Last updateWed, 25 Nov 2015 5pm

LOS ANGELES Friday, November 27th 2015 8:13

LA’s Red Cars

LA TRANSPORTATION BACK TO THE FUTURE - On Sunday morning men were always decked out in a white shirt and tie. They wore “stingy brims” or Stetson hats.  Women were adorned in flamboyant sun bonnets and flare dresses. Kids addressed them with “yes sir” and “yes ma’am”.  Air-conditioning consisted of throwing the window open. During the 6-day work week men always climbed onto the trolleys with a lunch pail and women always had a shopping basket.
This was the scene on any of the 24 streetcar lines and 1,250 trolleys that crisscrossed Southern California. Taking that trolley ride on the weekend was the highlight of the year for kids. You were able to get out of the neighborhood and see the world.

The lines included the Skid Row to Hollywood, Echo Park to Montecito Heights, Broadway to Pasadena, Crenshaw Boulevard to Leimert Park, the south Los Angeles lines down Main Street and Central Avenue, the Santa Monica Boulevard and Venice Boulevard lines. There was the Balloon Route from downtown through Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Redondo Beach and back to LA via Culver City.

The Red Car served a population of 2,000,000 people in 1950 and such nearby neighborhoods as Echo Park, Westlake, Hancock Park, Exposition Park, West Adams, the Crenshaw district, Vernon, Boyle Heights, and Lincoln Heights.

This fantastic system was purchased by railroad and real estate tycoon Henry Huntington in 1898 and started operation in 1901. The system was sold in 1945 to a company purchasing systems across the states.

The company, along with its investors included Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California, and General Motors were later convicted of conspiring to monopolize the sale of buses in what later became known as the Great American Streetcar Scandal. They took the system apart. The scandal was even fictionalized in a movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.

Now 60 years later we see the population of Southern California has grown to 22,000,000. We also see the return of the “Red Cars” under the guise of the Los Angeles Metro buses, the Metro Rail, Metrolink, and, for the very adventurous, the Amtrak system that ties all California and the nation together.

The Metro Rail grid will provide a leg to the sea and even wrap around the Los Angeles Airport terminals. The dream we had as kids of leaving the ‘hood’, hopping on the red car and seeing the world will be a reality.

It now travels underground in many places at speeds of over 70 miles an hour between stations. The leg going from the downtown to the San Fernando Valley does not bother going over or around the hills, it goes straight through them. The leg going from downtown to Long Beach gets you there in comfort in 35 minutes. The Metro Rail currently consists of six lines and 55 stations using 512 mile of track.

It connects with the Metrolink system which operates in Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and Ventura County. The Metro Rail and Metrolink systems connect with Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, Coast Starlight, Southwest Chief and Sunset Limited.  

The Metrolink system has comfortable dining cars. The Amtrak system has comfortable dining and sleeping cars.

The Metro Rail which has a daily weekday ridership of approximately 350,000
Each of its stations seems to compete with the others by showcasing beautiful mosaic and tile work, frescoes, and landscaping. Of course, the Hollywood and Vine station stands out – Hollywood at its best. The Metro Rail is an indirect descendent of the Pacific Electric Red Car and the Los Angeles Yellow Car lines.  

Union Station is the hub for the Metro Rail, the Metrolink, and Amtrak. The Metrolink cars are large, comfortable, clean, and scenic and they get you there in a hurry. The Amtrak cars are even larger.

Each of the stations in this grid is served by the Metro bus system which ties your front porch to the grid.

Such a renaissance has never been seen before in all human history. This will be the largest and greatest transportation grid in the world serving more people than ever imagined with both comfort and convenience.

It’s LA transpo back to the future.

(Kay Martin is a writer and a new contributor to CityWatch. His years of travel and work included tours in Russia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australia, Hawaii, Latin America, and the Pacific.  He can be contacted at –cw

Tags: transportation, Los Angeles, trolleys, Red Cars, Metro Rail, Amtrak

Vol 10 Issue 27
Pub: Apr 3, 2012