Metro Transportation Library and Archive: History of Transit in Los Angeles

Los Angeles County has been served by public transit since 1873. During this time, at least 220 private and public companies have operated transit systems that have included horse cars, cable cars, incline railways, steam trains, electric streetcars, interurban cars, trolley buses, and gas or diesel powered buses.

The Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library and Archive at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA or Metro), 1890 to the present, is the largest transit operator research collection in the US. It is a partner of the National Transportation Library, a member of OCLC the world's largest library network, a member of the Western Transportation Knowledge Network, a member of the Getty/USC LAasSubject archives forum, and an affiliate of the National Academies Transportation Research Board. We are a strong advocate of using social media tools to connect communities and research. For more information, visit [Metro Library]( or email us [](

1873-07-03 00:00:00

Main Street Railroad Company

David B. Waldron was authorized by the Los Angeles City Council on July 3, 1873 to "lay down and maintain two iron railroad tracks, theron propelled by horses or mules, and to carry passengers thereon..." With this charter, he formed the Main Street Railroad Company. Waldron was not strongly motivated to pursue this venture and the enterprise did not become a reality.

1874-07-01 00:00:00

Spring and West 6th Street Railroad

In 1874 the Spring and 6th Street franchise was issued to Judge Robert M. Widney (also one of the founders of the University of Southern California). The company served the downtown Los Angeles area from Main Street to Spring Street, to First Street, to Fort Street (now Broadway), then to Fourth Street, Hill Street, and finally Pearl Street (now Figueroa Street). This single track horse car driven line began public transit in Los Angeles.

1875-07-01 00:00:00

Main Street & Agricultural Railroad

The Main Street and Agricultural Railroad was the first suburban line in Los Angeles. This company was chartered in November 1874 and began operation in 1875 from Old River Southern Pacific on North Spring Street. The line operated through the city on Main Street to Washington Boulevard and extended to Agricultural Park (now Exposition Park), traveling by way of Washington, Figueroa, and Wesleyan (now University Avenue).

1876-03-01 00:00:00

East Los Angeles & San Pedro Railway Company

Also founded by Robert Widney, this line was incorporated on May 1, 1875 but did not begin construction until March 1876. It ran north from Fourth Street and was intended to lay track to the new Southern Pacific depot. It reached only to College Street and North Broadway. Due to low patronage, the railway company folded after just four years.

1877-02-01 00:00:00

Los Angeles & Aliso Street Railroad Company

The Los Angeles and Aliso Street Railroad Company was franchised in June, 1875 and regular service began in February, 1877. Baseball fever increased ridership and a second line, the East First Street Line, was built. It became a cable railway in 1899.

1883-07-01 00:00:00

City Railroad Company

This line was chartered in 1883 and became the first line dedicated "exclusively to public transit." Other lines under development were primarily focused on promoting real estate. This horse car driven system ran from the Southern Pacific Depot south and west to a terminal at Washington Boulevard and Figueroa Street.

1883-07-01 00:00:00

The Central Railroad Company

Also chartered circa 1883, the Central Railroad Company was developed to consolidate with the Los Angeles & Aliso Railroad and eventually merged with the City Railroad on May 1, 1886.

1885-03-01 00:00:00

Second Street Cable Railroad Company

Founded in March 1885, the Second Street Cable Railroad Company was a single track system opening from Spring Street to Texas (Belmont Avenue).

1885-07-01 00:00:00

Los Angeles & Vernon Railroad

This company operated a horse car line on Central Avenue from Fifth Street to Vernon Avenue. It was purchased by the Los Angeles Consolidated Electric Railway in May, 1891.

1886-07-04 00:00:00

Temple Street Cable Railway Company

This line opened on July 4, 1886. In 1888 it was extended to Dayton Heights. It carried more passengers than any of the other lines.

1887-01-04 00:00:00

Los Angeles Electric Railway Company

Charles H. Howland chartered this company on September 11, 1886. It began operations on January 4, 1887 with the line opening from Pico Boulevard and Main Street traveling west to Harvard Boulevard. In 1896, many of the major horse and cable cars operating in Los Angeles converted to electrical power.

1887-07-01 00:00:00

Los Angeles Cable Railway

Incorporated in 1887, Los Angeles Cable Railway was the largest transit venture in the city, operating from Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles out to Westlake Park and Grand Avenue. It was the last city line to convert to electrification. It was renamed the Pacific Railway Company in 1889 and was later sold to Henry E. Huntington.

1887-07-30 00:00:00

Main & Fifth Street Railroad

As the name suggests, the Main & Fifth Street Railroad (which began service on July 30, 1887) ran from First and Main Streets to Fifth Street and Central Avenue. It was electrified by the Los Angeles Railway Company in 1897.

1890-07-01 00:00:00

Los Angeles Consolidated Electric Railway

The Los Angeles Consolidated Electric Railway was originally chartered in 1890 in Phoenix, Arizona by Moses Sherman. It grew as Sherman negotiated to acquire additional lines. He acquired the Los Angeles Electric Railway Company and was competing with James Crank of Pacific Railway for transit turf. He acquired Pacific Railway in 1893 but lost it to yet another company.

1895-07-01 00:00:00

Los Angeles Railway (Yellow Cars)

Los Angeles Railway (1895-1945), also known as the Yellow Cars of Los Angeles, was the local streetcar transit system running down the center of city streets and connecting the city center to neighborhoods in about a six-mile radius of downtown.

1901-12-30 00:00:00

Angels Flight® Railway

This little inclined cable railway was built in 1901 by Col. J.W. Eddy to give Bunker Hill residents a public access up the steep slope from Third and Hill Streets to Third and Olive Streets.

1911-08-24 00:00:00

Pacific Electric Railway Company (Red Cars): The Great Merger

Henry E. Huntington completed his first line in 1902 which ran from Los Angeles to Long Beach. He later sold his shares to Southern Pacific. Various dates are cited but it is generally accepted that on August 24, 1911 (Source: Ride the Big Red Cars), the “Great Merger” took place when eight separate

1928-03-03 00:00:00

Culver CityBus

Culver CityBus is the second oldest municipally-owned bus line in the State of California. Following a dispute with Pacific Electric Railway, the City of Culver City, led by then-Mayor Reve Houck, applied to the State Railroad Commission for permission to provide service from Culver City to Venice Beach. On March 3, 1928, service was implemented and since its establishment, passengers on Culver CityBus have enjoyed safe, reliable, convenient, and friendly public transportation service.

1928-04-14 00:00:00

Santa Monica Bus Lines

In 1921, as the population of Santa Monica doubled, business boomed and the jitney drivers incorporated as Bay Cities Transit Company, and they were soon operating buses throughout the city. In 1928, the City of Santa Monica launched its own bus line and over 16,000 passengers rode the new buses the first week. They chose a blue color scheme for their buses and called their service Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines.

1931-07-01 00:00:00

Montebello Bus Lines

Montebello Bus Lines is a municipal bus system operated by the city of Montebello, California and mainly serving the areas of Montebello, East Los Angeles, and Commerce. MBL operates seven local routes (as well as the Montebello LINK reserved bus service) within its service area. The agency also operates three express routes connecting the cities of Montebello and Whittier with downtown Los Angeles. MBL's fleet consists of 35-foot and 40-foot TMC RTSs from the late 1980s and early 1990s.

1939-07-01 00:00:00

Companies subsumed by Pacific Electric or Los Angeles Railway

Various independent bus companies sprung up with intentions of competing with the existing system. Most were purchased or subsumed by Pacific Electric or Los Angeles Railway.

1940-01-15 00:00:00

Gardena Municipal Bus Lines (GMBL)

The Gardena Municipal Bus Lines (GMBL) is a department within the City that operates as an enterprise fund. The Department has a fleet of 33 diesel buses, 53 hybrid buses and 10 demand response vehicles. GMBL works with neighboring cities and the County of Los Angeles in a joint effort to develop

1940-07-01 00:00:00

City of Torrance Transit

Torrance Transit is a transit agency serving mainly the South Bay region of Los Angeles County. In 2010 Torrance Transit began replacing its entire fleet with new buses which marked the start of a rebranding from the agency.

1945-07-01 00:00:00

Los Angeles Transit Lines

The controlling interest in the Los Angeles Railway was purchased from the Huntington estate by the National City Lines which was run by the five Fitzgerald Brothers. They renamed it the Los Angeles Transit Lines and at the end of World War II, they sought to substitute buses on most of the street car lines.

1951-07-01 00:00:00

Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (LAMTA) was first formed as a transit planning agency by the State of California in 1951. It was empowered to formulate plans and policy for a publicly owned and operated mass rapid transit system that would replace the crumbling infrastructure

1953-07-01 00:00:00

Metropolitan Coach Lines

Pacific Electric sold its passenger rail cars and buses in October, 1953 to Jesse Haugh who organized the Metropolitan Coach Lines bus company. Service began June 19, 1955. Haugh purchased a $30 million dollar property value for only $500,000 cash with the promise that he would improve bus service and abandon the rail portions. Metropolitan Coach Lines bought Asbury Rapid Transit on August 3, 1954.

1962-01-21 00:00:00

City of Commerce Transportation

The City’s transit system consists of five bus routes that run Monday through Friday within the Commerce city limits. There are three routes that run on Saturdays, and two routes are in operation on Sundays. Of the Sunday routes, one stops at the Commerce Shopping Center on Whittier / Goodrich boulevards and the other route stops at churches located throughout the City. All transportation services are free of charge.

1963-07-01 00:00:00

Long Beach Transit (originally owned by National City Lines)

Long Beach Transit was formed in 1963; in 2001 the AquaBus, Long Beach Transit's first high speed water taxi was introduced and continues to operate today.

1964-08-22 00:00:00

Southern California Rapid Transit District

State legislation enable the creation of the SCRTD on August 22, 1964 to serve the Southern California region, including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. This Agency superseded the LAMTA and was mandated to improve bus systems and design and build a transit system for Los Angeles. Bus improvements were recognized in the development of the El Monte Busway in 1974 and its Mini bus service in the Central Business District. The SCRTD was successful in securing federal funding for a backbone rapid transit system: the Metro Rail subway project. The SCRTD, like its predecessor, also acquired local suburban bus companies. They included: Pasadena City Lines (Pasadena local lines - 1940-67) Inglewood City Lines (Inglewood local lines - 1942-67) Blue & White Bus Company (South L.A. local lines - 1967-1971) Eastern City Transit (East L.A. local lines - 1949-1971) San Pedro Motor Bus Association - (1961-1973) Highland Transit (San Pedro - 1938-1972) San Pedro Transit Lines (Harbor City-San Pedro - 1961-1973) Western Greyhound Lines (Long Beach-Santa Monica Lines - 1923-1974) Ontario-Upland Bus Lines - (1928-1973) Pomona Valley Municipal Transit System - (1966-1972)

1967-01-01 00:00:00

Blue and White Bus Company

The Blue and White Bus Company operated in South Los Angeles and was based in Watts. This was an African American owned company and acquired by SCRTD in 1971.

1973-07-01 00:00:00

LA Mirada Transit

La Mirada Transit offers three types of service: immediate scheduling is for riders ready to be picked up; advance scheduling for riders who want to reserve a trip ahead of time; subscription service for passengers who need to ride on a regularly scheduled basis.

1974-08-01 00:00:00

Norwalk Transit System (NTS)

Norwalk Transit System (NTS) has been operating fixed-route and paratransit service in Los Angeles County since 1974. Our fixed route operation serves an area, which includes the City of Norwalk and portions of Artesia, Bellflower, Cerritos, La Mirada, La Habra, Whittier and Unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

1976-07-01 00:00:00

Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (LACTC)

In 1976, the California state legislature enacted Assembly Bill #1246 which created the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (LACTC) to oversee public transit (bus and rail, shuttles, dial-a-ride, paratransit) and highway policy in the nation's largest county.

1985-10-28 00:00:00

Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT)

The Department of Traffic Engineering was created in 1949 to address post-World War II traffic growth on a more professional and programmatic basis. In June 1953, a change in the City Charter created the Department of Traffic.

1988-12-19 00:00:00

Foothill Transit

Foothill Transit, a joint powers authority of 22 member cities in the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, was created in 1988 after the former Southern California Rapid Transit District (RTD) announced service cuts and fare increases that would negatively impact the San Gabriel Valley. In an effort to provide better public transportation options for the community while reducing costs and improving local control, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (LACTC) approved Foothill Transit's application to assume operation of 14 lines which were operated by the RTD.

1992-10-26 00:00:00


Metrolink began operations on October 26, 1992 through funding in part from the LACTC. The rail right-of-way was purchased from the Southern Pacific Railroad as part of a $345 million acquisition price for the entire system. It operates under the auspices of the Southern California Regional Rail Authority and presently carries an average of 24,000 daily passengers, on six routes, over 416 miles of track, and serves 45 train stations throughout six counties.

1993-01-01 00:00:00

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency ("Metro" : 1993 - present)

The California State Legislature created the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) in April, 1993 via a merger of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission and the Southern California Rapid Transit District. "Transit" was expanded to "Transportation" as the agency combined both county-wide roles of the two predecessor agencies. The LACMTA is responsible for operating the clean air CNG-powered Metro bus fleet, Rapid Bus lines, and Metro's Blue Line, Red Line, Green Line, and Gold Line. In addition to our operating function, we plan, fund and construct multimodal transportation solutions throughout Los Angeles County.

1994-07-01 00:00:00

Access Services, Inc.

This service is designed exclusively for passengers requiring specialized transportation vehicles and services mandated by the American with Disabilities Act. Originally managed by the LACMTA, the Department was restructured as a non-profit, independent agency under the name Access Services in 1994.

Metro Transportation Library and Archive: History of Transit in Los Angeles

Copy this timeline Login to copy this timeline 3d Game mode

Contact us

We'd love to hear from you. Please send questions or feedback to the below email addresses.

Before contacting us, you may wish to visit our FAQs page which has lots of useful info on Tiki-Toki.

We can be contacted by email at:

You can also follow us on twitter at

If you are having any problems with Tiki-Toki, please contact us as at:


Edit this timeline

Enter your name and the secret word given to you by the timeline's owner.

3-40 true Name must be at least three characters
3-40 true You need a secret word to edit this timeline

Checking details

Please check details and try again