Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy 20th Birthday, Metro Rail! - Militant Footage Of The Blue Line Grand Opening

Today, July 14, is a special day in Los Angeles (and not just for those French expats out there). For it was 20 years ago on this date, on a hot, sunny Saturday in a then-desolate section of Downtown Los Angeles that a couple thousand Angelenos converged on Flower Street to witness the Grand Opening ceremony of the Metro Blue Line, the first component of what we now know as the Los Angeles Metro Rail system, heralding the long-overdue return of rail transit to the region.

Best of all, the Militant was definitely there. So direct from the Militant archives, the Militant Angeleno would like to celebrate this landmark occasion by sharing with you footage of the opening ceremonies and the first Blue Line train, straight from the Militant's own big-ass VHS camcorder home video footage (those things weren't very light, you know...):

This was also listed as's Video Of The Day!

For all you longtime Angelenos, you can spot some well-known dignitaries of the time who are no longer with us, such as the late County supervisor Kenneth Hahn, California Lt. Governor Leo McCarthy and of course the great Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley.

Look closely and you can also spot City Councilman Mike Woo, RTD director Nick Patsaouras and a brown-haired James Hahn, who was City Attorney at the time.

Yes, aside from being in the Pre-Villaraigosa world, we were really living in a different place back then; On Blue Line opening day, the line was only 19.5 miles long - only the section between the Pico and Anaheim stations was in operation (The Long Beach loop would open in September '90 and the underground section to 7th/Metro Center opened in Feb '91). The fares were free for the first two weeks, and afterward were only $1.10 (A 40-cent increase in 20 years? Compare that to the increase of gas prices since then - $1.16/gal vs. $3.07/gal today. Not bad when you think about it, so quit yer bitching, BRU drones). The area around Pico Station was a bleak industrial zone. No Staples Center, the Convention Center had not been expanded yet, and certainly no condos, restaurants or LA Live. In fact, tell someone 20 years ago about that and you'd get laughed at!

But transit has come a long way since then. "Metro" was just a branding term back then, as the transit authority at the time was the Southern California Rapid Transit District (a.k.a. RTD (Rough, Tough and Dirty, Really Tardy Drivers, etc)). The transit planning agency was the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, an entity invisible to the typical Angeleno. The two agencies would merge three years later to become the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, that we know today. The blue striping on the trains were replaced several years ago with the orange striping we see today, and some of the shiny, new Japanese-built railcars that first rolled on that day will be retired and replaced in the near future (with former Gold Line cars).

But most of all, the 0 miles of rail transit that existed 20 years and one day ago has bloomed into a now a 79.1-mile system of five colored lines, larger than SF's 72-mile BART system was 20 years ago. The litany of localities listed in Supervisor Ed Edelman's speech are all reachable destinations today (Well, okay, LAX...not quite yet). Most of all, the little kids and crying babies who rode on the same train as the Militant that day are now grown adults, some of whom ride Metro Rail to and from work every day.

So there you go. The Militant was definitely there to witness history and bring it to you today. If you can get a chance, take a ride on Metro Rail today and reflect on where we've been and where we're going (Culver City, Santa Monica and Azusa are just around the corner).

And here was how the local TV news reported on the event:



Anonymous said...

I am the lady in the hat and floral dress on the platform trying to keep the speeches of the politicians to a minimum. Worked or LACTC. I wasnearly trampled when the train reached the platform by folks wanting to get in the first car! Younger then so it was okay!

angel said...

Oh MAN I can't believe the end made me cry and gee, how cool was that with the talking between Pico Station and Metro Control?

Thank you so much for the footage, it made my day. :-)

Ken R. said...

I was there somewhere and wound up on the third train headed towards Long Beach.

The video shows former LA County Supervisor Ed Edelman during much of the speechmaking.

Thanks for posting all of this and I hope my comments add to this article, and video.

Darrell Clarke said...

It was like opening day at Disneyland, and if you weren't there early you didn't get to ride. One of my photos - waiting to head back north - is at .

Militant Angeleno said...

Anonymous: How cool you were able to spot yourself in the video! Should've told Edelman to wrap it up earlier :) He was Chair of the LACTC at the time though, right?

Angel: "Militant Angeleno to Angel...this is Militant Angeleno. No problem!"

Ken R: Hmmm, The Militant seems to
recall he was on the third (maybe fourth) train too!

Darrell: Yep, there was a looooong-ass line at the Anaheim Station. The RTD ran special free buses bringing people back Downtown. But somehow the Militant was able to get on one of the trains back to Pico Station without waiting that long.

There were also those LBT loop shuttles that were painted like the Blue Line cars and took people to Downtown Long Beach until the loop stations opened.

The Militant has some more footage of the first day, though he has to obviously edit out the pars where he's in it :)

Your picture was at the Del Amo station right?

Darrell Clarke said...

Looking at photo maps I'm thinking it was Willow, but I'll have to find my other opening day slides to be sure....

Militant Angeleno said...

Darrell: At the Del Amo station that day was that Pacific Electric Red Car that was outfitted with the rubber tires on display. Now, tires off, it's a REAL Red Car in San Pedro! How far we've come!

Darrell Clarke said...

On this subject, my best digital photo of one of the two 10th Anniversary cars (taken January 2003) is at

Militant Angeleno said...

Darrell: AWESOME! The Militant almost forgot about those. They were beauties. Hopefully they can be done up again in 2015 for the 25th anniversary!

Unknown said...

I am really not sure why you keep badmouthing me and my site, but if this will quiet you down I'll write my response.

My mom's side of the family came here in 1906 after spending a few years squatting on a cotton farm in San Bernardino (I can send you scans of photos if you like). My grandmother preached with Aimee Semple MacPherson and babysit her son Rolf as she was building the Angelus Temple. My grandfather and great grandfather had a mural and housepainting business where they painted the homes of Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and many other people all over town. My mother was born in Santa Monica in 1927 (I also have photos of that) and spent a number of years with my great grandparents on their farm in La Crescenta (again, photos are available). From the time I was born until she died in the 70s, my grandmother (whom I lived with off and on) lived on Leescott Avenue in Van Nuys.

Saying "Hidden Los Angeles" wasn't here twenty years ago is a weird comment since the INTERNET wasn't here twenty years ago. But I can tell you where I was, I lived at 41 Grace Terrace in Pasadena, I was taking night classes at Art Center, working at KROQ on the request lines at night and selling clothes at Express on weekends for rent money. When the Metro rail opened, my dad (an aerospace engineer at McDonnell Douglas in Carson) and I decided to check it out during the first days it opened. Being an aeronautical engineer he was really into transportation design and so we rode it together as a father/daughter bonding day. He passed away last year so I'm sorry I can't have him confirm that I, Lynn Garrett of Hidden Los Angeles, WAS here... and I *HAVE* been here. But whatever.

I realize the "militant" thing is your shtick but you don't have to be a jerk. Yes, my site is popular on facebook, however that doesn't mean I'm in it just for profit... nor does it mean that I am less of a local as you are.

I would appreciate it if you would quit being such a jerk to me, repeatedly. It's incredibly obnoxious, unneccessary and totally against what people who care about this community should be doing.

We're neighbors who care about this city... and we should be on the same fucking side, for God's sake.

Ok, that's all I have to say.

Militant Angeleno said...

Lynn: Okay, the Militant promises to never, ever, ever, EVER badmouth your mother. And that's a promise!