Friday, September 5, 2008

Transit Proposals ad nauseum

A 1982 Los Angeles Times article listed all the transit proposals the city had entertained since 1911, when civic leader Thomas E. Gibbon (left) said that for years he'd been urging the city to build a rail line from the harbor to downtown. (Gibbons put his money where his mouth was, btw. By profession a lawyer, he did build and operate several rail lines in 19th-century Los Angeles County, including one from San Pedro to LA.)

In the 71 years spanned by the article, a dozen major feasibility studies were completed on Los Angeles transit. The proposed routes, even from the earliest days, often mimic the current freeway system. But because these routes were for rail, no traffic jams were anticipated.

The article says the Big Red Cars were never very efficient because they took up so much street space, but by the 1920s they were causing more traffic that they eliminated. So in 1925 the city and county paid $40,000 for a survey about its transportation needs. That study proposed a subway and elevated rail system that would cost the city up to $215 million to start. It would cover four main lines:

  • A north-south line through downtown, from Manchester to Ave. 64
  • An east-west from Broadway downtown through Hollywood to the Westside, mostly using subways
  • A Valley route running from downtown to Topanga Canyon Blvd., sharing Union Pacific lines part of the way.
  • Another east-west branch connecting Whittier Blvd. with Beverly Hills

Like the ideas? Never got built, obviously, and we've revisited those same routes so many times (look up "Westside Subway" in this week's paper) that transit in LA has indeed become a broken record.

These pictures, btw, are from the Los Angeles Public Library online collection. The second is dated 1946, and shows the "yellow cars" on Broadway.

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