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<nettime> The Scar of Progress, Los Angeles
Alan Sondheim on Thu, 11 Aug 2005 10:48:55 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> The Scar of Progress, Los Angeles

The Scar of Progress, Los Angeles

Or: the origin of sprawl and the Iraq War.

The Red Cars, an electric railway system, characterized Los Angeles early on. It
was later dismantled. The system led to LA's rapid/rabid expansion. There was
money to be made by busline replacement, even though buses have to compete with
traffic, are noisy, polluting, slow, and dangerous, and run few and far between.

I lived years ago at the corner of Spaulding and Fountain in L.A.-West Hollywood.
The ghosts of the Red Car line were everywhere. I noticed a diagonal swath cut
across Hollywood/West Hollywood - a scar of past public transportation. WorldWind
brought this to the foreground; you can see the results below. This was a
passenger-only line. The land was immediately reclaimed by developers, etc., and
the corridor has disappeared.

Electric railways were extremely common in the United States, say from the 10s
through the 40s. (The Red Cars ran from 1901-1961.) Even my home town of
Wilkes-Barre had one connecting it with Scranton. The automobile wiped them out,
as did corruption and short-sighted politicians (are there any other kind?). The
result is the oil crisis and the mess in this gluttonous country that consumes
something like 25% of the world's resources. (See the Wikipedia article below.)


Additional: http://www.asondheim.org/tustinblimphangers4.mpg

Pacific Electric Railway (from Wikipedia):

The Pacific Electric Railway (AAR reporting mark PE), also known as the Red Car
system, was a mass transit system in Southern California using streetcars, light
rail and buses. At its greatest extent, the system connected cities in Los Angeles
and Orange Counties, and the Inland Empire.

The system was divided into three districts:

     * Northern District: Pasadena, San Gabriel Valley, San Bernardino.
     * Southern District: Long Beach, Newport, San Pedro, Santa Ana.
     * Western District: Hollywood, Burbank/Glendale, San Fernando Valley,
Santa Monica.

The Pacific Electric Railway was established by Henry Huntington in 1901. Henry's
uncle, Collis Huntington, was one of the founders of the Southern Pacific railroad
and had bequeathed Henry a huge fortune upon his death. Only a few years after the
company's formation, most of Pacific Electric's stock was purchased by the
Southern Pacific Railroad, which Henry Huntington had tried and failed to gain
control of a decade earlier. In 1911, Southern Pacific bought out Huntington
completely and also purchased several other passenger railway operators in the Los
Angeles area, including the Los Angeles Pacific, resulting in the "Great Merger"
of 1911. At this point the Pacific Electric became the largest operator of
interurban electric railway passenger service in the world, with over 1,000 miles
of track. Henry Huntington then purchased the company which provided local
streetcar service in central Los Angeles and nearby communities, the Los Angeles
Railway (LARy). These were known as the "Yellow Cars," and actually carried more
passengers than the PE's "Red Cars."

Pacific Electric passenger service was sold off in 1953 to a company known as
Metropolitan Coach Lines, whose intention was to convert all rail service to bus
service as quickly as possible. Many of the Pacific Electric passenger lines were
shut down in 1954, but the California state government would not allow the most
popular lines to be discontinued. In 1958, Metropolitan Coach Lines relinquished
control of the remaining rail lines to a government agency, the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority, which also took over the remaining streetcar lines of
the successor of the Los Angeles Railway, the Los Angeles Transit Lines. Only a
handful of electric train lines remained operating at that time and the
conventional wisdom held that their days were numbered. The last passenger line of
the Pacific Electric, the line from Los Angeles to Long Beach, continued until
April 9, 1961. With the closure of the Long Beach line, the final link in the
system as well as the PE's first line some sixty years prior, was eliminated. The
PE's freight service was continued by the Southern Pacific Railroad and operated
under the Pacific Electric name through 1964. The few remaining former Los Angeles
Railway streetcar lines were removed in 1963.

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