LA Beyond Cars: Now Playing, The Future

8_3_10_beyond_1.jpgImage via Rail L.A.

So you’re sipping your coffee and reading the news on your web-enabled phone as you glide along the Expo Line, idly shutting it off as you descend into the downtown connector en route to Union Station. Your bullet train to Sacramento leaves at 9AM, but you’re not feeling too pressed for time, because as it turns out, that train isn’t departing for several years.

If you can’t quite see yourself in that picture yet, a coalition of urban planners and architects has an exhibit for you. Through the month of August, railLA is hosting LA Beyond Cars, "a multimedia experience showcasing concepts, ideas, and musings from around the world on the future of Los Angeles."

Formed by members of the Los Angeles chapters of the American Planning Association and the American Institute of Architects, railLA aims to build awareness of and enthusiasm for the benefits of high-speed rail in California. LA Beyond Cars represents the organization’s first foray into helping car- and plane-dependent Angelenos wrap our minds around what a transit-oriented city and state could look like.

Among the installations featured are James Rojas’ famous interactive models of Los Angeles, the recently released Piggy Backyard plan to turn an outdated Union Pacific rail yard into an LA River wetlands and park, as well as numerous transit station design concepts sent in from as far away as Italy and the Netherlands.

8_3_10_beyond_2.jpgLooks like a good crowd at the opening…

At the gallery opening on July 29th, railLA chair Gunnar Hand and vice-chair Gerhard Mayer focused on the importance of integrating high-speed rail into a multi-modal transit system in Los Angeles that emphasizes rail, buses, and bicycles (i.e. people over cars). An urban planner and architect respectively, the two also discussed how transit hubs can serve not only as centers of mobility, but also as venues for rich civic and social interactions.

In a poignant conclusion, Mayer expressed the hope that railLA could facilitate the process of "stitching together the wounds of infrastructure dedicated to the automobile" in Los Angeles.

To this author, the individuals behind railLA came across as genuine in their ambitions to improve mobility, sustainability, and quality of life in Los Angeles through careful planning and human-oriented designs. That said, a quick scan of their sponsors (AECOM, Siemens) alludes to the powerful interests that attend any "capital D" developments in Los Angeles.

Indeed, railLA finds itself at the crux of a common planning and development challenge: to work on behalf of the public interest, while harnessing the power and resources of developers. Like trying to water a garden with a fire hose, the trick is to hold on tight (to one’s principles) and aim high.

Exhibit Details Update:

LA Beyond Cars: A
Global Perspective on Rail and Public Space

Opening on July 29, the exhibit will run through August 28th in the Jewel Box at City National Plaza (525 S. Flower Street).  The gallery is open to the public from 10am to 7pm.  Admission is free.

  • Does anyone know what hours the exhibition will be open during August?

  • TransitPlanner

    It was definitely bigshots and developers and others looking for work…

  • Tommy Trojan

    It’s open everyday from 10am-7pm. Comec check it out and check out

  • The giant LA BEYOND CARS banner is pretty impressive from the plaza below. Once you go inside the exhibit though, the first thing you see is a large sign instructing you how to retrieve your parked car. Security also wasn’t too happy about me bringing my bicycle inside and locking it to one of the oh-so-urban scaffolding displays. I argued that it was for the exhibit (beyond cars!) and I found some architects to agree with me and who called off the security.

    That was pretty much what I expected, but it is still so annoying to go to these design-centric events that trumpet an LA beyond cars, but always 20 or 30 years away. No consideration is given to people currently living without cars, its just kind of a fantasy. A lot of the proposed designs (like Zaha Hadid’s) still featured big car parking lots around the train stations. The first suit I talked to worked for a firm that built automated car-parking garages. We need a word like green-washing but for fake car-free stuff, like all of the TODs with huge parking garages. Maybe car-free-washing?

  • Cater

    I read your article 4 times and I still don’t know where is this exhibit. I’m not trying to be snarky… but this is really annoying. The location of this exhibit is kind of an important detail of this story. Just a suggestion… add this sentence to the end of your article: “The exhibit will run through the month of August at City National Plaza in Downtown LA.”

  • Alek F

    Yeah, it is quite contradictory… On the one hand, they proclaim how great “LA Beyond Cars” would be. But on the other hand, they still do everything opposite of their idea!
    It seems, nothing ever goes beyond (nice) words and proclamations!

  • Carter Rubin

    Hi All,

    Sorry for the lack of info initially. It was in the original draft, but didn’t survive the copying into WordPress. It’s up now.


  • If you’re looking for a good time to go to the exhibition, GOOD, de LaB and the LA County Bicycle Coalition are hosting an event at the space August 18 called Moving Beyond Cars where we’re challenging everyone who attends to use alternative transportation. There will also be prizes for whoever arrives in the most unique, alternative or “beyond car” way. All details here:

  • Oh, and we’ll have a bike valet!

  • That is really unfortunate that there has to be a challenge to arrive to this without a car…and that moving about without a car in LA is a sacrificial, heroic, newsworthy event for a lot of people….

  • Rich Alossi

    We tried to go yesterday at lunch time, but the doors were locked, no one home… security guards didn’t know anything and there’s no contact number. I’ll try again, but lunchtime is really the only time I can make it over there.

  • Sean

    The website says it’s open from 10-7 but I went by a couple of times today and the doors were locked and I saw no one inside. There may be access from the elevator but I tried to enter from Fig and had no luck.

    bzcat–the exhibit is on Figueroa, just north of 6th street.

  • I agree, Justin, but this event has also gotten a lot of people excited about trying to get somewhere in LA in a car-free way for the very first time. That’s a good thing!

    Sean, I heard that the person who mans the exhibit had an emergency yesterday, but it should be open today.

  • As a person that tried and failed to use only a bike to get around L.A. in the 80s, I am so proud and happy to see this now.


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