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.
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).
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.