Calling all transit and history fans! Hundreds more “Then & Now” historic L.A. transit photos available here!

Broadway at 6th

Broadway at 6th Street, 1938 vs. today (Click for more information)

It’s a beautiful thing when Southern Californians take pride in their fascinating and diverse history.  This past weekend the Metro Transportation Library & Archive logged its 3,000,000th view on our online Flickr photo gallery (yes, three million in less than five years).

Over here at The Source, the reaction to “then and now” photos has prompted the Library & Archive to share its own version of historical images compared to the street scene today.

Our Library has selected and uploaded over 200 photos to Historypin, a social media site that maps images and mashes them up with a chronological data layer so you can view photos of a particular place AND time.  With the local transportation conversation ramping up month by month, we know this is a great way to engage our community in the past AND present.

Most of our images on Historypin and concentrated in and near downtown Los Angeles.

Metro Library on Historypin

Zoom in or click a photo cluster to see more detailed photos

Fortunately for us, most of our photos are of streetcars and buses.  Good thing: Historypin has partnered with Google to leverage powerful mapping tools with “street view” imagery.  This serves us well in providing an “augmented reality” effect — superimposing views of yesteryear on the streets of today. We have taken pains to position many our images onto Street View so they match up as well as possible.

Hollywood Boulevard Christmas decorations

Hollywood Boulevard, decorated for Christmas,1953 compared to today (The “fade” slider is below the historic image)

But Historypin isn’t limited to just our collection. Metro is a leader in helping other local archives and libraries in our LA as Subject network to get their photos digitized and onto Historypin.  Los Angeles Public Library’s collection is particularly interesting, as well as other transit agencies, including the wonderful history shared by San Francisco Muni.

Even better, Historypin images feature a slider at the bottom of the photo allowing you to fade in and out the historical image compared to today’s street scene.

When you find an image in our collection (or any other!) with the little yellow man indicating “Street View,” click “Street View” in the bottom right and then slide the “Fade” button below the centered historical image to see the effect.  Get ready to spend hours getting lost in historic Los Angeles…or elsewhere in the world!

1st & Alameda, 1918

Los Angeles Railway “P” Line, 1st Street at Alameda, 1918 with today’s view 95 years later

Historypin is also available as a mobile app, so you can check out historical views of your location wherever you go!

We were a global launch partner for Historypin when we began in July, 2011. But Historypin isn’t limited to just our collection. Metro is a leader in helping other local archives and libraries in our LA as Subject network to get their photos digitized and onto Historypin.  Los Angeles Public Library’s collection is particularly interesting, as well as other transit agencies, including the wonderful history shared by San Francisco Muni.

Still not sure what it is or how it works?  This video provides an overview of the Historypin concept in just over a minute:

One hundred years ago this week: What prompted Los Angeles’ streetcars to change forever?

Incident site near Vineyard Crossing

A little known incident occurred in Los Angeles’ Mid-City area on the evening of July 13, 1913.

When all was said and done, Pacific Electric’s rail network replaced all of its wooden streetcars and implemented automatic train control (a topic still in the news today).

If you had any doubt how extensive our inter-urban transit system was a century ago, consider the fact that Pacific Electric’s “Red Cars” logged than 78 million passenger boardings that year alone. That figure does not include Los Angeles Railway’s extensive “Yellow Car” system.

So what took place that night? The answer lies in the Metro Transportation Library, Archives and Records Management Center’s Primary Resources blog.

Metro in Overdrive: Transportation Library & Archive resources featured in new Getty exhibit

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Metro Transportation Library & Archive is participating in a landmark joint exhibit of the Getty Museum and Getty Research Institute.

Overdrive: L.A. Constructs The Future, 1940-1990, which runs from April 9 through July 21, 2013, is part of Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture In L.A.

The exhibit is the first major exhibition to survey Los Angeles’ complex urban landscape and diverse architectural innovations. Drawings, photographs, models, films, animations, oral histories and ephemera illustrate the complex dimensions of L.A.’s rich and often underappreciated built environment.

Library & Archive staff has been working with the Getty for the past year in preparation for this exhibit. Several historic items from the Archive have been lent to the Getty for display, along with additional items for the exhibit catalog publication as well as film footage that runs in the Overdrive exhibit.

The exhibit moves on to the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. later this year.

More information on the exhibit and Metro’s contributions to it can be found on the Research Library’s Primary Resources Blog.

75 years ago this week: Southern California transportation infrastructure nearly destroyed in epic storm

Los Angeles River flooding

Very few people likely remember when “The Big One” struck the Los Angeles area. Not an earthquake, but a storm against which all others are measured.

In the first week of March, 1938, an already wet winter was capped off by a deluge previously unseen in the area.

More than 11 inches of rain in downtown Los Angeles (and more than 30 inches at Lake Arrowhead) washed out countless roads and bridges, as well as streetcar and rail lines.

For a short time, Los Angeles was even cut off from the outside world and the damage was the final straw for proponents of flood control on the Los Angeles River.

The full story is over at the Metro Library's Primary Resources blog with links to numerous photos, maps and stories in a 1938 publication from the California Department of Highways and Public Works.


Metro Library debuts new interactive timeline and family tree for L.A. transit history

 Metro Library PeoplePlotr

The Metro Transportation Library & Archive have been hard at work producing two new tools that explain Los Angeles transit history dating back to 1874.

This week, the Library unveils an interactive timeline allowing users to better understand the 140-year evolution of local transit from numerous private street railroads into publicly-governed agencies.

Earlier this month, the timeline was chosen from the 100,000 TikiToki timelines developed so far to be the inaugural “featured timeline” on the TikiToki Blog.

A complementary tool serves as a “family tree” organization chart, explaining the complex history and relationships of Metro’s predecessor agencies.

The images above and below are linked to these new resources.  More information on how to use these tools can be found at the Library’s Primary Resources blog.

Metro Library TikiToki

50 years ago today: A preview of “magic-eye” fare-readers and a subway to Westwood

Today is the 50th anniversary of one of the most important speeches in local transit history.

Rendering of rail to Century City

Rendering for proposed rail to Century City

It involved a 1963 vision for the future of local transportation that even included TAP-like “magic eye” machine-readable fare media…and a subway to Westwood by 1968 by the Executive Director of Los Angeles’ first MTA.

Smart-card fare collection and subterranean transit to the Westside obviously would not come to fruition for decades. 

But the inability of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (LAMTA) to levy taxes and its Board to build broad public support or acquire real property through eminent domain set the stage for the creation of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, in 1964.

The speech was part of “Rail Rapid Transit: A Reality,” a proposal for “a new 58-mile regional rapid transit system” to begin construction by 1964.

Ironically, it proposed four corridors for transit — to Long Beach, North Hollywood, El Monte and West Los Angeles — all of which were eventually constructed through public support and funds (with West L.A. on the way).

The speech is a fascinating look back at the future of transit as forseen in 1963. The full text of it can be found on the Metro Library’s Primary Resources Blog.

How is a mastodon like a bus?

Transit and transportation planning, construction and operations must take into account numerous interdisciplinary fields.

These include urban planning, geology, law, sociology, demographics, engineering, hydrology, sustainability, cartography, history and other disciplines.

Metro’s Library & Archive collects, preserves and provides access to a wealth of information related to these subjects. Perhaps surprising to some, paleontology also intersects with transit.

Local subway tunneling has yielded a wealth of fossils which have shed light on prehistoric Los Angeles.

Mastodons on the Red Line?

The Library’s Primary Resources Blog takes a closer look at the fossils found through subway construction and how they give us a better idea of what L.A. looked like millions of years ago

Check it out here.