Death of Public Transportation in L Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1768 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Transportation

Death of Public Transportation in L.A

The Pacific Electric Railway was at its apogee the biggest trolley system in the world, as it served fifty-six cities and an approximate of eight million individuals per year. Most people find it bewildering that it came to an end shortly after it seemed to be the most advanced urban travel structure, especially given that the San Francisco trolley system survived to this day, even with the fact that it is located in the same state. One of the main reasons for which the Red Car Los Angeles Trolley system died was the emergence of freeways, which presented individuals with a cheaper and more efficient method of transportation.

The initial interurban tracks of the Pacific Electric connected the center of Los Angeles to Pasadena and were inaugurated in 1895, emphasizing the fact that tramways were the future of transportation. It became obvious that the line would be owned by private investors, since city authorities did not dispose of the funds to sustain it. With Henry Huntington in charge or the Pacific Electric Railway Company, lines were rapidly built, connecting some of the most important points in and around Los Angeles. The Company developed into one of the most successful companies in the U.S., becoming essential for the numerous individuals that had to travel across the territory.

Huntington seized the opportunity of constructing a complex trolley system meant to compensate for the lack of efficient public transportation in Los Angeles. He considered the fact that people were flowing into the territory and realized that this trend could be exploited. While most of his contemporary investors were interested in creating residential sites, operating water companies, and building minor trolley services, Huntington dreamed about replacing the damaged roads in and around Los Angeles with trolley traces. Huntington's job was much easier than it had been for investors in San Francisco, considering that there were little to no natural barriers to stand in the way of his trolley system. Although he was also interested in freight transportation, his main focus was passenger transportation. The large red cars of the Pacific Electric Railway Company came to be a hallmark of Los Angeles, as the city's inhabitants identified with them. Although they were mainly seen as a mean of traveling from point A to point B, people enjoyed riding them, using them for virtually every reason possible, ranging from going on picnics to simply riding them and enjoying the view (Lavender 1987, 347). Local industries have also benefited from the railway system, considering that they could use it to transport products (Zierer 1934, 70).

To a certain extent, the San Fernando community's growth is believed to have been influence by Huntington's track lines. People in the territory were particularly dependent on railway systems at the time (Zierer 1934, 8). A great deal of towns from the 1910s and 1920s benefited from railroads neighboring them and some had actually developed in the immediate vicinity or railway systems, seizing the opportunity of exploiting the industry (Gerlach 1940, 225). The Pacific Electric Railway Company actually served numerous companies in Los Angeles, with some of them even building their warehouses near the railways (Zierer 1934, 23).

Huntington was an intelligent entrepreneur and in spite of the fact that he was aware that he would either lose money or make little to no profits through rapidly expanding the trolley system, he nonetheless went to great efforts to spread his lines everywhere. He did this with the purpose of discovering which areas were the most attractive to the people riding his trolleys, with the intention of investing in landed property in these particular areas (Lavender 1987, 347).

It is only natural for the construction of freeways to have affected the trolley system, considering that some of them intersected it and were thus required to rearrange it. Freeways had a negative influence of trolley transportation even before they were constructed. "Perhaps Los Angeles may have encountered these effects somewhat earlier than other cities, but it is otherwise not atypical" (St. Clair 1986, 107).

It actually appears that the Pacific Electric Railway Company was interested in having its line system assimilated by the freeway construction, so as for the two to function together without impending each-other. There were some isolate cases in which the Company's representatives refused to cooperate with freeway companies, but it was obvious that their only option had been that of collaboration. The end of the war marked the decline of trolleys in favor of freeways. "It was agreed to study the abandonment of eight rail lines and the curtailment of passenger service on six other passenger/freight lines. The stated reason for this position was the anticipation of the construction of 23 different freeway projects in the area, which were scheduled to begin immediately after the war"(St. Clair 1986, 107). In spite of the fact that freeway construction was funded with money coming from the state and from the federal government, none of these institutions seemed willing to assist the Pacific Electric Railway Company's in moving its lines so as for them to guarantee that roads will be built with no impediments. This was in all probability the motivation for which the business removed more than a few of its lines, given the gargantuan expenditure implicated in relocating these lines. Moreover, the people in charge of building freeways claimed that streetcars stood as a serious obstruction for the well-being of traffic, as they were presumably reducing traffic efficiency by fifty percent (St. Clair 1986, 107).

Even if it had not been until the end of the Second World War that the Pacific Electric Railway Company come to be threatened by motorized vehicles, the business had actually started to experience problems in organization in the early 1920s. People were inclined to favor auto travel because of the benefits they thought they would get from exploiting the industry (Boarnet, and Crane 2001, 122).

In spite of the fact that authorities recognized buses as being equivalent to trolleys when considering the potential of traffic congestion put across by each means of transport, trolleys were slowly but surely removed from most areas in and around Los Angeles. One of the only reasons for which buses seemed to be the better option regarding public transportation was that they did not impede in any way with freeways. Authorities obviously chose the lesser evil (if it can be referred to as "evil") from the two. The masses were previously motivating in choosing trolley transportation in favor of transportation by motorized vehicles because roads were impractical and were thus a less efficient method of getting from point A to point B. However, as the motorized vehicles industry advanced in technology and as freeways presented people with a solution to the unusable roads that previously existed in Los Angeles, it became clear that buses were better than trolleys (St. Clair 1986, 109).

People in the 1950s and even today blame oil and automobile corporations for the fact that the Pacific Electric Railway Company had lost its influence in Los Angeles (Evolution of Transportation and Urban Form in North America and Europe). Although this is to a certain degree reasonable, it is very probable that the company had also been defeated by motorized vehicles because of decisions made by political leaders from the time. These people decided that motorized transportation was more efficient both because it was cheap and because it assisted traffic. "Most major political actors viewed freeways as supporting economic development in their communities, while rail was perceived as supporting growth only in the downtown" (Boarnet, and Crane 2001, 122). This influenced them in choosing what they thought was the best solution for their own jurisdictions, regardless of the consequences this act would have on other provinces.

The Los Angeles fight between cable cars and motorized vehicles ended terribly for the former, as it was virtually removed from the city. In contrast, San Franciscan cable cars were considered to be part of the city, in spite of the fact that the industry was not as advanced as that in Los Angeles. This is probably one of the reasons for which the Red Cars never generated large profits, as they were never designed to do so. Huntington concentrated on real estate and the trolley system had been a mere stratagem meant to assist him in developing his businesses (Jackson 1985, 345). Huntington's plan concerning the relationship between railways and real estate materialized in the fact that some of the most excellent residences in communities such as the one in San Fernando were built next to the railway (Zierer 1934, 10).

The San Franciscan cable car industry was also supported by tourists, as "in 1979 an estimated 90% of the twelve million annual riders on the San Francisco cable cars were tourists" (Jackson 1985, 345). Another reason for which cable cars were more successful in San Francisco than they were in Los Angeles might be the fact that the former's geography contains numerous slopes that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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