Zocalo: Are Trains the Future of L.A.?

For a century, the hearts of Angelenos have belonged to cars and to flying machines, not trains–even though we never would have become a city without the railroad, and couldn’t survive as a global trade center without the rail links to our seaports.

But today, in a potentially historic shift, Southern California governments are betting billions that trains can win us over. Five rail lines are under construction right now in L.A., part of a 30-year wave of projects that could give Southern California the most highly developed rail system in the country, save New York.

But will we go along for the ride?

Only a tiny percentage of us use the Metro rail regularly, and California’s high-speed rail project is deeply unpopular in L.A. Will we change our ways and depend on trains daily–and embrace development around rail networks? What is it about rail that captures people’s hearts–and why has L.A. remained immune to this almost universally beloved mode of transport?

Journalist and Chapman University English scholar Tom Zoellner, author of Train, and UCLA and UC Berkeley legal, business, and environmental scholarEthan Elkind, author of Railtown, visit Zócalo to discuss the past and future of trains here, and whether Los Angeles will finally fall for rail.

Books will be available through Skylight Books.

Photo courtesy of Metro Library and Archive.

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Preliminary rendering of future double-deck light rail tracks at Union Station, with the Gold Line below the future West Santa Ana Branch rail. Image via Metro staff presentation

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