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.
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.
For instance, check out the Pacific Electric “P.E. Bus” that ran down Pico Boulevard from the Santa Monica beach to Rimpau Terminal. To this day, Big Blue Bus serves nearly the exact same route with its Route 7 bus. Or check out the “Beverly Bus” which followed largely the same path as the Metro 2 bus [PDF] today.
This continual bus service is particularly interesting because conventional wisdom suggests that only transit lines with rails are “permanent.” The irony is that Los Angeles’ transit history indicates that rails were no more permanent than bus routes. In fact, while the trolly from downtown to Rimpau Terminal is long gone, the bus from Rimpau to the beach still cruises along down Pico — just as it did when Herbert Hoover was president.
The important permanent feature, it turned out, was not the rails in the ground, but the market for travel along those busy corridors. After all, some of the most iconic buses in the region are often referred to colloquially by the route they travel rather than their designated number, i.e. the “Wilshire Rapid” versus the 720 or the “Venice Rapid” instead of the 733.
What does this map reveal to you about L.A.’s transit history? What interesting details are you able to find — like streets that no longer exist or ones that had yet to be christened? Are there any historic rail lines that you think are ripe for a revival?