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.”

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  • Steve Crise
    Reply

    It would indeed be nice to have rapid transit on Venice Blvd again but in today’s reality it would need to start and end in Riverside, not in downtown LA. As affordable housing moves further eastward, commuters have the travel farther each year to get to work, and that work is no longer centered in downtown LA. It could be for some commuters trying to get to Santa Monica, Long Beach, or other cities in the LA basin, having to change transit systems to a bus or light rail or subways, a deal breaker for them to use transit. Point being is that downtown LA is not the center of the universe that it used to be but transit plans are still being made as if it were. For instance, wouldn’t it had been nice if Metrolink would run from San Bernardino to Santa Monica in an unbroken line? No changes in equipment or lines from one point to another. Or how about this, a line that circles around downtown LA in a 10 or 15 mile radius outside of the center of the city so you wouldn’t have to go all the to to LA to get to Long Beach. This route would act much like th Circle Line in London and other cities does, allowing a commuter a quicker route than having to go the way into LA. The he yet to see that proposal in any future plans for rapid transit in LA. Meanwhile we’re rebuilding the PE one line at a time when that solution is no longer valid in today’s commuters needs.

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