PE 950s at Olympic-San Vicente-Fairfax: A traffic nightmare today

This interesting photo taken around 1936 shows a two-car train of Pacific Electric 950s heading to Santa Monica via Beverly Hills. The small wooden-bodied LARY bus heading east on Olympic Boulevard will make a connection with the LARY  L line at Mullen Avenue.

This line ran on an angle from Vineyard Junction to La Cienega Boulevard, then turned northwest along Burton Way until reaching Beverly Hills Station. From there, it was an arrow straight shot along Santa Monica Boulevard  to Santa Monica. The Westgate line diverged from Santa Monica Boulevard just west of Sepulveda Boulevard.

Both lines suffered  intense competition from bus lines on  all sides. Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines, Bay Cities Transit, LA Motor Coach and LARY’s legendary P line all siphoned passengers from this line all along the way.

The PE finally pulled the poles down on July 7, 1940. A lone daily round trip franchise car struggled on until November 18, 1940.  After passenger service was abandoned, rails along the Westgate line were pulled up, and rails on Santa Monica Boulevard west of  Sepulveda Boulevard were quickly paved over.

However , rails east of Sepulveda Boulevard  remained in service for one reason or another. Rails along Santa Monica Boulevard east of Sepulveda Boulevard remained in service well into the 1980s for freight service.

Passenger service from Vineyard to Genesee Avenue continued until September of 1950. Rails along San Vicente Boulevard west of Genesee remained intact for cars pulling into and out of West Hollywood Car House and Yard  via the Sherman cut-off, until early 1951.

The last major use of these rails took place when all 50 1100-class cars that had been stored at West Hollywood operated under their own power in five-car trains. These trains operated via the cut off, San Vicente, to Vineyard, then west to Culver Junction along the abandoned Venice Short Line. At Culver Junction, the five-car trains changed ends, then headed east along the Santa Monica Air Line to AMOCO Junction, From there, the five-car trains changed ends once again and headed to the LA Harbor via the San Pedro Line.

Today, the three-way intersection of Olympic-San Vicente-Fairfax has turned into traffic nightmare. Morning and evening rush hour auto traffic passing this point has become intolerable. Try as they might, Los Angeles city traffic officials have yet to figure out a way to move auto traffic smoothly through this three-way intersection.  If just one of the traffic lights goes out of sync, then all hell breaks lose. I live in the area and avoid this intersection like the plague. It’s the ghost of Pacific Electric past.

Ralph Cantos Collection

A bird’s-eye view of this horrible three-way intersection. A lone 950 heads west just about to cross Olympic Boulevard. When rails were first built, Olympic, Fairfax and San Vicente were little more than dusty wagon trails. Who alive at that time would ever believe that today automobile traffic is so bad at this three-way intersection, it’s a wonder there has not been a road rage shooting here, but that may yet happen some day.

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  • Charles Sheen

    Since they want to have a northern route for the new K line, why not just use this ROW? I’m sure the NIMBY’s in Carthay might not like it down San Vincente, but in all honesty it can go up towards Cedars, then head East down Santa Monica through some of West Hollywood. Just make it a branch and not a through service. I went to Carthay Elementary and grew up near Pico and Fairfax. Back in about 95-96 they we’re in talks about using an unused PE ROW that kinda made a diagonal north of the old Sears/Vineyard but more near the Brookside/Wilshire area, could that be used?

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