Because of its complexity and length this article is organized into two parts. Part I, which appeared in the previous issue of the Quarterly, traced attempts to improve rapid rail transit in Los Angeles from 1895 to 1925.
This concluding installment traces the political, civic, and taxpayer response to the 1925 comprehensive regional rapid transit plan. The plan was eclipsed by a seemingly unrelated controversy about a union station for the steam railroads. Meanwhile, though frustrated in its plan for a crosstown subway, the rapid transit provider, the Pacific Electric Railway (PE), was not passive: it worked cooperatively with other public-sector and private-sector agencies to create viaducts that separated its trains from busy intersections, bought new rolling stock, and installed safety measures.
The emerging multi-destinational, automobile-oriented city of the 1930s and 1940s led planners to include rail rapid transit in freeway medians, but the politically powerful State Division of Highways opposed it, as did various civic and commercial organizations and the Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC). Sectional differences in how residents perceived their interests divided city council and state legislature support. PE’s management, now discouraged, gradually abandoned and finally sold its passenger service. Part II concludes with an examination of the PE’s financial condition in the 1920s in refutation of the often-made claim that the PE’s high debt and unprofitable financial account sheets precluded it from making capital investments.