January 4: This Date in Los Angeles Transportation History

1887:  The first electric streetcar appears in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Electric Railway Company, ca. 1887 (Click for more information)

The Los Angeles Electric Railway Company’s streetcar route began on Los Angeles Street at the Plaza, heading south to 3rd Street, east to San Julian Street to 7th Street, west on Seventh Street to Maple Avenue, to Pico Boulevard westward to Lorde Street (now Harvard Boulevard).

This was the first streetcar line to use electricity as propulsion power west of the Rocky Mountains.

Los Angeles Railway streetcar at 1st and Evergreen Streets, Boyle Heights, ca. 1897 (Click for more information)

Numerous images of early electric streetcars in 1890’s Los Angeles can be found here.



1890:  Los Angeles Railway Company is formed.

Los Angeles Railway yard at Wilde & Central Ave., later known as Division 1). (Click for more information)

The City of Los Angeles grants the company a 50-year franchise and its seven main lines begin operating on October 14, 1890.

The company’s headquarters building provides the first transportation library in Los Angeles: a 2,100 square foot reading room supplied with books, newspapers and periodicals.



1922:  The Los Angeles City Council adopts a preliminary report from the Traffic Commission later released as The Los Angeles Plan: A Selected Traffic Program.

The report, one of the earliest traffic studies and mitigation proposals for the city, notes that automobile registrations in the City of Los Angeles nearly tripled between 1919 and 1922.  Additionally, the population between 1900 and 1920 had grown so much that Los Angeles moved from 35th most populated city in the United States up to 11th.

The report recommends,

“as a logical order of procedure to insure the realization of the Los Angeles Plan the following program”:

First, proceed immediately to the appointment of a representative committee for the selection of a specific program from the projects outlined in the Los Angeles Plan.

Second, Embark at once on an intensive campaign to acquaint the city as a whole with the picture of the Greater Los Angeles given by the Los Angeles Plan.

Third, On selection of a program, let the Los Angeles Traffic Commission resolve itself into a militant group pledged to employ every legitimate means to the carrying out of whatever bond issue may be necessary to cover the city’s cost in the program, selected.

The report concludes with the dire warning that putting off adopting the plan “until the congested district dies of strangulation means that a new district will spring up elsewhere, leaving depreciation of property value, and disaster in its wake.”

More information can be found in the full-text report of The Los Angeles Plan: A Selected Traffic Program compiled by the Los Angeles Traffic Commission released in December, 1922.