In 1914, all over North America, car owners discovered that they could make a lot of money by cruising the street car stops and offering rides to impatient passengers at a nickel a head. The current slang term for a nickel was "jitney", and that name was quickly transferred to the vehicles that provided this service.
Most jitneys were seven-passenger touring cars but they were often loaded far beyond their nominal capacity. Passengers who couldn't jam themselves inside would stand on the running boards.
In cities all over the continent, the jitneys made serious inroads on the profits of streetcar companies. The streetcar companies retaliated by putting strong pressure on the municipal governments to outlaw the jitneys. City politicians gave in reluctantly because the jitneys were very popular.
The Winnipeg city council finally passed a bylaw banning the jitneys in 1918, but only after forcing the Winnipeg Electric Railway Company to establish a motor bus service for neighbourhoods beyond the reach of the streetcar line. Some of the former jitney drivers turned their cars into legal taxicabs.
This photo shows a typical jitney from 1915, owned by John Dykes. It is parked outside the Norwood Garage, on the St. Boniface side of the Red River.
Picture source: Provincial Archives of Manitoba, Transportation - Automobile, 23.
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Revised February 13, 1998