According to Robertson (41), the railway systems of Los Angeles first developed around Central Los Angeles as a streetcar popularly known as the “Yellow Street Car”. He explains that the name was chosen because of the use of a yellow paint scheme during the 19th century. This was before the Los Angeles Railway (LARY) was sold to the National City Lines and renamed Los Angeles Transit Lines. Robertson (41) noted that even though the railway system enjoyed a steady growth, it later collapsed in the 1930s because of a number of factors. This paper endeavors to explain two critical factors which are still undermining the growth of the railway systems of Los Angeles.
According to Austen (62), one of the major factors that have continued to undermine the success of the Los Angeles railway systems is the “Megabus Effect”. This is a new intercity bus service that is cheaper and more luxurious compared to the high speed rail. Austen (62) notes that buses have very many advantages which make them more preferable to rail travel. He noted that Megabus gives a provision for online booking and provides Wi-Fi and power outlets free of charge. According to Austen (64), buses are thus more attractive for people who use electronic gadgets like laptops while travelling. Buses also charge relatively low fares and have great travel comfort because of the way in which they have been structured. This is unlike the case of high speed railway travel which is a faster means of travel but not comfortable due to overcrowding.
Austen (65) explains that this has led to low demand in railway services making it almost impossible for the railway industries to continue enlarging their services. An example is the current construction of high speed rail in Los Angeles which has since stalled because the company could not raise the billions of dollars it required to construct a high speed rail.
The second factor that has also undermined the success of the railway systems in Los Angeles is politics. Reiher (24) gives an example of an instance in which the Obama Government had come up with a proposal of its extensive plan to fund high-speed rail construction. The project was to ease the city to city service and also upgrade the existing railway lines of the United States of America including those of Los Angeles state. Reiher (24) notes that the Obama administration had proposed to allocate an approximate of $ 49 billion which was to be spread over a period of six years.
However, the proposal faced great opposition from the political class. Their argument was that the whole process would require a great debate on policy and studies on land management which they feared would be very costly in terms of time and finances. The politicians instead rooted for other intercity travel options like the already existing good road networks that did not need any government funding and policy debates. They argued that using the already existing means of transport would allow the funds to be directed to other projects that were very urgent like improving the health systems of the Americans. Consequently, such politicking has undermined the development and success of the railway systems in Los Angeles even in the twentieth century when technology is rapidly growing (Reiher 25).
In conclusion, it is clear that politics and the Megabus, though not the only drawbacks to the success of the railway systems in Los Angeles, have continued to critically undermine the process of its growth. To counter the effect of the Megabus, the railway companies have to be subsidized by the government to enable it upgrade its systems. This will in turn depend on the willingness of the politicians to cooperate.