Lakewood hears about plans for the old Pacific Electric right-of-way

Residents of Lakewood recently heard about plans for using the old Pacific Electric right-of-way to build a new light-rail line to downtown Los Angeles:

At Our Doorstep: A New Way to Downtown LA from CityTVLakewoodCA on Vimeo.

Lakewood residents are told that they would board in Bellflower.

This right-of-way slashes southeast through the City of Cypress. My family has lived in Cypress long enough that I can remember trains blocking Moody Street, Walker Street, Valley View Street, Lincoln Avenue, and Orange Avenue — sometimes multiple streets at the same time.

If you peer at the aerial views published by L.A. Metro in 2018, you can see on page 15 that there are plans to extend the light rail as far as Cerritos, with a station proposed for space in the right-of-way separating Knabe Park (formerly Cerritos Regional Park) from the Target store at Bloomfield and Del Amo Avenues.

Few people on the Orange County side of the border want to rebuild a light rail system along that corridor at grade level. Going underground or above-ground in order to separate the rail right-of-way from the surface streets and prevent traffic tie-ups similar to what I remember would be hugely expensive.

It would have been much better had the right-of-way never been abandoned… where’s Roger Rabbit when you need a hero? The bad buy in Roger Rabbit wanted to dismantile the Red Cars and replace them with freeways, gas stations, and fast-food restaurants. The Judge Doom scenario is based on a longstanding urban myth about National City Lines, an actual consortium operating in the post-war period in Southern California.

From Curbed:

In a nutshell, the theory goes like this: Back in 1945, a sinister corporation called National City Lines took over the thriving Los Angeles Railway, which served most of the sprawling region. Then, over the course of the next two decades, LA’s extensive streetcar network was eliminated and the iconic Red Cars that Judge Doom mentions were replaced with shiny new buses.

The Curbed article goes on to make a case that instead of a conspiracy of oil companies, bus and car manufacturers, and tire companies, it was instead real estate developers who were responsible for weakening the original transit system by encouraging suburban sprawl along, for instance, Pacific Electric rights-of-way in Orange County. The system was too big to be profitable without extensive investment. After World War II, Southern Californians favored spending money on automobiles and freeways, not streetcars.

Curb looked beneath Judge Doom’s mask, and found us.

Seventy years later, a Red Car Museum is almost all that’s left of a spur of the Pacific Electric that ran through Seal Beach to Huntington Beach — and L.A. Metro has plans over the next decade to expand its light rail system southeast, perhaps as far as Cerritos.

Those trying to get from Orange County to, say, USC or Exposition Park are once again frustrated by oh-so-close but not close enough:

Detail of a map of Los Angeles Metro routes courtesy of L.A. Metro.
Detail of a map of Los Angeles Metro routes courtesy of L.A. Metro.

If you look in the upper left corner of the map, you’ll see where diagonal downtown streets take a turn to align north-south and east-west. That is where USC and Exposition Park are, and to get there using public transit from Orange County is painful.

History does not travel in a straight line, and Orange County commuters do not have good choices for public transit unless they are going to downtown Los Angeles.


    1. Author


      Thank you for updating the station information for the benefit of readers of Orange County Breeze.

      The decision increases the pain for Orange County commuters to the downtown Los Angeles area, and encourages those living in Orange County to work elsewhere, if possible.

      Shelley Henderson
      editor, Orange County Breeze

Comments are closed.