Zocalo Public Square event Monday: are trains the future of L.A.?

Our friends at Zocalo Public Square have been all over transportation issues this year. That trend continues Monday night at Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles (317 S. Broadway). Here’s the description from Zocalo:

For a century, the hearts of Angelenos have belonged to cars and to flying machines, not trains–even though we never would have become a city without the railroad, and couldn’t survive as a global trade center without the rail links to our seaports. But today, in a potentially historic shift, Southern California governments are betting billions that trains can win us over. Five rail lines are under construction right now in L.A., part of a 30-year wave of projects that could give Southern California the most highly developed rail system in the country, save New York. But will we go along for the ride? Only a small percentage of us use the Metro rail regularly, and California’s high-speed rail project is unpopular in L.A. Will we change our ways and depend on trains daily–and embrace development around rail networks? What is it about rail that captures people’s hearts–and why has L.A. remained immune to this almost universally beloved mode of transport? Journalist and Chapman University English scholar Tom Zoellner, author of Train, and UCLA and UC Berkeley legal, business, and environmental scholar Ethan Elkind, author of Railtown, visit Zócalo to discuss the past and future of trains here, and whether Los Angeles will finally fall for rail.


Sounds intriguing. BTW, I’ll be recording a podcast with Ethan Elkind that we’ll have on the Source soon talking about transit past, present and future in our region.

More info on registering to attend the event at the Zocalo website. Grand Central Market is a short walk from the Red/Purple Line’s Pershing Square Station and numerous Metro Bus lines, as shown on the map below. All Metro maps and timetables are here.

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

11 replies

  1. Los Angeles embraces rail transportation once again. Many are sorry we once abandoned it in the mad rush to have an automobile for every person in the household. Our infrastructure is now bursting at the seams. Freeways and surface streets at a snail’s pace. Underground water mains bursting everywhere because our over-taxed citizens can’t and won’t pay any more. Mini-malls everywhere, many barely breaking even. A set of 4 tires costing nearly a thousand bucks out the door. Gasoline that once cost 50 cents a gallon now over $3.00. Air pollution nearly every day. What have we done to ourselves and our great city??

    • One thing for sure, don’t blame the Millennials who were thurst upon the LA of today. We didn’t shape LA as it exist today. We were born in the 1980s and 1990s, LA was already like this the moment we came out of our mother’s womb.

      • Millennials may not have shaped the LA as it is today but they are just as guilty of allowing the status quo to continue. You can’t cop your way out of this mess when you benefit from the hard work from the pervious generation who developed the transportation network that you use right now and when nothing has been done by this generation to bring about real change. It sounds like to me you’re just passing the buck to the pervious generation and saying it’s not my fault. It’s easy to sit back and blame somebody else then to find solutions or actively work for change.

        You can have the LA as it is today and keep blaming somebody else.

  2. Mr Kerry is correct. And there are DVDs on our Pacific Electric System which document what once was one of the best transport systems anywhere! DOWNTOWN Los Angeles was where almost everybody shopped, and getting there by streetcars was easy. We had great department stores and a host of movie theatres in Downtown. Our L A had a CENTER then!

    Rentals for houses and apartments always mentioned if they were near a car line.

    We got from South Pasadena to Balboa by Red Car rail service. You could get places without a car!

    • And they were run for profit as a private enterprise without any government assistance or tax dollars spent.

      • They were run by real estate money. I believe they very rarely turned an operating profit, but only existed as ways to increase the value of Henry Huntington’s land until he sold it. When he no longer had real estate profits, the rail became unprofitable and got taken out piece by piece.

      • Not that I want to inject myself into the topic of the demise of PE and LARY, and whether this was at the hand of National City Lines fronting for General Motors, Standard Oil and other pro-auto interests…but there are some very scholarly and well researched books on the topic that have been published over the years. The subject is controversial with more than one opinion on the subject. There is hardly unanimity.

        Some good and well researched material on the subject is “The Fragmented Metropolis” by Robert M. Fogelson, “Los Angeles and the Automobile” by Scott L. Bottles, and “Henry Huntington and the creation of Southern California” by William B. Friedricks,
        i’m sure there are others.

        Henry Huntington did make a fortune running a business triad of real estate, trolleycars and (less well known) electric power generation and distribution. Proof of this is the Henry Huntington Library and Art Museum in San Marino. Where do you think he got the money to buy a huge and expensive collection of rare books and art and build the facilities to house them in?

      • Of course, those were the times before LA was this densely populated with renters everywhere, highly restrictive land-use laws, and way before technology existed to the point where they can do a more profitable distance based fare structure easily too.

        If Henry Huntington were alive today, he’d be making huge profits just on rental income on the property he owns as well as making profits on running transit on cheaply rated distance based fares. Just like Asian cities are doing.

  3. Mmm, our hearts did not belong to cars until after WWII. Before then we were a rail city and a rail region.