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.

5 replies

  1. And yet, in 2013, we still have to get TAP done right while the rest of the world moves millions of commuters everyday. How long has it been since TAP was implemented?

    Seriously, I wonder if Metro just likes to purposely make things go slower in order make up the excuse to continue stealing tax dollars from everyone year after year.

  2. This was happening parallel to the effort in the Bay Area that resulted in BART. Note the regional emphasis and property taxes as being the likely funding source. Doesn’t the rendering even resemble one of the initial BART vehicles?

    Some corrections — RTD did not have “the first publicly-governed transit agency” in the region — MTA had a Board composed of gubernatorial appointees. Also RTD was formed in 1964 not 1968.


    • I think what Dana is saying diplomatically is that while the Bay Area was getting its act together in the early 1960s and thinking far into the future, officials in Los Angeles County couldn’t get their vision off the paper. In fact, after several failed efforts at the ballot box (I think four, to be exact), it wasn’t until the passage of Prop A by county voters in 1980 that Los Angeles County had the funding to begin building rail. Prop C would then pass in 1990 and Measure R in 2008 although Measure J failed in 2012, albeit with 66.1 percent approval from voters.

      Traffic in the Bay Area is still frightfully bad at times and especially in the Bay Area. But commuters in the Bay Area have also enjoyed the benefits of the BART system for 40 years now and BART, although far from perfect, is still a pretty easy way to get around the region.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source