Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority 1951-1964
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (LAMTA) was first formed as a transit planning agency by the State of California in 1951.
It was empowered to formulate plans and policy for a publicly owned/operated mass rapid transit system that would replace the crumbling infrastructure of privately owned and operated systems.
The enabling legislation mandated that the Governor appoint the LAMTA’s seven member Board of Directors in consultation with local officials.
In 1957, the legislature gave the LAMTA the authority to purchase and operate existing privately owned bus lines with capital provided by the sale of revenue bonds.
Effective March 3, 1958, they acquired the Los Angeles Transit Lines (successor to Los Angeles Railway and Los Angeles Motor Bus companies) Metropolitan Coach Lines (successor to Pacific Electric Railway and other independent bus companies) and Asbury Rapid Transit System to create the first publicly owned and governed transit system in Los Angeles.
The LAMTA Act of 1957 stated “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the State of California to develop mass rapid transit systems in the various metropolitan areas within the State for the benefit of the people.
A necessity exists within Los Angeles County for such a system.
Because of the numerous separate municipal corporations and unincorporated populated areas in the metropolitan area, only a specially created authority can operate effectively.
Because of the unique problem presented in Los Angeles County and the facts and circumstances related to the establishment of a mass rapid transit system therein, the adoption of a special act and the creation of a special authority is required.”
Prior to the creation of a public agency to operate transit services in Los Angeles, the California Public Utilities Commission approved all fare and routes modifications, line by line.
The new LAMTA now had the power to approve those changes at the local level.
During its tenure, the LAMTA presented three major mass rapid transit system proposals for Los Angeles County, including the now infamous proposed monorail plans.
The LAMTA’s final plan was knows as the “Backbone Route”, elevated rail from El Monte to Downtown and then subway from Downtown to Century City along Wilshire Boulevard.
The agency even held a groundbreaking ceremony in 1962 with the media and Governor Pat Brown in attendance touting the project as vitally important.
Unfortunately, without adequate powers of its own and without state and federal funding partners (they hadn’t been formed yet), the Backbone Route project went nowhere.
In 1964, the state legislature recognized that they had granted limited authority to the LAMTA to solve the transit problems of the Southern California area, and that as the LAMTA was currently constituted, it would be unable to deliver the needed comprehensive mass rapid transit system.
It did not have the power to levy taxes for any purpose whatsoever, its board did not wield sufficient political influence to build broad public support, and it did not have the right to acquire real property by eminent domain.
While it could issue revenue bonds, it did not have sufficient revenue sources to implement a large-scale system with broad local support.
The photos in this set come from in house publicity collections and contemporary transit enthusiasts.