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 to find information about Metro

Metro fields questions everyday about the agency. Many questions are routine and concern the operation of Metro’s bus and rail lines.

Others, however, aim to get a deeper understanding of how the agency works. In many cases, journalists, citizens, community groups and private businesses use the state Public Records Act seeking information about contracts, ridership data, employee salaries and correspondence dealing with policy decisions.

Like many other government agencies, Metro has in recent years put a lot of information online — more than many people may know about and perhaps not as much as others would like. Not all the information is easy to find and that’s something Metro is trying to improve upon.

In the meantime, here’s a guide to finding some of that information (Journalists should always check with Metro’s media relations department to ensure the information is the most current.):

Basic facts: The online “Facts At A Glance” provides a good overview about the size of the Metro fleet, ridership, budget and the like. http://www.metro.net/news/facts-glance/

Salaries: The California State Controller actually has a website with salary information on hundreds of public entities throughout the State.  Here is where you can find Metro’s salary information: http://lgcr.sco.ca.gov/CompensationDetail.aspx?entity=SpecialDistrict&id=15551907000&year=2010&GetCsu=False. Metro’s website also includes a page showing the salaries of the agency’s top executives. http://www.metro.net/about/board/executive-compensation/

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California's first multi-modal system & the world's first bus rapid transit station turn 40

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.

50 years ago today: Groundbreaking downtown for the El Monte – Century City Backbone Route

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.

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.

L.A. had double-decker buses? Looking back at the history of Wilshire Boulevard

Wilshire Boulevard double-decker bus, 1938

Our extensive coverage of the Westside Subway Extension and Bus Rapid Transit for Wilshire Boulevard this year provides us with an opportunity to revisit Wilshire of days gone by.

The Metro Library Primary Resources blog highlights several items of interest from the past, including 1920s and ’30s double-decker bus service, holiday celebrations and historic images from the USC and UCLA digital libraries.

There’s much to be discovered along one of L.A.’s most famous streets, so head on over to Primary Resources to learn more.


Look at that! Digging into Metro's photo archive treasure trove

A streetcar passes the Southwest Museum and Mt. Washington in 1920. Click above to visit the Metro Libarary's photostream on Flickr.

Los Angeles Railway "motormanettes" (circa 1942)Did you know that the Metro Transportation Library & Archives Flickr photo site has grown to more than 7,700 digital images?The collection of local area photographs dating back to the 1880s has been online for just over 3 years, and this week it surpassed 1.5 million views.

Did you know that the Metro Transportation Library & Archive’s Flickr photo site has grown to more than 7,700 digital images?

The collection of local area photographs dating back to the 1880s has been online for just over 3 years, and this week it surpassed 1.5 million views. That reinforces what we’ve long known about Los Angeles transit and transportation — people who love Los Angeles also want to see what used to be, what could have been, and what is coming around the corner (or down the tracks) in the near future.

The Laurel Canyon trolley in 1910, a view of 3rd Street just before Angels Flight was built, what Hollywood might have looked like with overhead rail…

The Library’s Primary Resources blog takes a closer look at some of the fascinating but lesser-known images and collections on their Flickr site — one of the best resources around for researching an integral part of the past, present and future of Southern California.