Before TAP: The 1963 vision of smart-card fare collection and rapid transit for L.A.

Saturday marks one of the more interesting anniversaries in local transportation history.  Forty-nine years ago this weekend, C.M. Gilliss, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority, outlined his plan for comprehensive rapid transit in L.A. at the downtown Statler-Hilton Hotel.

His vision included individually-coded credit cards, “magic-eye” fare computers, rail cars with 1960s tailfins bound for planned and soon-to-be-built Century City, and a system reaching all the way to Westwood…to be completed by January, 1968.

The fascinating story, complete with rail station and other futuristic renderings, unfolds on the Metro Library’s Primary Resources blog.

4 replies

  1. I love the map of the proposed system on the Primary Resources page. It is very similar to what’s finally being built, but without fins on the trains and with one notable routing exception – the Gold Line is currently being extended further southeast – to El Monte or Whittier. On the map, the proposed rapid transit is shown to be reaching east, into the San Gabriel Valley – Monterey Park, Rosemead, etc. I have always felt that the zoning and population density trends warranted this route much more than the current planned extension down to the very sleepy El Monte. Was there just not any popular support for such a routing?

    Yes, there is the Silver Line, but there are no stops between Cal State LA and the end of the line, not even at Atlantic….

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  2. Note that LA back then actually had a better idea of how to build transit stations as key places to operate businesses. Even Angelinos in the 1960s were more practical to draw plans to add things like florists and gift shops within the train station as a way to earn extra revenue.

    I’d like to also note that LA ran on a distance fare system back in the day. It’s true, LA only switched to flat rate fares in the 1970s; before then we all ran on the distance model. That’s why in the 1960s, it made sense for them to think up of plans like smart card systems.

    Imagine what we could’ve accomplished had we not let National City Lines dupe us into giving up our once proud trolley system for buses. Fifty years later and we’re still paying for the mess. Now the cities in Asia are leaders in these fields while we continue to drag behind into third world status.

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