The first streetcar system in L.A. dates back to 1874, with a single-track laid going from Hill & Third to downtown. (That wasn’t considered downtown then!) More were added, all drawn by horses until 1887. By 1910, the “red cars” covered an enormous area. map of red car system in 1910
National City Lines, a subsidiary of General Motors, bought the Los Angeles Railway [LARY] in 1944, replacing some streetcar lines with buses. At least partially due to increase of personal car use, especially after WWII, more and more railway tracks were cemented over to make way for freeways and roads.
At its peak, the Pacific Electric Railway was huge: 1,150 miles of track covering four counties and 900 cars. 1944 marked the highest ridership: over 109 million passengers.
After the “red cars”, la’s main public transport was a shoddy bus system. One man writes, “The noisy, foul-smelling buses turned earlier patrons of the high-speed rail system away from public transit and, in effect, sold millions of private automobiles. Largely as a result, Los Angeles today is an ecological wasteland.”
[largely from usc archive info]