The “Original Downtown Regional Connector?”: The 1954 Underground Bus Network Maps

Click on the map to open it, and again to enlarge it.

We wanted to follow up on yesterday’s post about the proposed underground express bus network from the 1954 Supplemental Study Of Mass Transportation: Express Busses In Subways.

The study is accompanied by maps for the proposed subterranean bus network, which we have reproduced here with a few provisos.

First, they are not oriented in the way we are normally used to viewing maps. Rather than having north at the top of the page, the view is toward the southwest. Due north is at the lower right where one can locate the Four-Level Interchange and Chinatown below (north) of it.

Also, in order to provide the “big picture,” the maps are reproduced here by piecing together three different pages from the original report. The original maps were published at slightly different scales, so the streets do not quite line up properly in the unified map.

The plan called for entrance to Downtown from the north, south, east and west.

From the north, buses would enter and exit the “Hollywood Parkway” at Hill Street and Spring Streets and travel underground starting at Temple into the Central Business District.

From the south, buses would approach and depart the planned “Olympic Parkway” at Hill Street and Main Street and travel underground starting at Pico Boulevard into the city’s core.

From the west, express buses would connect to the “Harbor Parkway” at Olympic Boulevard and 7th Street and travel underground starting at Figueroa Street into the business district.

From the east, buses would enter and exit the center of downtown via 7th Street and an elevated roadway near 6th and San Pedro Streets.

Other features can be seen in these maps. The proposed “Riverside Parkway” was proposed for Elysian Park where Dodger Stadium now stands, and the “Industrial Parkway” was suggested for the eastside of downtown. It would balance out the Harbor Freeway on the west, and was supposed to run through the current-day Warehouse District and Arts District into the area just east of Union Station where Metro’s Gateway Headquarters now stands.

While many transit plans from the past were never realized, it is worth noting that this study proposed integration of existing and new transit projects. The Hollywood Freeway and Harbor Freeway were already in existence, and planners anticipated freeways to the east and south of downtown with a futuristic underground bus network tying it all together to make it function as one system.

The “Riverside Parkway” and “Industrial Parkway” were never constructed. The “Olympic Parkway” is now known as the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) running south of downtown to the ocean, and the Four-Level Interchange, the first “stack interchange” in the world, had just fully opened the year before in 1953.

It gives one pause to consider that plans for the current Downtown Regional Connector Transit Corridor also incorporate a new transit project to make existing ones function in a more integrated fashion. It “will enable all Los Angeles County rail and bus transit, as well as all intercity transit service, to operate more efficiently and attract higher ridership, thus reducing roadway congestion, improving regional air quality and reducing the region’s carbon footprint.”

While no one in 1954 was concerned with carbon footprints, the vexing problem of moving people in and out of central Los Angeles as smoothly as possible and connecting existing regional transit to new downtown projects was a primary concern more than half a century ago.