Metro's first 20 years: an interactive timeline (part one: the projects)

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.

Categories: History, Inside Metro, Projects

6 replies

  1. Good summary by the poster above.

    However, not everything is all bread and butter. LACMTA has now become like any other government agency: big, uncaring, unresponsive, and a huge tax gulper.

    It now takes them years to get even the most simplest things that people want. It took them years to get TAP going and it’s still not done right. Then you have this issue with gate locking that taking forever to get done.

    We have the Blue Line with deteriorating conditions and constantly being delayed with maintenance problems as politicians focus their attentions to funding rail projects at the expense of maintaining existing rail lines. It’s no stranger here that it’s all politics here; politicians want to get re-elected and the best way to ensure their career is to do projects that are more visible like new rail line and stations than the upkeep of existing rail lines.

    You have things like tax money being spent to rename stations with politicians’ names. You have an agency that focuses more of its attention in using taxpayer money in installing artwork instead of using taxes to build retail stands that could be rented out to earn extra revenue.

    We have a growing deficit problem as Metro struggles with its finances to make ends meet. Many here have constantly suggested that Metro focus more of their attentions to increasing their farebox recovery ratio to lessen tax payer dependency and to fix the existing fare system to a more fairer distance based policy.

    The bureaucracy chart and the amount of red tape to get through multiple layers of departments to get even the simplest thing done is another example of wasteful spending of tax payer dollars. One would have to imagine that having 20 or so departments within Metro each with chiefs and staff that add up to hundreds, if not millions in labor costs per year contribute to Metro’s financial problems. So much taxpayer money gets spent in paying Metro employees that there’s little money left to do projects and funding for other things.

    In due time, there needs to be a massive overhaul on how Metro is run. As with any oversized government agency, they all in the end, tend to become inefficient and slow bureaucracies entangled with red tape.

  2. I would add that LACTC and RTD were at “war” with each other, but it seemed all the politicians were OK with the arrangement as LACTC had the purse filled with the transit tax and was supported by conservative anti-union politicians while the SCRTD was a board that tilted liberal and it had unions. Each side liked having an agency that they had some influence over. Their “feud, often over how much of the tax revenue LACTC saw fit to give SCRTD. was well publicized. Each agency had its mini-scandal that reduced public confidence in each agency.

    THE ONLY REASON the two were merged by legislation sponsored by then assemblyman Richard Katz was because the Times had reported (already know to us transit savvy folks watching all this) that the Blue Line would NOT connect to the Red Line subway as the Blue Line would end a mere 5 blocks away (one can’t believe none of the politicians knew this, a lot of “us” knew. That was the last straw and it was a public outcry that Blue and Red must connect. Money was found (in those days one could still find government money behind sofa cushions), but plans had to be altered to the then in construction Red Line station. They just stuck the tracks through the mezzanine as a gash with kooky stairways to get from one platform to the other. This is why 7th Metro Center is such a poorly planned station compared to others: it was NEVER designed to accommodate the Blue Line. In the rush to change plans to accommodate the Blue line, they forgot to draw plans for drains in the station. The next matter was Richard Katz merger of the LACTC and SCRTD as LACMTA and with a board, unlike the all appointed SCRTD borad, would have elected officials serve as the majority of board members. Richard Katz deserves accolades for this legeslation. LACMTA is much more responsive and has much less scandal than either of the previous agencies and no “feuds” for a while, anyway because upon entering the new LACMTA headquarters at Union Station, the first half of the contiguous floors were all people from the SCRTD and the upper half of the floors were all LACTC people (or other way around).

    This was all published by the Times and the half floor for each predecessor agency can be backed up by long-time employees. However, enough time has passed that LACMTA truly is ONE agency without the old divisions. LACMTA has served us well with ONE agency dealing with all transportation from roads to transit.