Historical Map: Comprehensive Rapid Transit Plan for the City and County of Los Angeles, 1925

This is one of the earliest plans commissioned by the City and County of Los Angeles. The consultants — Kelker, De Leuw and Co. of Chicago — were asked to create a plan to accommodate a future city population of three million.

Metro’s own history archive has this to say about the project:

The plan shows a number of proposed immediate and future subways: one across Hollywood to La Brea Boulevard, another from downtown to 7th Street, up Vermont Avenue, and across Third Street. It initially would have run to Larchmont Boulevard as subway with a future extension on elevated rail to Third Street and down Wilshire Boulevard to Beverly Hills and the ocean in Santa Monica.  It also shows a subway from downtown across Pico Boulevard, initially to Rimpau Boulevard with a future extension to Venice Beach. 

Solid lines on both the regional map and the urban map represent mass rapid transit routes recommended for immediate construction to relieve downtown congestion. Dotted lines predict future extensions that will be necessary to serve population increases. The plan recommended for immediate construction of 153 miles of subway, elevated rail, and street railways at a projected cost of $133,385,000. Strong opposition by the business community to planned sections of elevated rail, as well as voter reluctance to tax themselves to benefit the privately held Pacific Electric Railway and Los Angeles Railway effectively shelved the plan.

The map itself is a superb example of cartography, complete with some lovely contour work on the mountains around the city and simply lovely hand-drawn typography — check out the loveliness of that “PACIFIC OCEAN” label.

The map does a lot with a limited colour palette, but it’s effective: existing rapid transit in black, proposed lines in red, and everything else in a pleasant (and visually recessive) gold. It’s worth noting that there aren’t any roads shown on this map, just the tracks of the two main streetcar companies, the Los Angeles Railway and the Pacific Electric Railway (see this contemporaneous map of that system).

Our rating: Gorgeous, and fun to compare against the actual existing Metrorail system. Four stars!

4 Stars!

Source: LA Metro archive library (lots of other fun planning maps there!)

Historical Map: Pacific Electric Strip Map

Submitted by Sam Huddy, who says:

This is a strip map of the Santa Monica Air Line that appears on several station platforms along the Expo Line in Los Angeles. As far as I know, this idea is original to the Metro era. As a work of art, the stops are unlabeled, and typical of the PE, it’s unclear what makes some stops “major” or “minor.”


Transit Maps says:

This is actually a lovely little homage from the LA Metro: acknowledging what came before them (the Expo Line utilises much of the Air Line’s original right of way) and giving it due credit. Love it!

Historical note: the Santa Monica Airline was a Pacific Electric streetcar service that ran from downtown LA to Santa Monica from 1909 to 1953.

(Source: Photographed by Sam)

  1. Camera: Nikon COOLPIX L24
  2. Aperture: f/5.5
  3. Exposure: 1/640th
  4. Focal Length: 6mm

Submission — Unofficial Historical Map: Los Angeles Pacific Electric Railway Diagram, 1917

Drawn and submitted by Sam Huddy, who says:

Pacific Electric: Challenge Accepted!


When I read your disappointment on the uselessness of that beautiful map of the Pacific Electric at its peak in 1917 (not 1920), I wondered if it was possible to create a simplified London Underground-style map. With over a hundred routes it seemed impossible, but after several attempts, this was my end result. Any further information is on the map itself.


Transit Maps says:

Basically, this is incredible. An absolute model of simplicity and clarity of information, and it’s all drawn by hand onto some graph paper!

Breaking the multitude of routes up simply by their final downtown destination — either 6th and Main or 4th and Hill — works very well, and the “local services” insets are perfect for a map of this colossal scale: local route information can be easily found by those who need it, but those routes don’t clog the main map up with tiny detail, either. Perhaps the location of the inset boxes could be called out on the main map to aid those unfamiliar with the area, but that’s a very minor quibble.

As an added bonus, Sam has even dated the original map more precisely than any other source that I’ve seen. “Circa 1920” is now definitively dated to 1917, because his research found that some of the shuttle lines shown on this map and the original were abandoned after then.

Our rating: I feel like I could take this sketch and turn it into final computer-generated artwork in less than a day, it’s that good. Astounding work! Four-and-a-half stars!

4.5 Stars!

(Source: Sam Huddy — Check the map out BIG on Flickr to see all the details!)

  1. Camera: Nikon COOLPIX L24
  2. Aperture: f/3.1
  3. Exposure: 1/100th
  4. Focal Length: 6mm

Historical Map: Los Angeles Pacific Electric Network, 1925

A beautifully rendered (just look at those lovingly drawn mountain ranges!) old-school map of the famous “Red Car” network at its absolute zenith.

It was pretty much all downhill after this: real estate sales from land that had been opened up by the network (the real money that allowed the rail service to continue to run despite operating losses) began to decline and many rural services were converted to cheaper buses around this date.

In the 1930s, plans for an extensive “Motorway System” around Los Angeles were drawn up. Originally, rail tracks were planned for the median of these new freeways, but were quietly dropped without much protest. The convenient age of the automobile had arrived, and — despite a short renaissance during World War II — the Pacific Electric faded slowly away and ceased passenger operations in the early 1960s.

Compare to this awesome relief map of the same network from 1920 (October 2011, 4.5 stars).

Our rating: Lovely early 20th Century cartography. 4 stars.

4 Stars!

(Source: metro.net)