40 Years Ago Today: DASH Debuts As Mini-Bus In Downtown Los Angeles

Launch of the Mini-Bus, predecessor of today's DASH (Click to enlarge)

The Mini-Bus, the predecessor to Los Angeles’ downtown DASH system, was launched forty years ago today.
The Southern California Rapid Transit District‘s mini-bus rolled out for test runs on October 13, 1971, with public boardings beginning five days later.
The initial runs launched from Pershing Square and City Hall, drawing hundreds of curious Angelenos.

Mini-Bus Launch Press Conference, October 13,1971 (Click to enlarge and view caption)

SCRTD even employed “Mini-Maids” as goodwill ambassadors to hand out brochures about the service along with maps of the initial 6.9 mile route linking the Civic Center with Bunker Hill, Broadway, and 7th Street.

With initial fares at 10 cents and service running every four minutes, the Mini-Buses were an instant hit.

Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty and U.S. Congressman Edward R. Roybal, along with members of the Community Redevelopment Agency and Central City Association were on hand for the launch’s press conference.

Mini-Bus Route, October 1971 (Click to enlarge)

SCRTD President Dr. Norman Topping pointed out that the Mini-Bus service was urgently needed to improve circulation, reduce congestion, and to improve air quality — all while increasing retail sales in the area by improving mobility downtown.

The nineteen natural gas-powered buses were a completely new and innovative design for Los Angeles.

Twenty colorful, “vandal-proof” seats arranged around the perimeter of the cab (rather than front-facing rows) and the first four-wheel disc brakes on public transit vehicles in the area were particularly intriguing features.

New signs were installed along the route, each including the map of the bus route in the same orange-brown-and-white color scheme as the Mini-Buses.

Within 7 weeks of service, weekly boardings topped 22,000.

Mini-Bus Service at LAX (Click for more information)

The Mini-Buses were later used as circulators at LAX and served Chinatown and other areas beyond the initial downtown route.

Mini-Bus Service at Chinatown (Click for more information)

Today, the successor to the Mini-Bus is the Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s DASH service

Five lines run throughout the downtown area (every 5 to 15 minutes these days), supplemented by 27 additional routes  in outlying areas of the City of Los Angeles providing 7 million passenger trips per year.

Many more images of the 1971 Mini-Bus service can be found here.