 miles of line and track.
Incline Railway Built - In 1891, the Highland Improvement Company
built the Incline Railway. The 1/2 mile long Incline ran up 7th Avenue West, rising
to over 500 feet above Lake Superior. Huge cars big enough to carry horse &
wagon teams were attached by cables to a power house at the top of the hill.
Beacon Hill Pavilion / Incline - In 1893, the Beacon Hill Pavilion
was built at the top of the Incline. It was the stage for concerts and picnics.
As many as 5,000 people at a time would attend events at the park-like area. The
Beacon Hill Pavilion burnt to the ground on May 28, 1901. Although the Incline Railway
was repaired within six months, the Pavilion was never rebuilt. The Incline was
rebuilt using smaller cars. The cost of electrification and expansion, plus the
effects of the Depression of 1893, caused the company to default on the interest
payments of its first and second mortgage bonds and to enter into receivership in
Superior Public Transit - In 1884, Douglas County Street Railway
Company was incorporated and authorized it to construct and operate a street railway
in Superior, Wisconsin. By 1890, the company owned four horse-cars and eight horses.
Electrification of the system was accomplished in 1890. The Superior Rapid Transit
Company acquired the rights and properties of the Douglas County Street Railway
Company in August, 1892. Additional track was constructed during 1892 and 1893,
financed by mortgage bonds that were issued in 1894. However, the company defaulted
on the interest payments and was placed in receivership in January, 1896.
Duluth-Superior Bridge Company - In 1887, the streetcar bridge
between Duluth and Superior was completed and in 1900, the Duluth Street Railway
Company leased for streetcar service between Duluth and Superior.
Duluth and Superior Transit Operations Consolidated - By 1900,
the population of Duluth had increased to 52,000 people and Superior's residents
numbered around 31,000. At this time, the Duluth Street Railway Company and the
Superior Traction Company were consolidated and reorganized following the 1898 receivership.
The total system now operated on 74 miles of streetcar track throughout the Twin
Ports. The fare was a nickel and it looked as though public transit was here to
stay. By 1920, the transit system served area residents with over 100 miles of streetcar
Highest Transit Ridership in Twin Ports - Transit ridership in
Duluth and Superior totaled 45,259,127 in 1919.
First Gasoline-powered bus - The first gasoline powered bus appeared
on Duluth streets in 1924.
First Electric Trolley - The first electric trolley bus was put
into service in 1931.
Duluth-Superior Transit Emerges - In September, 1933, all of the
properties of the Duluth Street Railway Company were transferred to the Duluth-
Superior Transit Company, which was incorporated in January, 1933. The transit system's
mixed fleet in 1933 consisted of 110 streetcars, two electric trolley busses and
nine gasoline-powered buses.
Buses Replace Streetcars - During the 1930's, all of the streetcars
in the system were replaced by buses. Streetcars stopped operating in Superior,
Wisconsin in 1935.
Streetcar / Incline Service Discontinued - The last rail line in
Duluth was abandoned and the Incline Railway dismantled in 1939.
Propane Buses - Propane buses were introduced in 1951, and discontinued,
along with electric trolley buses in 1957.
First Diesel Buses - The first modern diesel buses were put into
service on October 24, 1957.
DTA is Legislatively Created - - An act of the Minnesota State
Legislature created the Duluth Transit Authority (DTA) in 1969. The Authority's
first Citizen's Board was formed in February 1970 and one of the Board's first acts
was to enter into an agreement with a new company, ATE Management and Services,
Inc., for the operation and management of the DTA. All personnel at the former Duluth
Superior Street Railway company became employees of a local operating subsidiary,
ATE Management of Duluth, Inc. The original ATE company was acquired by Ryder Systems,
Inc. in 1996, and in 2001 this company was acquired by First Transit, Inc.
New DTA Operations Center - The old "Bus Barn" at 27 A.W. and Superior
Street was replaced in 1981, when construction of the Earl Buck Operations Center
was completed on Michigan Street between 24 A.W. and 26 A.W. The Operations Center
now houses all maintenance, operations and administrative functions of the DTA.
Port Town Trolleys - New rubber-tired trolleys were put into service
in 1984 and operate as a downtown connector during summer months.
Hybrid Buses - The DTA purchased two Hybrid Electric buses in 2007
that operate on a blend of diesel and electric propulsion.
DTA Today - Today, the Duluth Transit Authority is one of the most
technologically sophisticated transit systems in the country. The DTA, which provides
service in Duluth, Proctor and Superior, Wisconsin, maintains a modern fleet of
transit buses, including Hybrid electric buses. In addition to regular route
services, the DTA operates curb-to-curb STRIDE (Special Transit Ride) services for
disabled riders and the Port Town Trolley seasonal circulator service for summer