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Glendale’s Transportation Legacy

As we lead up to the City Council in your Neighborhood meeting on transportation, we wanted to take a look back on the Jewel City’s transportation past. It may be hard to imagine a time when cars didn’t dominate the streets of Glendale, but not that long ago, Pacific Electric Railcars moved Glendale’s burgeoning population.

It all began with Leslie C. Brand, who saw how successful Pacific Electric Railcars were in bringing people to Long Beach. Seeing the possibility for Glendale’s own boom, Brand allowed a rail line to be built on his country road eponymously named Brand Boulevard. Glendale, and specifically Brand Boulevard, flourished as a center of business, fashion, and shopping for the Los Angeles area. Glendale travelers could hop on-and-off the bright red electric railcars and experience world class shopping like never before, all while on their way to work or home. The small bedroom community on the edge of Los Angeles became a jewel thanks in part to the connectivity of the Pacific Electric Railcars.

Unfortunately the red electric railcars wouldn’t last. In June 1955, the Red Cars which had brought so much to Glendale and had put the jewel in the Jewel City were discontinued. Although they would be replaced with the buses we know today, downtown Glendale suffered without the Pacific Electric Railcars. Storefronts began shuttering along Brand, rents decreased, and vacancies ran wild. The tracks would soon be replaced with the center medians along Brand that we see today. One of Glendale’s most formative eras had come to a rather abrupt end on that cloudy June day in 1955, but it certainly wasn’t the end of transportation in Glendale.

Since that fateful day in 1955, Glendale has continued to build and improve its public transportation with an eye to the future. The City introduced its very own transportation service, the Glendale Beeline, in 1984. The service complements and connects Glendale, La Crescenta-Montrose, La Cañada Flintridge, and a small part of Burbank with LA Metro’s crosstown routes through the city. At the hub of this transportation network is the Larry Zarian Transportation Center, a Mission Revival Style depot constructed by Southern Pacific Railroad in 1923. Amtrak, Metrolink, Greyhound, Metro, and the Glendale Beeline all use the Larry Zarian Transportation Center as a transfer point and/or layover. There at the confluence of Glendale’s past and present we get a glimpse at what the future holds for Glendale’s transportation needs.

The City of Glendale continues to grow, Brand Boulevard has once again become the center of a thriving 18-hour downtown, and Glendale’s transportation continues to evolve with the times. Looking towards Glendale’s transportation future, the Glendale City Council will be hosting a special transportation themed meeting January 17th at Dignity Health – Glendale Memorial Hospital & Health Center (John Stauffer Auditorium). There, representatives of Metro, Metrolink, Eco-Rapid, and the California High Speed Rail Authority will not only show residents where Glendale has been and where it is today, but more importantly where the future will take us.

For more information about Glendale’s history with the Pacific Electric Railway, check out the excerpt below from Sky City Production’s 2008 documentary “This Was Pacific Electric”.

For more information on the January 17th City Council in your Neighborhood meeting, click here

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