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.
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.
It’s a week of anniversaries at Metro: The Metro Red Line began operating 20 years ago this week just a few days before Day One of Metro on Feb. 1, 1993. The above timeline is the first of two that we’ll post on The Source; you can scroll right and left on the one above or see a larger version here.
The next timeline, which I’ll post next week, will focus on key policy decisions and other milestones for the agency.
Of course, Metro did not begin as “Metro.” In 1993, Metro was known only by its formal name, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The new agency was a merger of two other agencies with clunky names: Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (CTC) and the Southern California Rapid Transit District (RTD). The idea behind the merger was to cut the inherent red tape that came with two government agencies trying to operate and/or plan transit and transportation in one county.
The irony is that there had already been a Los Angeles MTA, a city agency which in 1964 was merged into the RTD. The big idea then was that the region needed a regional transportation agency, an idea that didn’t last very long as separate agencies were subsequently created for Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino counties and last, but not least, Los Angeles County.
A big thanks to the Dorothy Peyton Gray Metro Transportation Library & Archive for doing the research that made assembling this timeline very easy; here also is their page on the history of transportation agencies in Los Angeles County. If you click on the ‘more’ button in most of the timeline bubbles, I’ve included photos, videos or links to media stories about some of the events. If there’s anything you would like me to add, please leave a factoid or link in a comment; photos must be in the public domain.
I love the question posed in the opening of this 1989 video, suggesting that city planners could not have possibly been thinking of what Los Angeles had become: TrafficVille.
My two cents: I think this video gives city planners too much credit. I’m not sure they were thinking of anything except, perhaps, how to cram a few more strip malls into L.A. Zing!
When watching the video, also take a few moments to enjoy the music. Memo to our younger readers: there actually was some very good music created in the 1980s. This just isn’t it. This is.
If you missed it earlier, here’s Dave Sotero’s excellent analysis of the Red Line’s 20th anniversary and what the subway has done for Los Angeles — and what it will likely do in the years and decades ahead. Also, here’s another pair of videos documenting opening day on Jan. 29, 1993.
Here are a pair of videos on the opening of the first segment of the Red Line on Jan. 29, 1993 — so 20th century! Thanks to the Metro Transit Library & Archive on digging these up and for all the helpful information on the 20th anniversary of the Metro Red Line.
Please see Dave Sotero’s post earlier today on the big anniversary. There are a lot of interesting factoids about the original project along with a great photo gallery and more video.
On January 29, 1993, former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley stood among a swarm of public officials and transit agency staffers on the cramped Pershing Square subway platform. Standing shoulders above everyone else, including then-California Gov. Pete Wilson, Bradley proudly inaugurated the opening of the first modern subway in Los Angeles.
“Twenty years is a long time. That’s how long we have been pushing on this dream, this vision of what we should do in Los Angeles County,” Bradley said, referring to the subway’s quixotic path to reality in ‘93. “I made a promise when I ran for mayor in 1973 that in 18 months, we’d deliver by breaking ground for rapid transit. Well, I missed by only a few months…”
Today, Metro marks the 20th anniversary of the Metro Red Line’s first phase from Union Station to MacArthur Park, a nearly 4.5-mile construction milestone that began a brand new chapter in regional rail construction and placing L.A. among other major cities across the globe with high-speed, high-capacity subways.
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).
With Expo Phase 1 up and running to La Cienega — and soon to Culver City — you can expect The Source to turn its attention a bit more to the second phase of the Expo Line construction. Beginning in late 2015 or 2016, the 6.6-mile extension will carry riders from Culver City to a short walk from the pier and beach at 4th and Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica.
I took a photo tour of the line last year before major construction had started to document what remained of the original tracks. Until the 1950s, electric trains had run daily between the beach and downtown Los Angeles, and until the 1980s diesel freight trains made runs to lumber yards in West L.A.
So, what’s changed since we last checked in on Expo Phase 2? For starters, buildings that had operated on land leased from Metro — which has owned the right-of-way for two decades — were demolished and underground utilities have begun to be relocated. In the coming months, expect to see Expo contractor Skanska/Rados digging the foundations for the bridges that will carry trains over several streets, including Venice and Sepulveda boulevards.
In the mean-time here’s how things looked a couple of weekends ago:
The Expo right-of-way -- looking east between Military Ave. and Westwood Blvd. -- has been cleared of the old tracks and underbrush. Photo by Carter Rubin/Metro.
A stack of old rail ties awaits its ultimate fate. Photo by Carter Rubin/Metro.
Freight trains on the old Expo Line right-of-way in the early 1950s. Photo by Alan Weeks, via Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
The Expo Line may be brand new, but passenger rail service to the Westside is nothing Los Angeles hasn’t seen before – it’s just been a long time as in half a century ago. The path taken by Phase I of the Expo Line to Culver City and Phase II to Santa Monica was traveled by Pacific Electric’s Santa Monica Air Line, a passenger and freight rail service that ran on the same right-of-way. Passenger rail service carried passengers down to Santa Monica until 1953 and freight trains also used the tracks until the late 1980s.
The Air Line was a coveted track to work because it was an easy local run from downtown Los Angeles to the ocean. Only the highest seniority Pacific Electric rail men got the chance to work the Air Line – just ask Larry Fredeen, a former P.E. conductor.
“I was lucky to work the line at all,” said Fredeen, who worked the Air Line as a brakeman in the late 1970s. “I was so sad when I heard it was abandoned due to lack of business. I had a lot of good experiences working that track. I’m glad it’s returning, although in a different form.”
Santa Monica Railway Station, Los Angeles & Independence Railroad, 1880. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
Today’s Expo Line has its origins in a railroad between Los Angeles and Santa Monica that went into service in 1875. The Los Angeles & Independence Railroad later became the Air Line, the direct ancestor of the Expo Line.
The Los Angeles & Independence was sold in 1877 to the Southern Pacific, which built a half-mile wharf north of Santa Monica Canyon to provide ships with a place to unload their freight. At this point the Los Angeles & Independence Railroad became an important freight and passenger rail line.
The following photos show the rail line in its many incarnations over the decades.
Los Angeles & Independence Railroad Terminal at Fifth Street and San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, 1895. Photo courtesy of University of Southern California, on behalf of the USC Special Collections.
Santa Monica Long Wharf, Los Angeles & Independence Railroad, late 19th Century. Once a breakwater was built in San Pedro, freight ports in Redondo Beach and the Long Wharf were pretty much doomed. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
Map from 1912 of the Pacific Electric Railway. The Air Line, the forerunner to Expo, is highlighted in blue. In 1908, Southern Pacific leased the railroad line and the wharf to Los Angeles Pacific, which electrified the portion between Sentous -- east of Culver City -- and the Long Wharf. The remainder of the line was electrified three years later. Photo: Special Collections, UCLA's Young Research Library.
Santa Monica Air Line, 1940. Photo via Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
Jim Stubchaer took this photo looking over the motorman's shoulder while riding the Air Line in the late 1940s. Photo courtesy Jim Stubchaer; click on the photo to visit his website.
This was a fan trip taken along the Santa Monica Air Line in 1950. Photo by Alan Weeks, via Metro Transportation Library and Archive.