Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What Could Have Been: The Metro Library's Collection of Proposed Rapid Transit Routes

The Metro Library and Archive has posted a host of old maps detailing proposed -- and ultimately, failed -- Southern California rapid transit plans to its Scribd account. The maps are fascinating -- and to a degree, heartbreaking.

After all, had the money been raised and construction actually taken place, we would have had a subway or train to the sea decades ago -- and at the fraction of the cost it would take now.

Above, the 1968 Final Proposed Transit Master Plan Concept. According to the Metro Library, "The initial 62-mile, four corridor system that could expand to 300 miles was projected to cost $2.5 billion during its 8.5-year construction period." (Yes, 8.5 years -- which means it could have been completely done by the dawn of the Carter administration.)

Here, the 1974 Proposed Transit Master Plan Concept. "The initial 116 miles of mass rapid transit would eventually expand to a 250-mile system with 24 miles of dedicated busway lanes. The projected cost was $6.6 billion over a 12-year construction period." This could have been done by the mid-1980s.

Of course, opposition got in the way of these proposals -- and as a result, we're still debating the possibility in 2009 of a "subway to the sea" -- which wouldn't even be real until 2020 at the earliest.
And that's optimistic. As the L.A. Times today notes, it's unlikely Metro will be able to secure funds anytime soon for such a massive project:

(Mayor Antonio) Villaraigosa has been pushing to have the subway completed in 10 years, more than 15 years earlier than current estimates.

At his urging, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board agreed to submit the subway expansion, as well as a plan to build a light-rail link through downtown, as the county’s two projects to compete against a national pool of federal funding.

But the 14 members of Congress who signed a letter released today said those two programs don’t have a good shot at immediately getting federal funding. Further, they said that L.A. County risks not get anything from the federal New Starts program unless it adds other regional rail proposals, including an extension of the Gold Line in the San Gabriel Valley and a rail line down Crenshaw Boulevard in South L.A. and the South Bay.

For a quick but very informative primer on L.A.'s mass transit systems in the post-war era, check out the study "New Mass Transit Plans: Los Angeles 1951- Present," written by the Metro Research Center/Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library's Mattew Barrett, found here.

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