If you’re traveling through Union Station in the coming weeks, we have a great new exhibition in the Waiting Room titled The Yellow Car and Los Angeles.
The Yellow Cars were the Los Angeles region’s other major streetcar network and were run by the Los Angeles Railway Corporation, or LARy. Although the Red Cars that were run by Pacific Electric have received more love via pop culture, the Yellow Cars and the LARy’s motor buses heavily served the city of Los Angeles.
The K Line, for example, runs atop the old Yellow Car route along Crenshaw Boulevard and on Florence Avenue. And the LARy streetcars connected a six-mile radius of neighborhoods from downtown L.A. — going as far west as La Brea, south to Hawthorne and north to Eagle Rock.
LARy also ran buses — and many of those old routes are part of Metro’s bus network. “The Los Angeles Railway gave birth to the first bus lines for streets that never had rail. It is the great-grandparent of the transit system we have today!,” said Matt Barrett, Director of Library Services for Metro’s Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library.
“LARy’s urban bus system — LA Motor Coach — served streets without rail to make connections between streetcar lines,” Barrett added. “As streetcars were slowly removed between 1925 and 1963, bus service increased and grew outward in all directions along with the greater Los Angeles region.”
The new exhibition at Union Station features photos of streetcars and buses, design drawings of the old rail cars and buses, vintage transit maps, LARy signs and other LARy memorabilia. We’re sharing a few selections in this post to supplement the images featured in the exhibition.
Some basic streetcar history: construction of the streetcar network in Southern California had peaked by 1923 when Pacific Electric and LARy jointly formed LA’s first bus system, the Los Angeles Motor Coach Company. With the region rapidly growing, the transit companies wanted to create connections among their rail lines and expand service to streets that had no rail. The first bus line was on Western Avenue and is still running as Line 207 today.
For all sorts of reasons — mainly that cars were wildly popular and people could afford them — the streetcars in our region had all stopped running by 1963. It wouldn’t be until 1990 that rail transit once again ran in our region with the opening of the Blue Line (now the A Line) largely atop an old streetcar and freight corridor between downtown Los Angeles and downtown Long Beach.
To put it another and more blunt way: our region didn’t build much rail for much of the 20th Century. Even as our region mushroomed in size and sprawl, roads carried the day politically and it wasn’t until L.A. County voters approved the Prop A sales tax measure in 1980 that there was funding to start building the Blue Line and the Red/Purple Line subway (now the B/D Lines). Three more sales tax measures were approved by county voters in 1990, 2008 and 2016, respectively, finally supplying the billions of dollars needed to build a modern transit system.
LARy also produced colorful weekly passes which used period design to highlight local destinations and events… similar to Metro’s commemorative TAP cards.
Take a few minutes to stop by the exhibition next time you’re in the Union Station Waiting Room.
You can also view The Yellow Car and Los Angeles exhibition online here. Check out even more photographs of LARy, and historic Los Angeles, in Metro’s collection on Flickr.
About Metro Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library and Archive
Metro’s Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library and Archive is one of the most comprehensive transit operator-owned library resources in the United States. As the only multimodal transportation library in Southern California, the library serves employees, the public, governments and research institutions. Its origins date back to the days of our public transportation predecessors, the Los Angeles Consolidated Electric Railway (1895) and Pacific Electric Railway (1899).
Click here for more information about the Metro Transportation Library and Archive. Follow the Library on Flickr and Instagram.
About Metro Art
Metro Art enhances the customer experience with innovative, award-winning visual and performing arts programming that encourages ridership and connects people, sites and neighborhoods throughout LA County. A diverse range of site-specific artworks are integrated into the growing Metro system, improving the quality of transit environments and creating a sense of place.
Click here for more information about the Metro Art program. Follow Metro Art on Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe for email updates.
The trolly that has least got attention is the line that went down Huntington Dr in El Sereno. For some reason I believe this trolly was contemporary with the flight rail system in Altadena which took people from the valley up to the snow in a matter of minutes. The right-away for the Huntington Dr trolly is still there and has been landscaped for many years. Recently large sections have been fenced off because of the homeless problem. I did hear from an old timer that there was a line that went from downtown over the bridge and down into Whittier Blvd but he could not remember exactly if it was a trolly or bus similar to the yellow. he said it was green, I believe.
Look! I could take a streetcar from downtown Los Angeles to Los Angeles Municipal Airport. OK, it is a bit of a walk, but it could be done.
Where is the library? I would love to work there, I never see job openings for the library on metro careers. What is the size of staff there? Is an MLS required?
M smith, etc, the MTA Library is on the 14th Floor (?) of the Patsouras Plaza Building, by the east side of Union Station…it’s known by some of the local transit advocates as “The Taj”. It’s a regular stop for me on trips to L.A. You have to get a visitor pass at the lobby to go there, and I think it’s only open to visitors on Mondays and Thursdays.
Hi Michael —
15th floor to be exact! 🙂
Editor, The Source
I look forward to checking this out. Here’s a map of Southern California with PE, LARy, and other historic rail lines overlaid on a map of modern communities.
It’s kind of heartbreaking to see how good passenger rail coverage used to be (although a network of dedicated bus-only lanes would make a bus lover out of most rail fans).