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East Bay Motor Coach

“In 1902, after having consolidated East Bay streetcar lines for almost a decade, Francis Marion “Borax” Smith formed the San Francisco, Oakland & San Jose Railway. This company provided ferry service from San Francisco to a ferry pier in Berkeley, then to points in the East Bay cities of Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda via electric trains. The Berkeley ferry terminal was at the end of a three-mile long wooden trestle extending into the San Francisco Bay. The corporate emblem was in the shape of a key formed by the terminal, trestle, and the three East Bay cities, hence the system was called the “Key Route”. The first train began running on October 26, 1903. Smith continued to create additional streetcar routes chiefly dictated by his real estate holdings in the East Bay.

In 1912, the Key Route was reorganized as the San Francisco-Oakland Terminal Railways with two divisions: the Key Division, which ran the transbay ferries and trains, and the Traction Division, which ran the streetcars. The whole organization was also known as the Key System. In 1913, as a result of the collapse of a web of complicated financial dealings, San Francisco-Oakland Terminal Railways was taken over by a committee of bankers representing the money lenders, and by 1923 it was sold to bondholders. The company was reorganized as the Key System Transit Co. on January 1, 1924.

The Key Route began as a streetcar system but had incorporated buses on two feeder routes through Oakland’s Montclair and Mills College districts by May 1921. Bus service continued and was expanded under the Key System Transit Co. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Key System acquired independently-operated bus lines, chiefly in Oakland.

In 1930 and several times again until 1942, the company was reorganized. Key System Ltd. ran the transbay rail operation in 1930, and was changed to Oakland Terminal Railroad Co. in 1935 as a freight company. Key Terminal Railway Ltd. ran the ferries in 1930, and after a name change to Key System in 1935, it ran both the transbay rail and ferry services. East Bay Motor Coach Lines Ltd. ran the bus system in 1930, but was taken over in 1934 by East Bay Street Railways Ltd. which had been running the streetcars since 1930. The latter was renamed East Bay Transit Co. in 1936. On January 1, 1942, East Bay Transit Co. was merged into Key System. In 1946, the company was renamed Key System Transit Lines under its new owner National City Lines.

After the completion of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the Key System provided transbay bus service (May 9, 1937) and rail service (January 16, 1939). Ferry service was eliminated when rail service began in 1939.

During the 1930s, streetcars in the East Bay were gradually replaced by buses. On November 28, 1948, the last streetcar went out of operation. By 1958, transbay rail service across the Bay Bridge across the Bay Bridge was replaced by buses.

During the late 1940s and the 1950s there were labor disputes between Key System and its employees. A strike was held during most of 1953. Fare increases also caused relations with the public to deteriorate. These events helped fuel the movement toward public ownership of the transit system.

In 1955, the California State Legislature passed an act authorizing the creation of the state’s first Special Transit Service District in the western portions of Alameda and Contra Costa counties. On November 6, 1956, East Bay citizens voted to establish the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District. Initial funding for the District was provided in 1959 through a voter-approved bond of $16.5 million. This money allowed AC Transit to acquire the Key System in 1960. AC Transit began its bus operations on October 1, 1960.”

Source: Guide to the Key System Newspaper Clippings, 1941-1960, bulk 1941-1949

Pages on this site about East Bay Motor Coach

#308 – East Bay Motor Coach Lines
#308 - East Bay Motor Coach Lines

East Bay Motor Coach Lines (Key System) acquired 11 model 15 “baby” Twins starting in January 1931.

The PBM acquired the #308 from the estate of the late Jerry Graham in 1996.

#308 was included in the filming of the movie “Oppenheimer”.

3-Speed Manual, East Bay Motor Coach, Hercules, Key System, Transit, Twin Coach


#400 -East Bay Motor Coach Lines (Key System)

This 28-passenger Twin Coach Model 30 was delivered to East Bay Motor Coach Lines in September 1933.

The PBM acquired the #400 from the estate of the late Jerry Graham in 1996.

3-Speed Manual, East Bay Motor Coach, Hercules, Key System, Twin Coach


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