November 30: This Date in Los Angeles Transportation History

1925:  A grand opening ceremony is held for Los Angeles’ first subway, the Pacific Electric subway tunnel between Beverly & Glendale Boulevards and the Subway Terminal Building at 4th and Hill Streets.  The ceremonies featured an 1800s era horse-drawn car loaded with officials and guests making the trip through the subway.

Responding to traffic congestion on Los Angeles’ clogged streets, the California Railroad Commission issued Order No. 9928 in 1922, calling for Pacific Electric to construct a subway allowing passengers to bypass downtown’s congested streets altogether.

Groundbreaking took place May 3, 1924 and the 1.1-mile, $1.25 million tunnel officially began operations at 5:00 a.m. on December 1, 1925.

A luncheon provided by the Chamber of Commerce at the Biltmore Hotel concluded with the operation of the first train immediately afterward.

The dignitaries present included H.W. Brundige, president of the State Railroad Commission.

A November 22, 1925 Los Angeles Times article lists the following facts about the tunnel:  it is 28 feet wide and 21 feet high; it is 30 feet underground at the downtown end, but 60 feet in some places; its bore is lined with steel-reinforced concrete, 2-4 feet thick.

Although considered a great success, anticipated additional subway lines were never built.

The subway tunnel closed on June 19, 1955 after nearly 30 years of service.

PE subway tunnel

Pacific Electric subway tunnel at track level, circa 1950 (Click for more information)

The Subway Terminal Building served as an office building for many years.

It was renovated as a luxury apartment building in 2007 and designated as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument as well as garnering a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

The tunnel remained intact until 1967 when the section from Flower Street to just west of Figueroa Street was filled in.

The opening ceremony for the tunnel is covered extensively in the December 10, 1925 issue of Pacific Electric Magazine.


1988:  A model of Los Angeles County’s new light rail cars is delivered to the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission.

LACTC model rail car

Unveiling the new streetcar on 7th Street (Click for more information)

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, Southern California Rapid Transit District Board President Gordana Swanson, and officials from the Commission unwrap an early Christmas present as Santa Claus steps out of it.

The unveiling takes places at the corner of 8th & Flower Streets, near the construction site for the future 7th/Metro station where Metro Blue Line riders will be able to transfer to the impending Metro Red Line heavy rail subway line.

At the ceremony, Mayor Bradley remarks:

“It will, as you can see, provide the kind of safe, beautiful comfortable car that will move swiftly through the streets of Los Angeles and out to Long Beach and then reverse, brining people in the other direction.”