This 1990s Vision of a Monorail on the L.A. River Is Incredible

The push to turn a concrete channel into a cross-county transit system

Los Angeles took a major leap forward last week, approving a tax that will allow us to finally build a comprehensive transit system to knit together our giant metropolis. Back in the early ’90s, the idea of a train line to Santa Monica or a subway to Westwood was as radical as a major female nominee for president. Transit enthusiasts, though encouraged by the 1993 opening of the Red Line subway, saw the dawn of a new city and advocated for fresh ideas on weaning L.A. off the car.

A classic video from the early ’90s (we’re guessing ’93 or ’94 since it shows the Red Line) pushes the idea of monorails running throughout the length of the county, specifically along the L.A. River. Producer and director Don Sweeney narrates the clip—with a thick Jersey accent—claiming the aesthetically-challenged flood channel is the best route for the elevated train. Sweeney rightfully points out that putting monorails atop freeways means loud, dirty stations—yup, just ask Green Line riders. Instead he thinks people will travel to stations along the river to get around the Valley, DTLA, and Long Beach (considering there are few destinations near the river, that seems unlikely).

Since Sweeney’s video, the L.A. River has slowly come back to life, with kayaking, bike trails, and walking paths; there are even plans for removing the unsightly concrete. Adding giant pylons to the revived river doesn’t exactly sound like an idea our new administration would approve. Still, we don’t want to critique Sweeney’s ambition; he’s far from the only one to advocate for monorails in Los Angeles. Not only did the city consider building a monorail network in the mid-20th century, it had a huge stan in legendary Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury.