May 3: This Date in Los Angeles Transportation History

1924:  Pacific Electric Railway Company holds a groundbreaking ceremony at First Street and Glendale Boulevard for Los Angeles’ first subway — a 5,025 foot tunnel from Glendale and Beverly Boulevards to 4th and Hill Streets downtown.

The tunnel is expected to shorten the trip by 10 to 15 minutes while eliminating 1,000 daily car movements from the congested downtown district at a cost of $3.5 million.The subway opens in 1925 and serves Pacific Electric until June 19, 1955.

Plans had been completed in record time less than three months earlier on February 11.

The contractor opened a space between Figueroa and Flower streets so the tunnel could be dug in each direction from the center.

135,000 cubic yards of dirt were excavated and dumped along the Glendale Line and as fill along the Los Angeles River as 650 men worked 24-hours a day, six days a week to complete the bore on April 16, 1925.

The first train entered the tunnel on November 29, 1925, with a ginger-ale christening for opening day the following day (This was during Prohibition).

More information can be found in the September 6, 1924 issue of Electric Railway Journal.

Numerous images of the Pacific Electric subway tunnel can be viewed here.

1939:  The Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, commonly referred to as “Union Station,” holds three days of festivities prior to its formal opening and dedication on May 7, 1939.

Between May 3 and May 5, more than 500,000 people attend a parade and ceremonies — an impressive number considering that Los Angeles’ 1940 population was 1,500,000.

A 6,000 seat ampitheatre was set up to stage “Romance Of The Rails,” an elaborate production depicting the history of Southern California and its development through transportation.

Hollywood luminaries gathered at the brand new terminal for the premiere of “Union Pacific.”  It included a special train launching a 10,000 mile trip across the U.S. to promote the new feature-length film.

In a city full of instantly recognizable architecture, it stands out as an iconic symbol of Los Angeles.

The fascinating story of the citywide fight for a Union Station is explained in full in this extensive Primary Resources blog post.

1974:  Southern California Rapid Transit District approves reduced monthly pass rates for students and senior citizens ad part of the Flat Fare program subsidized by Los Angeles County.

Blind residents of Los Angeles County may now ride SCRTD buses for free.