Skip to content

A Los Angeles Primer: The Blue Line

Please stand clear. The doors are closing.

“That’s right! The doors are closing — closing on your chance for salvation! And if you refuse to accept your lord and savior, you’ll find yourself behind those closed doors! Behind them for alleternity!”

The preacher went on, instinctively weaving each of the loudspeaker’s announcements into the morning’s forceful sermon. He wore a brown three-piece suit, not likely bespoke; his every gesticulation, and he made many, sent flying the extra fabric at his wrists and ankles. But what he lacked in tailoring, he made up in his distinctively both wild- and dead-eyed passion. The microphone he held to his mouth looked connected to nothing, yet his voice boomed as if amplified. Boomed through the whole car of the train, that is, undeterred even as my fellow passengers actively ignored it. I don’t see or hear this sort of thing every time I ride the Blue Line, not that it surprised me when I did.

Writing “Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies” in the early seventies, Reyner Banham speculated about what form of transit would one day replace the freeways. “A rapid-rail system is the oldest candidate for the succession,” he wrote, “but nothing has happened so far. The core of the problem, I suspect, is that when the socially necessary branch has been built, to Watts, and the profitable branch, along Wilshire, little more will be done and most Angelenos will be an average of fifteen miles from a rapid-transit station.” This exemplifies Banham’s still-fascinating half-prescience: 22 years after the book appeared, the first stations of that “commercially necessary” Wilshire branch — the Purple Line I rode to the downtown coffee shop where I write these words — would open. Just a few years before that, Los Angeles’ long-awaited modern “rapid-rail” system began its operation with the “socially necessary” one, the Blue Line. Despite recent years’ glimmers of hope for extension, some riders have given up hope of ever riding a Purple Line train all the way under Wilshire Boulevard, but even upon its opening the Blue Line ran from downtown not just to Watts but well past it, all the way to Long Beach.

Read the whole thong at KCET Departures.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *