Days of Yore: Electric Street Cars Once Coursed Down WeHo’s Now Jammed Streets

Wed, Feb 26, 2014   By Staff    9 Comments
Pacific Electric Car No. 5000 in West Hollywood, looking north. c. late 1940s. (Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Library and Archives)

Pacific Electric Car No. 5000 in West Hollywood, looking north. c. late 1940s. (Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Library and Archives)

Traffic congestion is a never-ending subject of discussion in West Hollywood. Consider the debate at last week’s City Council meeting about whether to test a program to ease congestion at various intersections. It’s a subject that’s likely to always be on the civic agenda, given that some of WeHo’s 45 miles of roadway serve as major arteries for out-of-town commuters, that West Hollywood functions as a sort of gateway between the LA’s west side and eastern neighborhoods and that we live in a car culture.

But there was a time, believe it or not, when the long-gone Pacific Electric ferried passengers on electric street cars through West Hollywood, and when our oft-jammed streets were urban deserts for much of the day. Many of us were actually alive then, although most of us were too young to have been allowed to wander down those streets alone. In 1961, Pacific Electric converted its last streetcar line into one for buses.

On the pages that follow, WEHOville has posted some photos from the Metropolitan Transportation Library and Archives documenting the development of the transportation infrastructure in West Hollywood.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

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9 Comments

  1. SaveWehoWed, Feb 26, 2014 at 10:44 am

    We act like this was so long ago and it wasn’t. The tracks were only pulled out in 1998. If the City of West Hollywood had any foresight they should have refurbished the tracks and created a wonderful transportation system from one end of Weho to the next. And now with the planned LA Subway system bypassing Weho altogether…I think we should take it upon ourselves to bring this back. A real trolly track along Santa Monica Blvd from La Brea to Doheny. The space is there (the green center median). It would be far better use of money than traffic cops at intersections, expensive robot parking garages, the wasteful $40k it took to paint rainbow sidewalks. Use our money properly. Plus you add jobs for conductors and rail maintenance and give residents a way to move about Weho without cars.

  2. mattymattWed, Feb 26, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Having a dedicated right-of-way for transit on Santa Monica would certainly be lovely, but a rapid bus line (like the Orange Line) would probably be a better investment than a trolley. Though I adore rail, it’s insanely expensive compared to buses.

  3. Randy MatthewsWed, Feb 26, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Sorry, SaveWeho, but I don’t think the space is there. There isn’t a median all the way down SMB.

  4. luca dWed, Feb 26, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    mass transit carries people down santa monica boulevard everyday, quite efficiently and on time. buses.
    they are not glamorous, and neither were the electric cars way back when.
    i’m waiting for the city of weho to pass their own ‘no fracking’ laws, while they push for the wise move of a subway under the streets all the way to the sea. in earthquake country, it seems like a perfectly safe idea, I guess. what could go wrong?
    when your frame of reference is the grove’s trolley, or the disneyland express, rail travel seems so cool, clean and romantic. it’s not.

    however, I like when wehoville pulls out these old photographs, appreciate the history and grateful for the beautiful city west hollywood has become. thanks.

  5. MikeThu, Feb 27, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    @saveweho.. I believe that the tracks on the median were pulled out in the mid-80’s after West Hollywood became a city. Up until then it was a wide dirt median. Another point: If the pace of development continues at its current pace then traffic is going to get even worse.

  6. Rob BergsteinThu, Feb 27, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Across from my house, all the buildings are built at right angles as the tracks used to run through there–the wine store on Fountain was the ticket stop with employee housing in back. The story I’m told is that Regina Kaufman, a survivor of the Warsau ghetto, saw the house that I now live in, back in in the early 60’s, for sale for $15,000.00 She called the owner & said it was to much money as it was to noisy with the trains across the street. She knew the Red Line was soon to stop running–he didn’t. Regina, aka “Reggie” got the house for $10,000.00 and lived here, raising her two sons as a single mother, until her death in 2007. History note–she was one of the owners of what was last Irv’s Burgers….

  7. Kim PaulsenSun, Mar 02, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    This would have fix the problem of auto congestion. The Pacific Electric Railway was taken out the sell autos, tires, oil and alike. Now we have congestion. WAST MAKES MONEY, EFFICIENCY DOES NOT. The Pacific Electric built Los Angeles County. The politicians are nothing but puppets to the powers that be!

  8. MikeThu, Mar 06, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    @ Kim, The demise of the rail system due to the auto industry is a bit of a stretch. By the 1950’s with increasing development of the SF Valley and points east, west & south, the rail system became increasingly too expensive to maintain. Yes, cars were cheap but so was housing in the valley. The rail system’s owners just gave up and did not maintain the rails and cars.

  9. Bjorn PaleniusSat, Sep 13, 2014 at 12:04 am

    The line through Hollywood and West Hollywood stopped running in 1954 not 1955. The last PE Line was to Long Beach and it quit in 1961. Streetcars REALLY do have more charm than buses!

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