Los Angeles had an extensive network of street and interurban rail
cars, commonly known as the Yellow and Red Cars with over 1100 track
miles. By 1959, the Los Angeles to Long Beach route was the only
Red Car line in operation, and the Red Cars ended its faithful Los
Angeles service on Sunday, April 8, 1961. The right-of-way continued
to be used for heavy freight service, a primary link between Long
Beach / Los Angeles Harbor and the rest of the nation until the
Alameda Corridor opened April 2002. Today only a few freight trains
use this route.
The final hammer however fell March 31, 1963 for the remaining
Yellow Cars lines; Los Angeles was then without any local rail service.
The auto and bus finally WON!
Over the next couple of decades, voters voted down various rail
projects. One vote that almost passed, lost by a very small margin
took place a month after a long Los Angeles transit strike ended.
Most bus passengers then were those without other means of transportation.
Those that relied exclusively on public transportation were the
ones losing their jobs on account of slow, unreliable, constant
change in schedule and routes, lack of night and owl service and
discontinuance of routes. Bus service continued to deteriorate while
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn spearheaded a drive to
have reliable rail service return to Los Angeles. As the traffic
increased and the gridlock worsens, the voters finally approved
funding to improve rail and other modes of transportation in Los
Angeles. Hahn's dream is slowly starting to become a reality.
Groundbreaking occurred October 1987 for the Blue Line with service
beginning July 14, 1990, passenger rail service between Los Angeles
and Long Beach resumed again. The new 22-mile Blue Line mostly travels
the same route as the Red Cars did. Today the $877 million 22 passenger
stations Blue Line is the second heaviest used Lightrail line in
The line was built with safety in mind, from having every grade
crossing being traffic controlled by traffic signals or flashing
lights and arms. Each traffic signal also has a special light for
train control and left turn movements to prevent traffic from turning
left in front of an oncoming train. Safety education programs were
presented in local schools, news appears in the newspapers, on radio
and television. Transit police were hired to patrol the line. Close
circuit cameras were installed at each station. This was going to
be the safest lightrail line in the nation.
This was not to be. Motorist and pedestrians refused to obey the
law. This resulted in many injuries and fatalities. The Blue Line
has the distinction of have the most fatalities since it opened
in 1990. The Blue Line was the proving ground that many lightrail
systems enjoy today. Some changes were installed on the transit
vehicle itself, most notably is the third light on top of the train
and having the other two lights alternately flash when approaching.
Train Approaching signals place next to the left turn light that
flashes as a train is approaching to alert motorist of approaching
trains. The installation of Red Light Cameras, quad crossing gates,
pedestrian crossing gates and more patrol has lowered the collision
Studies conducted attributed the left turn problem with quiet running
trains that motorist could not hear. Much of the crossing problems
were motorist going around the down crossing arms and failure to
obey the traffic signals. They have gotten in the habit with all
the long and slow freight trains that was slow in arriving at the
intersection and some trains even blocked the intersection for ¼
hour or more. The lightrail trains travel a lot faster than the
freight trains, up to 55 miles an hour, arrive at the intersection
in seconds when seen, and only blocks the intersection for 30 seconds.
Opponents of lightrail like to use the Blue Line statistics since
it started operations as their justification that lightrail is unsafe,
not the fact that the injured party broke the law. If we examine
the last few years of operations, the collision rate of the Blue
Line would not stand out as being above the national average for
Although newspapers and opponents of light rail like to use raw
numbers, fortunately, the standard measurement is "fatalities
per 100,000 miles of travel" that helps level the playing field,
but there are many other factors involved that cannot be measured
or put on a graph.
When the Blue Line was built, it was to go to Los Angeles Union
Station and continue north to Pasadena, but funds stopped the line
at 7th and Flower station, where a transfer to the Red Line is required
to continue north. The Mid-City / Exposition Light Rail will share
the Pico and 7th and Flower stations. The Gold Line is under construction
to Atlantic / Pomona in East Los Angeles and being developed to
Montclair. To provide for one seat service, a Metro Center Connector
is required. LACMTA staff is aware of this problem, higher priority
items are required, but this is on MTA
Fixed Guideway - Highest Priority - 2003 Staff Report map.