By Ronald E. Brummett (revised August 2001)

Transportation History (Before 1900)

Eric the Red sails to North America and established a community.

The Archbishop of Milan first mentions a vehicle called a "carroccio," a platform with four wheels that is used to carry flags.

Leif Ericson sails to North America to setup an outpost.

Henry I of England orders all highways to be made broad enough for two wagons to pass, or 16 soldiers to march abreast.

The practice of paying tolls begins and it is seen as a charitable duty to pay for road and bridge upkeep.

Roger Bacon predicts the coming of horseless carriages, saying that "cars can be made so that without animals they will move with unbelievable rapidity."

England passes its first road act which dictates that when roads become rutted, another shall be laid out alongside.

Eyeglasses Invented.

Small handguns first appear and influence road travel. Standard practice is to carry a gun under the left arm, since most people are right handed, road travelers stay to the right in order to keep approaching strangers on their left side.

Columbus sailed to the new world.

Citizens are expected to pitch in to repair roads. Queen Elizabeth increases the annual number of days people must work on the roads from four to six.

Sir Walter Raleigh founded a colony on the Roanoke island in what became Virginia.

England established its first permanent settlement in North America at Jamestown, Virginia, under John Smith.

Puritans landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.

Local governments in New England set taxes to pay for repair and construction of highways.

The first bus begins operations in France. The scheduled service operates horse-drawn vehicles that seat eight. It always leaves on time whether full or empty.

Colonial postal officials employed native American couriers to carry mail between New York and Albany because winter is too severe for white couriers.

The first internal combustion engine is designed by a Dutch physicist. It uses gun-powder for fuel.

Military engineers build the first self-propelled road vehicle.

Gasper de Portola claimed California for Spain and established the mission system under Junipero Serra. The missions were connected by the El Camino Real, the first road north/south road in California.

A steam powered vehicle crashes into a stone wall making it the first motor vehicle accident.

First Hot Air Balloon.

William Murdock built the first motorcycle, a steam tricycle.

Alexander MacKenzie of Canada, crosses continent by land.

Lancaster Pike between Philadelphia and Lancaster established. First turnpike in the United States.

Louisiana Purchase extends U. S. territorial control west of the Mississippi River.

Lewis and Clark Expedition use rivers and overland travel to explore the northwest.

New Jersey farmers build the first locomotive to run on rails.

First modern railway line, the Liverpool & Manchester Railway opens for business.

Omnibus - a horse drawn coach carrying 10 to 12 people were first used.

First electric motor is invented.

First horse-drawn street car in New York City.

Boston introduced steam railroad lines.

Gold Discovered in California.

Gordon's Ferry began operation on the Kern River near Bakersfield.

Gadsden Purchase transfers Mexican lands in New Mexico, Arizona and California to U. S. ownership.

Butterfield Overland Stage Line began operation in the San Joaquin Valley using celerity wagons. They used Gordon's Ferry to cross Kern River. (October).

Civil War.

First subway opens in London.

Kern County created, Havilah named county seat.

Havilah Weekly Courier published first issue.

U. S. Congress appropriates Indian lands as right-of-way for construction of transcontinental railroad.

Troll road constructed by Colonel Baker in Caliente wash area to the Los Angeles-Havilah Road in the Walker Basin.

U. S. purchase of Alaska from Russia.

The Austin velocipede was a two-wheeled steam powered motorcycle.

First transcontinental railroad completed. Union Pacific and Central Pacific join up at Promontory Point, Utah.

Havilah Weekly Courier newspaper moves to Bakersfield, renamed the Kern County Weekly Courier

Community of Delano established at Southern Pacific railhead.

Telegraph Stage Company served Bakersfield on its trip from Los Angeles to Fresno.

San Francisco cable cars begin service.

Southern Pacific Railroad opened a terminal at Sumner, in the community of Kern east of Bakersfield. (October)

Community of Tehachapi established.

New York City introduced steam powered elevated trains.

Kern County Weekly Courier consolidates with Southern Californian, becoming the Kern County Courier-Californian

Kern County population was 5,601 people.

Brooklyn Bridge opened in New York City

Karl Benz builds the first true automobile, a two-seater tricycle powered by a four-cycle gas engine and the first in which the engine and chassis form a single unit.

Gottieb Daimler in Germany developed a gasoline powered motorcycle.

First citywide electric trolley system in Montgomery, Alabama.

First cable car service, the Red Car begins operations in Los Angeles.

Richmond, Virginia introduced electric street cars.

Community of Shafter established.

Automobiles commercially available.

Kern County population was 9,808 people.

Horse drawn street car line connected Kern and Bakersfield along 19th Street.

Community of Wasco established.

New York City replaced steam powered trains with electric trains and subways.

Kern County Courier-Californian newspaper becomes The Daily Californian

Santa Fe Railroad opened a terminal at F and 14th Streets in Bakersfield.

City of Bakersfield incorporated.

San Joaquin Valley Railroad began service in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

In Los Angeles, 72 miles of streetcar lines are consolidated under the LA Railway Corp.

The automobile first goes one mile per minute.

Transportation History (1900 to 1950)

Ninety-five percent of people travel by train. Ninety percent of freight was shipped by train.

A vote to approve $100,000 in bonds for the Bakersfield and Kern Electric Railway was approved.

Kern County population was 16,480 people.

December 13, the Automobile Club is founded by 10 car enthusiasts in Los Angeles.

The Bakersfield and Kern Electric Railway was formed to replace the horse drawn street cars. The corporation was launched by H. A. Blodget, C. N. Beal, F. T. Whorf, C. R. Eager and S. B. Cushing.

In Bakersfield, the first electric car line ran along 19th Street between Kern and Bakersfield. The railway was owned by Power Transit and Light Company which was owned by the Kern land Company.

U. S. Government offers first oil and gas leases on Indian lands in Oklahoma.

Wright brothers fly.

Ford Motor Company is founded in Detroit.

Harley-Davidson Motor Company begins producing motorcycles.

New York subway opens.

Vacuum electron tube for radio telephone invented in England.

Gyrocompass invented by Elmer Sperry

The Auto Club begins sign posting roads. Within seven years, more than 4000 directional signs are posted on 3500 miles of roads.

Ford's Model T is first mass-market car.

The Daily Californian changes names to The Bakersfield Californian.

The Bakersfield and Kern Railway was sold to San Joaquin Light and Power Company. Major Improvements were made to the system.

Community of Arvin established.

City of Taft incorporated.

Kern County population was 37,715 people.

Panama Canal opens.

City of Maricopa incorporated.

First transcontinental airplane flight takes 82 hours, 4 minutes - plus stops.

Titanic sinks.

Bakersfield to San Jose Road Race wan by Harley Davidson new V-twin modal.

Jitneys begin operating in some cities.

The first Auto Club branch offices opens in San Diego. Within the year, offices open in Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Barbara and Bakersfield.

U. S. Postal Service uses Harley Davidson motorcycles for rural deliveries.

Door to door jitney service began in Bakersfield. An election was held to choose between the railway and jitneys. The railway was chosen and jitneys were banned. Bakersfield was the first community in California to ban jitneys as a public nuisance. The railway company began transporting passengers in small buses.

The "Ridge Route" opened between Bakersfield and Los Angeles. It took most of a day to make the trip.

City of Delano incorporated.

Alexander Graham Bell makes first transcontinental telephone call - New York to San Francisco.

First Federal Aid Road Act passed. Created the Bureau of Public Roads.

In Bakersfield, three 12 passengers buses were purchase and placed into service.

World War I.

First regular Air Mail service begins.

First transatlantic non-stop flight by U. S. Navy seaplanes.

The Ridge Route (now Interstate 5) was fully paved between Bakersfield and Los Angeles.

Kern County population was 54,845 people.

Federal Aid Highway Act passed. Created the Federal Aid Highway System.

The Auto Club drafts the proposed California Vehicle Act, which establishes a uniform speed limit and other rules of the road.

Federal Aid Highway Act passed. First recognized the need for a continuous national highway system. Created the highway numbering system.

Dr. Robert Goddard demonstrates potential of rockets using liquid fuel.

Lindbergh flies the Atlantic.

First modern city bus is manufactured by two brothers in California. It looks almost identical at the front and back, seats 43, features driver-controlled doors.

The American Association of State Highway Officials published the Manual and Specification for the Manufacture, Display and Erection of U.S. Standard Road Markers and Signs.

The National Conference of Streets and Highways published a manual for use on Urban Streets.

Total registered vehicles in California reaches 2 million.

Kern County population was 82,570 people.

Financial setbacks forced the San Joaquin Light and Power Company to cease operations in Bakersfield. The equipment was sold to V. N. Mickelberry, a long-time employee. The Bakersfield Transit Company system was operated on a smaller scale.

Federal Aid Highway Act passed. Required that 1.5 percent of funding apportioned to states annually could be used for surveys, plans, engineering and economic analysis for future highways.

First commercial application of modern street cars.

The American Association of State Highway Officials published the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (Updates 1942, 1948, 1961, 1971, 1978 and 1988).

The Auto Club proposes a system of freeways to reduce traffic congestion in Los Angeles.

California's population reaches 7 million people.

Number of registered vehicles in California approaches 2.8 million and total vehicle miles traveled is 24 billion.

Arroyo Seco parkway opens between Pasadena and Los Angeles. Later named the Pasadena Freeway, it's the first link in the regions freeway system.

Kern County population was 135,120 people.

World War II.

Last street car operated in Bakersfield.

First recognized episode of smog occurs in Los Angeles during the summer. The phenomenon is termed "gas attack" and blamed on a nearby butadiene plant. The situation does not improve after plant is closed.

China Lake Naval Ordinance Test Station established.

Community of Ridgecrest established.

Federal Aid Highway Act passed. Federal Aid Primary and Secondary systems established. A National System of Interstate Highways of 40,000 miles was authorized.

The city of Los Angeles begins its air pollution control program, establishing the Bureau of Smoke Control in its health department

California Governor Earl Warren signs into law the Air Pollution Control Act. Authorizing the creation of an Air Pollution Control District in every county in the state.

Captain Chuck Yeager pilots first aircraft flying faster than the speed of sound at Edwards Air Force Base in Kern County.

Transportation History (1950 to 1975)

Total registered vehicles in California exceeds 4.5 million and vehicle miles traveled is 44.5 billion.

More than 100 electric transit systems are replaced with buses in 45 U.S. cities including Los Angeles.

Kern County population was 228,309 people.

Dr. Haagen-Smit discovers the nature and cause of photochemical smog. He determines that nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons in the presence of ultraviolet radiation from the sun forms smog.

Los Angeles County starts "Smoke School Program" for black smoke, beginning the standardization of "Visible Emission Program " nationwide.

The American Association of State Highway Officials published "A Policy on Geometric Design of Rural Highways.

Fifty-four percent of freight shipped by train in the United States

Port Authority of New York published heliport location and design standards.

Air Quality Control Act passed. Required Surgeon General to conduct research to abate air pollution.

The Bay Area APCD is established.

Los Angeles County Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Laboratory begins within the Los Angeles APCD.

Bureau of Air Sanitation is formed within the state Department of Public Health.

Federal Aid Highway Act passed. Created the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

First analytical technique for travel forecasting published, "A General Theory of Traffic Movement," by Alan M. Voorhees.

The city of Bakersfield assumed temporary operation and maintenance of the bus system with an option to purchase.

Bakersfield residents approved a charter amendment creating the Bakersfield Transit Authority and authorized the sale of bond in the amount of $395,000 to purchase the Bakersfield Transit Company.

City of McFarland incorporated.

Space age begins as Russia launches Sputnik 1 into orbit around earth.

Community of California City established.

First U. S. satellite, Explorer 1, launched at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

National Airport Plan adopted.

California enacts legislation requiring the state Department of Public Health to establish air quality standards and necessary controls for motor vehicle emissions.

In California, total registered vehicles approaches 8 million and vehicle miles traveled is 71 billion.

In California, the Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board is established. Primary function is to test and certify devices for installation on cars for sale in California.

Federal Motor Vehicle Act passed. Requires federal research to address pollution from motor vehicles.

City of Arvin incorporated.

Kern County population was 291,984 people.

America launches first weather satellite.

Housing Act passed. Provided first federal assistance for mass transit.

Federal Aid Highway Act passed. Created federal mandate for urban transportation planning in U.S. for communities with 50,000 population or greater.

Traffic congestion criteria developed.

John Glenn, Jr. becomes first American to orbit earth.

First Highway Planning Manual published.

PCV requirements go into effect on domestic passenger vehicles for sale in California.

First Federal Clean Act enacted. Empowers the Secretary of the Heath, Education and Welfare to define air quality criteria based on scientific studies. Provides grants to state and local air pollution control agencies.

The Auto Club works with the California Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board to test emissions on 1000 vehicles.

Streetcar operation ceases in Los Angeles, when the last streetcar pulls into Vernon yards.

Urban Mass Transportation Act passed. Authorized for the first time, up to two-thirds capital grants for mass transit facilities. Defined mass transportation to specifically exclude charter services. Federal assistance could not be used for charter services.

Ninety percent of people in the U.S. travel by private automobile.

City of Ridgecrest incorporated.

Congress adopts the Civil Rights Act.

High Speed Ground Transportation Act passed. Created a research and a demonstration program in high speed ground transportation (included Maglev).

Federal Clean Air Act of 1963 is amended by the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act. Direct
regulation of air pollution by the federal government is provided for, and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare is directed to establish auto emission standards.

In Bakersfield the operation and control of the transit system was transferred to the city of Bakersfield. The city was considering terminating the system. The Greater Bakersfield Metropolitan Transit Committee was formed to determine how to preserve the system. It was decided that a special district should be formed to take over control and operation of the transit system.

The City of California City incorporated.

Congress adopts the Voting Rights Act.

National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act passed. Established the National Highway Safety Agency in the Department of Commerce. It was designed to coordinate state highway safety programs.

Department of Transportation Act created the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and Federal Railroad Administration created.

Auto tailpipe emission standards for hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide are adopted by the California Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board. They are the first in the nation.

California Highway Patrol begins random roadside inspection of vehicle smog control devices.

National Highway Safety Agency established in the Department of Commerce.

Legislation creating the California Air Resources Board is signed into law by Governor Reagan.

Federal Air Quality Act is passed. Establishes framework for defining "air quality control regions" based on meteorological and topographical factors of air pollution. Allows California to set and enforce its own emission standard for new vehicle.

The Automotive Research Center opens to administer testing of vehicle emissions and study air pollution control.

Urban Mass Transit Administration established.

Federal Aid Highway Act established the Traffic Operations Program to Improve Capacity and Safety (TOPICS).

Dr. Haagen-Smit appointed Chairman of the California Air Resources Board by Governor Reagan. First meeting held in Sacramento.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) passed. Created a national policy to prevent or eliminate damage to the environment.

First state ambient air quality standards are adopted by California for total suspended particulates, photochemical oxidants, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration established.

Environmental Quality Improvement Act passed. It created the Office of Environmental Quality to assist federal agencies in evaluating programs and promote research on the environment.

Urban Mass Transportation Assistance Act for the first time provided long-term commitment of federal funds to transit operators.

Federal Aid Highway Act established the federal aid urban highway system.

Federal Clean Air Act Amendments passed. Serve as principal source of statutory authority for controlling air pollution. Also establishes basic U.S. program for controlling air pollution.

Total registered vehicles exceed 12 million in California and vehicle miles traveled is 110 billion.

Kern Council of Governments created.

Kern County population was 330,234 people.

Passenger Rail service in the San Joaquin Valley ended. Amtrak established.

California Air Resources Board adopts first automobile nitrogen oxide standard in the nation.

Federal Environmental Protection Agency creates National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulates, photochemical oxidants, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

Bay Area Rapid Transit system dedicated as the first "high tech" system.

Urban Mass Transportation Administration issued the External Operating Manual.

In Bakersfield, voters within the proposed transit district approved formation by a 2 to 1 vote.

Federal Aid Highway Act passed. Increased the flexibility on the use of highway funds for urban mass transportation.

Endangered Species Act passed. Enacted to prevent any animal or plant from becoming extinct in the U.S.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) embargoed oil shipments to the U.S.

Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act established an official government allocation plan for gasoline and home heating fuel.

Rehabilitation Act provided that no person should be discriminated against due to a handicap in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

In Bakersfield, Mr. Ivo Keyser was hired as General Manager of the newly formed transit district. The name of the District was changed to the Golden Empire Transit District from the Greater Metropolitan Transit District.

The El Monte Busway, the first carpool lane opens in Southern California along Interstate 10. First available for buses and later opened to carpools with three or more people. The 3M company begins the first vanpool.

National Mass Transportation Assistance Act passed. Authorized for the first time the use of federal funds for transit operating assistance.

Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act established a national 55 mile per hour speed limit to reduce gasoline consumption. Also established National Rideshare Demonstration program.

Amtrak passenger service in the San Joaquin Valley began with a single round trip per day between Oakland and Bakersfield.

The nation's first carpooling agency, the Commuter Computer is formed in Los Angeles. Later renamed Southern California Rideshare.

Transportation History (1975 to 2000)

Energy policy and Conservation Act passed. It was to ensure that automobile gasoline consumption would be reduced to the lowest level possible and to promote energy conservation plans.

The Urban Mass Transportation Administration and Federal Highway Administration issues joint urban transportation planning regulations.

Federal Aid Highway Act passed. Broadened the use of Interstate Highway funds. Also permitted funds to be used for maintenance. The completion date for the Interstate system was extended to September 30, 1990.

Institute of Transportation Engineers published the first edition of the Trip Generation manual. Revised editions 1979, 1982, 1987, and 1991.

The Viking II photographs Saturn.

Thirty-nine states converted highway departments to Departments of Transportation with multi-modal planning.

Federal Clean Air Act Amendments passed. Increased the flexibility and local responsibility in the administration of the Act. Required local governments to develop revisions to state implementation plans for all areas not meeting national ambient air quality standards.

Surface Transportation Assistance Act passed. This was the first time that highway, public transportation and highway safety were combined into one piece of legislation.

Iran cut off crude oil shipments to western nations causing the second oil crisis.

In Bakersfield, the Golden Empire Transit District initiated curb-to-curb dial-a-ride service (Get-A-Lift) for people unable to access the fixed route service.

Total registered vehicles in California surpasses 17 million and vehicle miles traveled is 155 billion.

Amtrak began the second round trip in the San Joaquin Valley between Oakland and Bakersfield.

Kern County population was 403,089 people.

Federal Aid Highway Act passed. Established early completion and preservation of the Interstate system as the highest priority highway system.

San Diego trolley begins service.

Surface Transportation Assistance Act passed. Extended authorization for the highway, safety and transit programs.

Urban Mass Transit Administration issued a revised Urban Mass Transportation Major Capital Investment Policy.

Urban Transportation Administration published Para-transit Policy.

California Smog Check Program goes into effect to identify vehicles in need of maintenance and to assure the effectiveness of the their emission control systems.

Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act. Passed over President Reagan's veto. Authorized highway and transit funding. Also updated rules for compensating persons and businesses displaced by developments with federal funding. Raised speed limits outside urban areas to 65 miles per hour.

Kern Motorist Aid Authority formed to install call boxes along Kern County highways.

California Clean Air Act is signed by Governor Deukmejian.

Amtrak began third and fourth round trips in the San Joaquin Valley between Oakland and Bakersfield.

The Los Angeles-Fresno-Bay Area/Sacramento High Speed Rail Corridor Study Group was established.

Rail trolley systems had achieved substantial resurgence in the U.S. Boston, Cleveland, Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco had renovated existing rail systems. Buffalo, Los Angeles, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego and San Jose had opened new rail transit systems. New systems were under construction in Baltimore, Dallas and St. Louis.

Federal Clean Air Act Amendments passed. Addressed the attainment and maintenance issues. None attainment areas were classified in accordance with severity. Conformity provisions were expanded. Conformity determinations were required to assure that federally approved or financially assisted projects or actions conform to an air quality State Implementation Plan. Required transportation-air quality issues to be analyzed on a system-wide basis.

American With Disabilities Act (ADA) passed. Prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability in both the public an private sectors.

Total registered vehicles in California reaches 23 million and vehicle miles traveled is 242 billion.

U.S. Department of Transportation issued ADA regulations that required transit
authorities to only buy or lease accessible transit vehicles.

Kern County population was 543,477 people.

Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act passed. Federal Transit Administration established. Formerly the Urban Mass Transit Administration. Permitted transportation funds to be expended on environmental projects that enhance existing transportation facilities. Created the Intelligent Vehicle and Highway System Program.

Phase 1, California Cleaner Burning Gasoline comes to market.

California Air Resources Board enacts new standard for cleaner diesel fuel. California diesel comes to market.

The Intercity High Speed Rail Commission was created in California. The Commission was to develop a framework for implementation of a high speed rail system in California.

Court orders Federal Environmental Protection Agency to develop Federal Implementation Plan for numerous non-attainment areas in California.

California Smog Check II program signed into law by Governor Wilson.

Total registered vehicles in California reaches 26 million and vehicle miles traveled is 271 billion.

Golden Empire Transit District (Bakersfield) began use of natural gas buses.

Big seven automakers commit to manufacture and sale zero emission vehicles.

California Phase II Cleaner Burning Gasoline comes to market.

California's State Implementation Plan for ozone is approved by Federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The California High Speed Rail Authority was created to direct the development and implementation of intercity high speed rail service in California.

In Bakersfield, the Golden Empire Transit District received its first natural gas buses.

Congress debates the re-authorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act.

California Smog Check II program begins.

In Bakersfield, the Golden Empire Transit district began crosstown express service. Bicycle racks were added to all buses.

The California High Speed Rail Authority issues its final report that identified a high speed rail corridor connecting northern and southern California

Congress passes the Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century.

San Joaquin Valley Air Basin re-classified as serve non-attainment for ozone.

Kern County population was 661,645 people.

Transportation History (Sources)


The facts are from the following sources:

  1. On the Move: A Chronology of Advances in Transportation by Leonard C Bruno, Published by Gale Research Inc.
  2. Crossroads, A Publication of Southern California Rideshare, December 1999/January 2000.
  3. Westways Magazine, Southern Automobile Club of Southern California
  4. Kern Council of Governments files.
  5. U.S. Department of Transportation information.
  6. People and Politics in Urban America, Kweit and Kweit, 1999
  7. U. S Census