Letters to the Editor: My grandfather bought a car in 1923 and helped kill L.A.’s streetcars

Pacific Electric cars travel through a mile-long subway that ended on Glendale Boulevard north of downtown Los Angeles.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Kudos to Patt Morrison for her analysis of the long-running conspiracy theory that a consortium of car and tire manufacturers killed L.A.’s massive Red Car and Yellow Car rail systems.

The system wasn’t built to provide transportation but to sell far-flung pieces of real estate. When the lots were sold, it would have required public money to keep the trains up to date.

The public wanted their own cars instead. I once asked my grandfather, why had he bought a car in 1923, when the city had a better public transit system than it was ever likely to have again. His answer: “With the trolleys, you had to follow someone else’s schedule. With a car, you could go wherever you wanted, whenever you wanted.”


That’s the L.A. version of the American Dream.

David Clark, Malibu


To the editor: I would like to thank Morrison for writing a a fact-based history of the rise and fall of streetcars in Los Angeles.

For as many years as I have been a public transportation advocate, I have been correcting people who have espoused the “fake news” that General Motors, Firestone, General Tire and Philips Petroleum bought the system to shut it down and that there were no extenuating circumstances.

The problem was indeed L.A.’s car culture. The reason rail service declined in speed was a series of decisions to impede long stretches of uninterrupted track with crossings for automobile traffic. That was the doing of local politicians, not the owners of the lines.

Another factor was that, with the rail system being privately owned, any fare increases had to be approved by the predecessor of the California Public Utilities Commission. The owners were repeatedly turned down by regulators when requests were made for the additional revenue in order to maintain track and rolling stock. By the time Southern Pacific became owner of the Red Car, the system was already decaying.

It is still a shame that this happened, but blame should always be properly placed.


Kymberleigh Richards, Van Nuys

The writer was a member of the Metro San Fernando Valley Service Council from 2003-14.