Rapid Transit Proposals
Attempts to create a rapid transit system in Los Angeles County began back in the days of the Red Car, believe it or not.
In 1925, a "Comprehensive Rapid Transit Plan for the City and County of Los Angeles" was released to aid the officials of the City in formulating a "comprehensive elevated railway and subway plan" as required by the provisions of the then-new City Charter, as well as for reference by the Board of Supervisors "in providing for the transportation needs of one of the largest counties in the United States." The plan included 153 miles of subway, elevated railways and light rail:
(My apologies for the need to scroll left and right to look at this, but further reduction in size to make the display width fit the screen without scrolling would result in an unreadable map.)
The plan had a projected cost of $133,385,000. Strong opposition by the business community to planned sections of elevated rail, and voter reluctance to tax themselves for the benefit the privately held Pacific Electric Railway and Los Angeles Railway effectively shelved the plan.
In 1945, the City of Los Angeles envisioned subway tunnels in downtown, rail in widened future freeways (red lines on map) and bus rapid transit lines (green lines on map):
Even the lesser estimated cost of $68,000,000 did not find favor with voters because freeway construction was rapidly expanding, dissatisfaction with overcrowding, slow speeds and old equipment on the existing Pacific Electric Railway and Los Angeles Railway systems.
And then there was the monorail. Proposed in 1954 by the first MTA, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority -- and apparently still considered by some to be a reasonable mode more than a half-century later -- it was featured in the July 1954 issue of Fortune magazine in an article entitled "Anyone for Monorail?" which explained both the engineering and local politics of the time. The proposed Monorail Route was to run from Long Beach to Panorama City, a 45 mile-long route with a projected construction cost of $165 million:
Although this was never built either -- although a 1960 monorail-based system designed to expand into a 150 mile, eight corridor system came closest (if only they hadn't proposed an elevated monorail on Wilshire, which upset the corridor stakeholders) -- LAMTA later became the main transit operator in Southern California by purchasing the successors to Pacific Electric Railway (Metropolitan Coach Lines) and Los Angeles Railway (Los Angeles Transit Lines) in 1958. This marked a turning point in mass transit for Los Angeles, as the public gained operating control over what had always been in the hands of private companies.
There was also the 1961 "New Proposed Backbone Route" plan, scaled down and revised for elevated rail from El Monte to Downtown Los Angeles and subway from there to Century City: 12 of its almost 23 miles total were to be subway along Wilshire (with stations designed for use as fallout shelters!):
This one got as far as public groundbreaking ceremonies in Downtown Los Angeles and Beverly Hills in 1962, even though no capital funding was available for the projected $192 million cost.
Once LAMTA was replaced by SCRTD the following year, the plans came more often, and eventually gained public support.
Information on the 1924 and 1945 plans (as well as the original 1963 RTD proposal) are available at the Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Research Library website at Metro. We thank them for providing the maps on this page.