Traffic jam



Los Angeles Times Photograph

This is Main Street, Los Angeles, 1911. I am posting this photo for the benefit of everyone who believes that traffic is a new problem. Los Angeles residents in the early 20th century were already painfully familiar with congested streets, but instead of being caused by autos, the traffic jams involved streetcars. As early as 1907, Henry Huntington experimented with the idea of elevated tracks, but nothing ever came of it.

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About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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2 Responses to Traffic jam

  1. ubrayj02 says:

    What really stands out to me in this image is the low number of private automobiles. The street, compared with conditions today, is so inviting that two men appear to be simply strolling down the middle of it chatting.
    The electric cars may have had their faults, but I can’t imagine anyone feeling safe enough to stroll down the middle of today’s Main Street.


  2. Richard H says:

    Great picture.
    It must have been taken from one of the upper floors of the Pacific Electric Building.
    I’m a little skeptical about it being a typical everyday Main Street trolleycar traffic jam. The trolleys lined up on Main St. could have been for a special event (parade, celebration, etc.) elsewhere downtown necessitating the use of a large number of streetcars to bring people in. So many that they couldn’t be parked in the Pacific Electric Building storage facility or trolleycar barn or whatever they called it. These could be trolleys parked out on Main Street.
    Before WW2, the Pasadena Rose Parade on New Years Day would be a big day for the Pacific Electric. Lots of trolleys would be used to take people to the big parade and the streetcars would be parked on Fair Oaks Avenue during the parade in a scene not unlike the picture of the trolleys lined up on Main Street.
    The most noticeable thing about the scene in the picture is the lack of other traffic on Main Street and the number of pedestrians out on the street.
    What do we see? A street vendor with the umbrella. A couple of horse drawn carriages. One or two “horseless” carriages. The newsboy out on the street hawking the TImes(?) through the window of a trolley. Other people casually walking on the street although most stay on the sidewalk. None of the automobiles that was present 13 years later in the “Hippodrome” picture. Henry Ford had only introduced the Model T three years earlier in 1908 and was still figuring out the system for assembly line mass production of the car. In 1911, automobile ownership was still beyond the means of the overwelming majority of Americans. That would change quickly in a few years.
    The function of the street completely changed with the automobile. The pedestrians and street vendors would be forced back on the sidewalk and eventually the trolleys would be shutdown and replaced with buses.
    But in 1911, the trolleycar was the king of the street in America.


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