May 14: This Date in Los Angeles Transportation History

1904:  Sunset Boulevard opens to traffic, including Pacific Electric Railway streetcars.

The first automobiles on Sunset Boulevard, courtesy of California Historical Society via University of Southern California Libraries.

At the time, the Los Angeles Herald reported:

“Los Angeles and Hollywood united yesterday in celebration of the opening of Sunset boulevard and its adjacent systems. The splendid highway was inspected by nearly 2,000 Los Angeles people, who proceeded to Hollywood in vehicles of every sort, ranging in design from a high-geared automobile to a goat cart…Mayor M.P. Snyder of Los Angeles . . . [said:] “Hollywood . . . is now a place to delight the eyes of visitors and a place where the sunshine is brighter, the flowers fairer and the fruit better than in almost any other part in the state.”

More information and images can be found in the KCET story “How L.A. Celebrated Sunset Boulevard’s Opening in 1904,” where Nathan Masters notes:

“With motorists gliding down Sunset’s smooth roadway that day, Los Angeles couldn’t have missed the historical import of the moment: the city had just opened one of its first transportation corridors designed at least in part for the ascendant automobile.”

Automobiles on Glendale Boulevard (then Lake Shore Avenue), west of Sunset Boulevard, courtesy of California Historical Society via University of Southern California Libraries.

1958:  The Disneyland Television program titled “Magic Highway USA” airs, examining the past, present and future of transportation.

This little-known film demonstrated “futuristic” transportation concepts to Americans just being introduced to the Interstate Road System.

Indeed, the segment treating the future of American transportation intones that “Speed, safety and comfort will be the keynotes of tomorrow’s highway system.”

Among the features that future travellers were told to expect included multi-colored travel lanes, radiant heat to clear rain and snow, radar screen windshields for fog, giant road builders, atomic reactors for mountain tunneling and highway escalators.  The most fanciful futuristic concepts begin at 35:00.

Personal rapid transit to deliver different members of the family to their desired destinations: “On entering the city the family separates; father to his office, mother and son to the shopping center,” as the automated vehicle splits in two on the screen.

The film was written and produced by Ward Kimball, who was largely responsible for the program’s early Tomorrowland-themed episodes.

It was also a precursor for many of the ideas illustrated in a presentation that Walt Disney made in 1966 outlining plans for Disney World, and his vision for EPCOT in particular.

1974:  Mrs. Kay Conley is the three millionth rider on the Southern California Rapid Transit District system since the inauguration of the $0.25 flat fare on April 1.  SCRTD estimates that the program removes 31,000 fewer cars per day from streets and freeways, and saves more than 840,000 gallons of gasoline.

More information about the program can be found in the May 31, 1974 issue of Headway, the Southern California Rapid Transit District employee news magazine.