Transit Agency Cooperation In Mid-Century L.A. (Or Lack Thereof)…

How do we increase the appeal of public transit ridership in Los Angeles? Recent Los Angeles Times columns (here, here, and here) suggest that streamlining transfers and passes within and across agencies could go a long way to make transit more accommodating, flexible and desirable.

Last week, LACMTA’s Board of Directors met to discuss related topics: having Metro develop a daily and weekly EZ Pass, develop a regional trip planner, and look into distance and time-based fares.

This issue is not new despite the long history of myriad agencies that have operated in the Los Angeles area over the last many years. We wanted to take a look back at the Transportation In The Los Angeles Area final report from 1957.

This unique document was the result of a citizens advisory panel. The Citizens Traffic And Transportation Committee For The Extended Los Angeles Area authored the report, and its Executive Committee roster lists no fewer than 54 names.

The Committee made several recommendations regarding surface streets, freeways, parking and terminal facilities, and mass transit service.

They found that:

Within a 20 mile radius of downtown Los Angeles, 31 separate carriers provide mass transit service through 178 carrier connections and 1400 points of interchange.

Ten basic rate structures apply, ranging from 10 to 20 cents; and 21 carriers provide for zone increments ranging from 3 to 10 cents per zone.

Joint fares with transfer privileges are in limited effect, involving only 11 of the transit companies. Except for one carrier which maintains joint fare agreements with three other carriers each of the agreements is between two or three of these eleven companies.

Only 11 of 31 transit carriers within a 20-mile radius of downtown cooperated on fares and transfers. No wonder the freeways looked so appealing for traveling long distances! They were new, moved quickly, and as people moved farther from work, public transit looked more complicated if one needed to use more than one transit provider.

Meanwhile, the report touted the benefits of freeways, even explaining that “Smaller communities, especially, have not recognized the need for or desirability of a freeway passing through their jurisdictions and have not planned their streets accordingly.

Because the master plan was not completed all at once (and in fact, never completed as outlined in this report), the report attributed congestion to people traveling out of their way to use the completed sections. It concludes that “it is essential that adequate financing be found to permit the expeditious completion of the freeway system.

Our freeway system as built is sometimes not a faster route than traveling via surface streets. We will never know if the network of freeways as envisioned in 1957 would necessarily move people more quickly today, but we will take a closer look at that proposal in our next post.

The covers of the report have been reproduced here. Note the inclusion of just about every type of transportation in these photo montages (click each image twice to enlarge).

Emphasis is placed on cars, freeways and buses, with freeway interchanges featured prominently. While Los Angeles’ streetcars were still operating in 1957, they are noticeably omitted.