LA unveils its three inches an hour rail system

AFTER 13 years of corruption scandals, budget overruns and a plethora of construction disasters, Los Angeles at last unveiled the proudest, most expensive part of its much-touted underground rail system this weekend - all four and a half miles of it.

In a city where the car is king and public transport has been famously neglected, curious residents turned up in their tens of thousands to ride the short journey from central Los Angeles to the heart of old Hollywood and see what has been made out of billions of dollars of their tax money.

Superficially, at least, it was highly impressive. The new terminus, at the junction of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, was decked out in pastiche Art Deco palm-tree columns in imitation of the famous Egyptian Theater a few blocks away. The ceiling was hung with hundreds of empty film reels, and two 1930s-era mounted film cameras greeted passengers streaming in and out of sleek, silent carriages.

But after all the promises that greeted the launching of the subway project in 1986, the new line seemed paltry at best. The progress of the project equates to three inches an hour. It was also not clear how many people would use it.

The extension now provides Angelenos with 11.1 miles of track on the "Red Line". Next year, a further six miles are due to be added, taking the line past such tourist attractions as Mann's Chinese Theater and Universal Studios to its final destination on the southern rim of the San Fernando Valley.

That, however, will be it - the Metro Rail project has proved so slow, so scandal-ridden and so costly that the city recently voted to scrap all future work. At about $300m (pounds 187.5m) a mile, the Los Angeles underground has become the most expensive public transport system in the world. It attracts only 40,000 users a day, compared with nearly 3 million on New York's 277-mile system.

Los Angeles became a global symbol of hostility to public transport when automotive interests prevailed in the 1940s and hundreds of miles of tram and light rail track were torn up to free funds for the city's famous freeway system. Tom Bradley, LA's progressive mayor, dreamt of reversing that trend when he launched the Metro Rail project in the wake of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

But the agency created to oversee the project, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, soon became mired in corruption scandals as hundreds of millions of dollars in local and federal money poured in.

Construction standards were so shoddy that parts of Hollywood began sinking at a rate of 10 inches a year. In 1995, an 80ft sinkhole opened up on Hollywood Boulevard, closing three blocks for more than a year and effectively sealing the Metro Rail's long-term fate.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss