Relatively few people who live in such places as Philadelphia and New Orleans, where they still operate, know what streetcars are.

But the word is no longer commonplace and may have puzzled a few younger readers. I'm reminded of a talk I gave about 15 years ago to a group at the Stephen Foster Intermediate School in the Fort Hunt area. Some of the kids asked how I got around when I was their age.

"By streetcar, bus, electric train and ferryboat," I replied, having been reared in the San Francisco area where, in prebridge days, boat travel was common. I didn't mention a surviving local mutation of the streetcar, the cable car.

A girl toward the back of the room raised her hand. I nodded.

"Mr. Eisen," she said, "what's a streetcar?"

If anybody among MetroScene's readers is similarly puzzled, in general it was (and still is in a few U.S. cities, and many abroad) a car that runs on rails down the street, drawing its power usually from an overhead electric wire but sometimes an underground cable, and was a lot pleasanter to ride than most buses, no matter what General Motors says. Oh, for another trolley ride to Glen Echo!