50 Years Ago This Week: The Launch Of Freeway Flyer Service


Years before the El Monte Busway became the first dedicated freeway lanes for buses and decades before the Metro Silver Line began running, the Freeway Flyer service was created in response to increasing traffic congestion.

The exodus of Los Angeles’ downtown workforce to the suburbs caused increased congestion and slower drive times for everyone. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority created a pilot project in 1959 for a freeway bus system from the West San Fernando Valley to downtown.

On May 7, 1960, the Freeway Flyer Service was expanded to include the following areas (and pick-up / drop-off points):

West San Fernando Valley (Ventura Blvd. at Balboa Blvd. & Laurel Canyon Blvd.)
Central San Fernando Valley (Van Nuys Blvd. at Victory Blvd.)
Hollywood (Sunset Blvd. at Laurel Canyon Blvd.)
Soutside (Broadway at 116th St.)
San Gabriel Valley (West Covina)
Centinela Valley (LaBrea at Arbor Vitae)
Harbor Area (San Pedro)

Advertisements in local newspapers touted “fast new service melts miles and minutes off the map” and “Here’s how to live closer to your job without moving.” The newest buses of the day, the “Dreamliner/60,” promised “the most comfortable ride you’ve ever had” with “handsome, relaxing, decorator-designed interiors.”

While commuters were now offered luxurious transit options into downtown, planners had their sights set on something far more comprehensive: the monorail-based mass transit proposal of 1960 envisioned a 74.9 mile system (51 miles of overhead routes, 21.6 miles at grade, 2.3 miles in tunnel) that could eventually expand to a 150-mile, eight-corridor system.

By 1962, the monorail plan was scrapped and gave way to early subway plans, but freeway service continues to this day, via Metro’s Express Service to/from Downtown Los Angeles and the LADOT Commuter Express.