A podcast about history

That's not stuck in the past


Long before the existence of BART, AC Transit or even the Bay Bridge, the Key System connected the Bay Area through a network of electric streetcars and ferries. Over the years, I’ve heard many stories about how the Key System made local travel quick and convenient, so what happened? This is a question I’ve pondered countless times, usually while sitting in gridlocked traffic, so I finally decided to investigate. 

On July 27, I’ll be sharing my findings in a presentation about the rise and fall of the Key System at the Cal Academy of Sciences. Come to the African Hall at 7:30 PM (Doors open at 6PM) to hear all about a history characterized by land grabs, rivalries, and even a notorious “conspiracy theory.” Although the Key System disintegrated after World War II, the legacy of this network still looms large, so I’ll also be discussing the long-lasting influence of its infrastructure. Plus, the lessons of its demise still hold relevance, as the Bay Area faces an ongoing emergency of various mass transit systems facing fiscal crisis. Tickets are now available here

In addition to the presentation, I’ll be debuting my new collaboration with Oaklandish. To honor one of the Bay Area’s earliest public transportation systems, this new line of shirts and hats will feature a riff on the iconic “flying key” logo of the Key System. This design was adopted in 1925 and was emblazoned on the electric streetcars that transported millions throughout this burgeoning region before automobiles conquered the roads. This limited edition line of gear will celebrate the Bay Area’s long legacy of mass transit – and look hella cool.

The “Flying Key” logo inspired the East Bay Yesterday/Oaklandish collaboration dropping on July 27.

There’s more! My Key System presentation is just one part of the festivities happening at Cal Academy of Sciences on July 27. Pendarvis Harshaw of KQED’s Righnowish will also be giving a talk and Olivia Allen-Price of Bay Curious will be hosting a trivia event. DJ Fresh and Drew Banga will be spinning tunes, Oakland Puzzle Company will have an interactive display, and there will be much more going down. Find out more details and get your tickets to “Nightlife: Hella” here.

Before the Bay Bridge opened, thousands of passengers used Key System ferries to cross the Bay daily. Although the demise of this public transit system is blamed on the rise of cars, the whole story isn’t quite that simple. Come see my presentation on July 27 to hear more…

The East Bay Yesterday podcast has more than 100 episodes in the archives. Check out the show via Apple, SoundCloud, Spotify, or your preferred app to see the full list of programs. To stay updated on East Bay Yesterday events and other local history news, sign up for the free e-newsletter here.

What happened to the Key System?

Debut of new presentation & Oaklandish gear
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