Return of the Red Car To Atwater Village

redcar.jpg City Councilman Eric Garcetti shares the news of a new Friends of Atwater Village mural commemorating the venerable Pacific Electric Red Cars going up on one of the pylons across the L.A. River that used to support the railway’s bridge across the waterway. The artwork currently in progress is visible from the recently dedicated Red Car River Park located adjacent to the Hyperion Bridge in Atwater Village.

Photo by Luis Lopez. View a larger version on Eric Garcetti’s Flickr photostream.

8 Replies to “Return of the Red Car To Atwater Village”

  1. I actually just did an article on the old red cars in comparison to the new metro system. *sigh* I wish we still had those red cars. You could get anywhere in LA using those. For a nickel no less! My goodness, how times have changed

  2. We actually do have red cars in Los Angeles again. There are two cars in Pedro that go from nowhere to nowhere along the waterfront, mocking both San Pedro’s total behind-the-timesness as well as the lack of real, sophisticated mass transit between the Harbor Area and downtown.

    Be careful what you wish for. I don’t want to see any more tax dollars get spent on “novelty” mass transit projects in this city, we need real mass transit (that runs all night, dammit).

  3. A great many Red Car riders in the twenties and thirties hated the Red Cars: they complained that they were too slow, uncomfortable, dirty and ill-maintained, seriously overcrowded, and only went to destinations designed to enrich real estate developers.

    The 5-cent fare didn’t come anywhere near covering operating expenses; but the public resisted fare increases because they felt the service already provided was inadequate and unacceptable.

    They hated the ‘traction trusts’, much the way some of today’s computer users hate Microsoft – as monopolistic suppliers of inadequate, overpriced, low-quality systems that constantly irritated and inconvenienced users.

    The faux-nostalgia that modern Angelenos have for a transit system that most of them never actually experienced might be surprising to anyone familiar with the actual history of the Red Cars, were it not for the fact that faux-nostalgic longing for an idealized past that never really existed is such a pervasively common human tendency.

  4. Those interested in the social history of Los Angeles transit and transportation should check out some scholarly histories, like Scott Bottles’ Los Angeles and the Automobile: The Making of the Modern City, (University of California Press, 1987) or Robert M. Fogelson’s The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles, 1850-1930 (University of California Press, 1993) -especially the chapters “Transportation, Water, and Real Estate” and “The Failure of the Electric Railways”.

  5. Online articles that may be of interest include USC professor George W. Hilton’s essay What Did We Give Up With the Big Red Cars?, which examines the idea that the Red Cars could have formed the core of a modern transit system; historian Martha Bianco’s Kennedy, 60 Minutes, and Roger Rabbit: Understanding Conspiracy-Theory Explanations of The Decline of Urban Mass Transit, which looks at the supposed General Motors conspiracy to destroy trolleys; and columnist Cliff Slater’s article General Motors and the Demise of the Streetcar [pdf], first published in Transportation Quarterly.

    Like much of LA’s history, it’s more complicated than it looks on the surface, and most of the things that ‘everybody knows’ are either legend, myth, or deliberate fiction – endlessly repeated but seldom verified.

  6. (Apparently the “questionable content” filter doesn’t like the link to prof. Hilton’s essay, so interested readers will have to resort to Google.)

  7. [Sorry for the multiple posts. That all started as a single comment, but I chopped it up to try to determine what the ‘questionable content’ might be.]

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