LA has a long and complicated history with public transit--most people know that the city was once criss-crossed with the Red and Yellow rail cars, but that LA went full-car post-World War II, focusing instead on freeway building. Now Metro is back at it building a comprehensive rail network (slowly, but surely!). And Downtowners have just signed off on a plan to build a streetcar line in their neighborhood, so the wonderful history nerds of KCET take a look back at LA's very earliest transit, which first hit the streets in 1873, although "Public transportation was slow to arrive in Los Angeles, a city whose farthest reaches were still accessible by foot in the 1870s." On September 22, 1873, the Pioneer Omnibus Street Line opened with "horse-drawn vehicles, which resembled miniature railroad cars on large, wooden wheels"--they were the first transit in town to run on a schedule and fixed route, between Los Angeles Plaza near today's Olvera Street and the Washington Gardens beer garden and fairground at Washington and Main. So the very first public transit took Angelenos to drinkville. Perfect.
The Pioneer Omnibus closed in 1875 (muddy streets made it a tough ride), but the first Downtown streetcar system opened in 1874. The Spring and Sixth Street Railroad was horse-powered and ran on tracks (hourly on weekdays between 6:30 am and 10 pm) around a one and a half mile route "from the intersection of Temple and Spring south to Sixth Street, and then west to Figueroa Street" (the fare was 10 cents). Even back then, developers wanted to build near transit--Spring & Sixth's builder had built the line "in part to boost land sales near the intersection of Hill and Fourth streets -- then a sparsely populated area where Widney owned land, far beyond the central business district." The line hit East LA (now Lincoln Heights) in 1876 and Boyle Heights in 1877 and the two neighborhoods became LA's first suburbs.
· L.A.'s First Streetcars Were Horse-Powered [KCET]