Transportation - Between Two Cities

Just as the Los Angeles land boom of the late 1880s created an increased demand for water, new arrivals to the region created the need for expanded transportation arteries and options.

Initially the region relied on steam rail to carry people between the urban core and surrounding communities such as Monrovia and the San Gabriel Valley. When city and business leaders saw the financial benefits of establishing a rail line within city limits, they found ways to connect the pockets of neighborhoods that were quickly establishing across Los Angeles.

The Pasadena Street Railroad built its first electric line in 1893. In 1895 this line merged with the Los Angeles Electric Railway to form the Pasadena & Los Angeles Railway—the first interurban rail line in Southern California. The line transported passengers from (downtown) Los Angeles through Highland Park and Garvanza, across the Arroyo Seco and into Pasadena.

1911 brought "The Great Merger": Southern Pacific's buyout of various small lines, consolidating them all into an extensive Pacific Electric "Red Car" system. Henry Huntington, owner of the original Pacific Electric, retained control of the Los Angeles Railway, or the "Yellow Cars." This expansion brought new visitors and residents into Northeast Los Angeles and provided the dual benefits of growth and connection for the city.

While electric rail and horse drawn vehicles were the main transportation options in the city in the late 1800s, bicycling was another popular mode of transportation. The privately funded California Cycleway began its construction in 1899—an elevated bikeway meant to connect Pasadena to Los Angeles through Highland Park, and eventually to Santa Monica. Its founder Horace Dobbins set his sights high, even including plans to build a large casino along the route. But his dream was never fully realized. The partially completed bikeway was dismantled on order of the city of Pasadena in 1901.

Years later, with the arrival of the automobile and the construction of the Arroyo Seco Parkway (using the right-of-way of what was once the Cycleway), Highland Park and Garvanza were no longer important throughways that connected two major metro areas, becoming a "sleepy" community whose pace and lifestyle offered a respite from the nearby city.

Below, a slideshow of historical images of transportation development and innovation along the Arroyo Seco corridor.

Explore the related interactive mural


Arroyo Water Rights


The First Suburb