Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail and the Future of the City

By Ethan N. Elkind | Go to book overview

ONE
An Eighteen-Month Promise

IN SOME WAYS, THE LOS ANGELES Metro Rail began with a misstatement. At least, that is how Tom Bradley described it. On May 23, 1973, Bradley, a Los Angeles city councilman, was in the midst of a bitter campaign for mayor in a rematch against incumbent Sam Yorty. A week before the election, Bradley called a press conference to emphasize his transportation agenda for the city. In this famous car town, transportation had become a dominant issue. Angelenos were facing higher fuel costs, traffic nightmares, and hazardous smog, and many viewed rail as the solution to these problems.

Bradley shared this belief in the benefits of rail. He made the creation of a subway system his top political priority and became its leading founder. As he had demonstrated throughout his life, he was tenacious and determined to see it happen. After all, Bradley was the son of a Texas sharecropper and the grandson of former slaves. His family had moved to Los Angeles when he was a youth, and this ambitious young African American man became high school class president and an all-city football player. He joined the Los Angeles Police Department in 1940 and studied at night to earn his law degree. In 1963, he was elected to the Los Angeles City Council. Perseverance and overcoming adversity were in his nature.

But giving speeches was not. His career as a police officer had not afforded him many opportunities for public speaking, and early in his political career he would simply stand and read speeches word-for-word. Although he developed more confidence over the years, he often found himself caught between reading and trying to speak from memory as he looked out at the audience.1 So as reporters in the press conference peppered Bradley with questions, he told them that his number one priority was “to get Los Angeles moving on a rapid transit system,” and he criticized the “twelve years of neglect and

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Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail and the Future of the City
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Introduction - The Once and Future Railtown 1
  • One - An Eighteen-Month Promise 12
  • Two - The New Mulholland 34
  • Three - Bureaucratic Paper Shuffling and Jurisdictional Squabbling 50
  • Four - Henry Waxman’s Hot Air 79
  • Five - Tunnel Stiffs, Fires, and Sinkholes 101
  • Six - The Wish List 122
  • Seven - A Knife in the Seat 145
  • Eight - Of Race and Rail 158
  • Nine - Switching Tracks 176
  • Ten - Subway to the Sea 201
  • Conclusion - The Future of Los Angeles Rail and the American City 217
  • Notes 229
  • Bibliography 277
  • Index 281
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