PE’s Venice Short Line: A future rapid transit prospect… SCUTTLED !
By Ralph Cantos
This first photo, looking north-east taken around 1949 shows a 2-car, eastbound morning rush hour train of venerable 950s crossing La Cienega and Venice Boulevards on the magnificent concert and steel bridge spanning the busy intersection. This important intersection had a tendency to flood during heavy rain storms, disrupting rail operations along the busy VSL. After all, La Cienega is Spanish for “The Swamp.” The magnificent structure was completed about 1925 giving VSL trains a safe, dry passage over the intersection, the Swamp be damned.
A little more then 3 years later, this beautiful structure stands proud, but abandoned. The replacement bus service left to struggle in ever-increasing auto traffic along Venice Boulevard. By 1948 the PE was faced with falling ridership on the VSL. If the PE wanted to continue rail service, an major expenditure of almost 4 million dollars was needed to modernize and rebuild the line. About 40 new PCCs would be needed. Also needed, a complete rebuild of track, overhead, signaling and substations. Then too, the plans for the future Santa Monica Freeway had been finalized. Knowing the devastation the Arroyo Seco Parkway had done to PE’s Pasadena Short Line passenger loadings, parent company Southern Pacific was not about to make a major financial investment into a sinking ship. Replacement bus service could be implemented at a cost of about 2 million dollars. And so, on September 17, 1950, the VSL, with its future rapid transit potential, passed into history.
In another photo taken in mid-1953 looking east towards Downtown LA, the magnificent Venice-La Cienega bridge stands stripped bare of rail, catenary overhead and block signals. It would remain standing until 1964 when construction of the “Futuristic” Santa Monica Freeway reached this area. The eastern approach to the bridge was in the way of the new freeway, and so, the very freeway that had cast a dark shadow on the VSL back in 1948, clamed its last VSL victim. By the end of 1964, the bridge with all it majesty, was gone, leaving buses, trucks and automobiles to once again deal with “THE SWAMP.” And as for the Santa Monica Freeway, it may have been an AUTOMOTIVE UTOPIA when first built, but today, it’s an “AUTOMOTIVE QUAGMIRE.” If your were to ask any motorist that drives that mess every day, they might answer “it sure would be nice if there was a rapid transit line on Venice Boulevard.”