A proposal from 1961 would have linked El Monte to Westwood via downtown. The threat of a Soviet nuclear attack meant planners could pitch subway stations as fallout shelters too.
It’s a simple idea: Connect the jobs-rich and traffic-choked Westside of Los Angeles County to downtown L.A., the heart of the region’s economy and public transit network. Yet, as of this moment, I can’t hop on the subway in Westwood and make it to downtown in about 25 minutes — though that’s the future when the current Westside Subway Extension comes to fruition.
It’s well known — part of the city’s legend, really — that there have been seemingly a dozen proposals for such a transit line, many dating back to the middle of the last century. With such an illustrious history, I’m sure many of you are wondering skeptically: What makes this Westside Subway proposal different from all those others?
That’s a fair question. Before traipsing back in time through the various iterations of the Westside subway concept, we’d like to highlight a key difference between then and now: The current Westside Subway Plan has funding both through the Measure R sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008, as well as federal dollars. The Metro Board of Director’s vote on the final environmental study for the project later this year will clear the way for finalizing the engineering and then putting actual shovels in the ground.
All other subway plans for the Wilshire Boulevard have died on the vine at various phases. So I sat down with Metro Librarian Matthew Barrett to get the story on each of the erstwhile proposals that have paved the way for the Westside Subway Extension.
Bus rapid transit in Los Angeles began with the El Monte Busway, which broke ground 40 years ago this week.
Today BRT in L.A. has expanded to several other transportation corridors, but this is the original, the grand-daddy of them all: The first multi-modal system in California and the first dedicated BRT station in the world.
While some things have changed (the draft environmental impact statement was only 17 pages long, and the El Monte Busway is now part of Silver Line service), the busway is as popular as ever.
Forty years later, daily ridership has grown from 12,000 to an estimated 40,000 as new terminals are planned for both El Monte and downtown Los Angeles.
The story and images of this historic transit line are up on the Metro Library’s Primary Resources Blog.
Plans for a Westside subway go back — way back.
On January 12, 1962, ground test drilling for the subway portion of the proposed Backbone Route between downtown and yet-to-be-built Century City got underway.
Governor Pat Brown, Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ernest E. Debs were all on hand.
Two weeks later, Beverly Hills Mayor Jack Freeman oversaw groundbreaking for soil tests near Wilshire Boulevard and Linden Drive.
The subway was obviously never constructed, so head on over to the Metro Library’s Primary Resources Blog to find out why — and discover the related nuclear fallout shelter plan and large-capacity helicopters that were on the drawing board as well.
Image via Los Angeles Public Library
Transit users in the San Fernando Valley probably didn’t notice anything different last Friday when the second century of public transportation in the area got underway.
December 16, 1911, was the first day of rail service from Los Angeles to Van Nuys, a development which quickly transformed the Valley from outlying area to commutable suburb, arguably altering the face of Los Angeles as a whole.
What did Van Nuys and the opening day celebrations look like a century ago? Metro Library’s Primary Resources blog has some amazing photos to share with you.
Since last week’s “fun with maps” seemed to spur a robust discussion among readers, I wanted to post another of my favorites: this Los Angeles transit map from 1928. Click the image for a high resolution scan by the David Rumsey Map Collection. Be warned, the file weighs in at a potentially browser busting seven megabytes.
Click through for a high resolution scan by David Rumsey Map Collection.
In past headlines, I’ve pointed readers to other historical transportation maps of the region, but this one adds something new: A whole lot of fine grain detail of the city’s transit system before the first freeway crisscrossed the region.
My first impulse when looking at a map like this is to think, gosh, it’s too bad we didn’t keep all those streetcar lines running. That said, the Blue, Gold and soon-to-be Expo Lines all run on former rail rights-of-way that you can see here, and each represents a serious upgrade on the trolly service that covered the same routes in the 1920s.
However, what catches my eye from this map is not the old rail lines. Rather, it’s the bus lines — marked with green dots — that have served many of the same corridors for nearly a hundred years. Continue reading
The notion of “complete streets” has spread nationwide over the last several years, with policies enacted to accomodate all users: motorists, bicyclists, transit vehicles and their riders and pedestrians.
Safe street design for those using roads and sidewalks sounds rather “pedestrian” today, but it wasn’t always that way – including in Los Angeles.
In 1946, a proposal was made to remove all the street-level sidewalks in downtown and move them up to the second-story of buildings.
The idea was to provide “ultimate traffic relief” in the congested central business district, eliminating the need to wait for traffic signals to change while appealing to the business community in providing an extra floor of display windows.
The full story, along with some eye-popping illustrations can be found on the Library’s Primary Resources blog.
In the summer of 1990 I was 9 years old and nothing mattered more to me than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That’s why these early videos promoting the opening of the Metro Blue Line featuring none other than the Ninja Turtles are just so radical to me.
Hat tip to Dairenn Lombard who’s been posting historical Blue Line videos to the Metro Facebook for the last few weeks and introduced me to the Ninja Turtles/Blue Line mash up.
The folks at the Metro Library provided us these links for anyone interested in watching some videos about the 20th anniversary of Metro Rail.
Videos covering July 1990 opening day, and some of the pre-opening events:
Recently we asked readers to choose their favorite color name for the Expo Line. While Aqua received the bulk of the votes, many readers suggested that maybe it was time to move away from color names to a naming convention that used numbers or letters instead. It’s a logical suggestion, and one that Metro has actually considered in the past.
In fact, in 2003, when Metro was first launching its new branding and logo, rail maps and schedules were introduced that featured rail lines labeled by their color names and letters. Here’s the legend from the 2003 map showing lines A, B, C and D:
This was a trial program that lasted for much of the year but was eventually scrapped due to complaints. Perhaps it was an idea that was ahead of its time, but it’s likely to be looked at again by Metro as the rail system grows.
Cars and streetcars on Broadway in downtown L.A., December, 1930.
Cars and streetcars peacefully sharing limited street space in downtown L.A. in December, 1930. Of course, road rage as an accepted behavior had not yet reached maturity. (Like the people who succumb?) Photo taken looking north at Broadway and Third Street. Remove the vehicles and the street looks surprisingly similar today. Here’s the image on Flickr, along with thousands of other cool photos posted by the Metro Library.
Los Angeles Railway weekly passes from the 1930s.
Thousands of visual reminders of history are stored on the Metro Library Flickr site. Tucked among the historic photos is a shot of a few weekly passes from the 1930s, showing that many Los Angeles Railway tickets were small works of art. Some simply reminded riders not to forget Mother’s Day. Others promoted attractions or events around town. Cost of the weekly pass 70 years ago was $1 vs. $17 today.