I know that it’s not the case — but even the most recently transplanted Angeleno should know that Los Angeles was built around railroads. The first steam train appeared in Los Angeles in 1869, nineteen years after the city was incorporated. The first horsecar showed up in 1874. The first trolley began operation in 1885. The arrival of the transcontinental railroad ignited the first population boom in 1888. Electric trains were launched in 1890 and before long the region boasted the largest electric interurban rail network in world history.
Trains were an essential amenity in navigating Los Angeles and were thus often built by real estate developers. Streetcar suburbs were colloquially known as “toonervilles,” after the then-popular comic strip, Toonerville Folks (a.k.a. The Toonerville Trolley That Meets All the Trains). There were so many train lines and so many operator that this map is not complete. I did include, though, the first line (the Spring and Sixth Street Railroad Company), the biggest network (Pacific Electric Railway), and the most historically popular (Los Angeles Railway). I’ll add more over time.
Of course most of those early trains have vanished (most — because Angels Flight — inaugurated in 1901, moved to its current location in 1996). Many trains were replaced with buses — which, I suppose, is why so many vintage train nerds hate buses so much. I, for the record, have no problem with buses. Sure, they (for reasons I don’t honestly understand) lack the romance of even a streetcar but most people ride transit to get places, not for charm, and Los Angeles County’s buses have, since their introduction in the 1920s, been the the workhorses of our transit network.
That said, Los Angeles buses (and bus riders) have never been given the respect they deserve. Without bus-only lanes, they mired in traffic alongside private automobiles. Without frequent service, it sometimes makes more sense just to walk. Without decent bus stops (e.g. ones with seating, shelter, lighting, route maps, charging stations, waste bins, Wi-Fi, &c), buses will remain the last resort, rather than first choice, for those without access to a car.
Our trains, meanwhile, are nice (if slow) but our train stations are inexcusably lacking considering the fact that Los Angeles is the third wealthiest city in the world (measured by gross municipal product). Whereas cities with less wealth than Los Angeles, like Hong Kong, Osaka, Seoul, and Taipei have shops, restaurants, vending machines, &c. There is hope, however. In 2025, Metro will complete its first train station with a public restroom. What a concept!