2,000,000 Views And Still Going Strong: Sharing Our Transportation Legacy With Rarely Seen Photographs

Los Angeles Transit Lines on Market Street, Inglewood, May 7, 1955 (Click to enlarge)

The Metro Transportation Library & Archive reached another milestone over the weekend, surpassing more than 2,000,000 views of our Flickr photo-sharing website.

This achievement comes less than 9 months since hitting the 1.5 million mark, and just 17 months after our “first million.”

Since its inception in October, 2008, our online collection of historic and contemporary images has been met with incredible enthusiasm.

Collecting, preserving, and providing access to our transit and transportation legacy serves numerous purposes — including ways in which we didn’t even realize when we launched our Flickr site four years ago.

Transit enthusiasts and history buffs are eager to see as much as possible from days gone by as well as photo documentation of recent events.

Great Cable Incline car, Echo Mountain, June 1922 (Click to enlarge)

We have organized our image collections around our contemporary and predecessor agencies and their activities, allowing users to easily find resources chronologically or through general subject browsing.

Publishers and scholarly researchers have discovered and repurposed our images to help tell the story of both transit in Los Angeles and transportation in general.

The History Channel, the American Planning Association, The Los Angeles Times, KCET, USC School of Architecture, Parsons Brinckerhoff and numerous publishers, bloggers and institutions of higher learning have featured our content which was found online.

The J. Paul Getty Museum and Los Angeles’ Architecture & Design Museum are both launching major exhibitions next year featuring our resources discovered in part through our online Flickr collection.

Our robust Flickr site prompted an invitation for us to become a global launch partner with Historypin, a photo-sharing site which features “augmented reality” through “then and now” mapping, promotes crowdsourced information about the images, and fosters intergenerational communication in telling stories across time.

Our Historypin site allows users to view our historic images in conjunction with those from other collections — sort of like a photo album mash-up plotted on a map — providing geographic and chronological context not easily available elsewhere.

Proposed aerial alignment for Metro Rail Red Line along Hawthorn Avenue, Hollywood. Rendering, July 1982 (Click to enlarge)

Of course, closer to home, our employees, contractors and consultants make use of our digital photo collection on a regular basis.  We provide countless photographs (as well as maps, illustrations and other visual resources) for reports and studies throughout the agency.

But wider use of our images is not the only benefit of our Flickr collection.

Producing and promoting digital content helps preserve the original images while allowing for 24/7 “anytime, anywhere” use.

This actually helps drive down costs to the agency by reducing requests for information via telephone, email, in-person and through public records requests.

This weekend’s achievement offers us another opportunity to highlight recent additions to our growing digital collection which includes more than 8,000 photographs and other images.

Opening Day for the Cahuenga Pass Freeway, June 15, 1940 (Note Pacific Electric tracks in center median. Click to enlarge)

While many of the newer online photographs added to this collection are from contemporary events (the Expo Line and Orange Line extension openings, for example), others are not necessarily taken most recently.

We continue to discover historic photographs in our Archive as we work to properly house Los Angeles’ rich transit and transportation legacy.

We have recently discovered numerous images documenting the Mount Lowe Railway (1893-1938), once one of Southern California’s most popular tourist destinations.

Perhaps best of all, you don’t even need to know we have an extensive Flickr collection to discover these wonderful photographs.  When you google “Mount Lowe Railway,” these images immediately come up at the top of the search results — further magnifying the “viral” nature of sharing resources online.

Los Angeles studied “personal rapid transit” options such as this People Mover proposal in 1971 (Click to enlarge)

Other notable recent additions include proposals for a downtown Los Angeles People Mover in 1971, wonderful “new” photos from Alan Weeks documenting the Los Angeles Transit Lines streetcars of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50’s (many in color!), never-before-seen Metro Rail subway tunneling photos, and intriguing renderings of proposed Metro Rail stations from the 1980s and ’90s (some of which were never built).

In the grand scheme of things, eight thousand images is but a fraction of our Library collection and accompanying Archive collection.

But as early adopters of social media and resource sharing, we knew early on that these photographs consisted of high-interest content that would be repurposed and go viral.

We had not anticipated — but are completely delighted by — the enthusiasm with which they have been embraced and consumed around town and around the globe to further our mission in providing context for Los Angeles County’s ambitious mobility agenda.

Two million views, and counting.  And we’re nowhere near done yet.