The Expo Line may have brought passenger trains back to Santa Monica after more than 60 years, but its trackage wasn’t used exclusively by this train service until much later: before then it was utilized by Pacific Electric Red Cars–one of Los Angeles’s legendary urban public transit systems which once played as integral a role as today’s freeways and buses.

The Pacific Electric Railway Company–commonly known as PE–established an interurban network spanning every corner of Southern California. Operating both electric and steam locomotives and various railcar types, PE had routes stretching north through Hollywood, Van Nuys and Cahuenga Pass; east through Pasadena San Fernando Valley Riverside Long Beach Newport Santa Monica Torrance Redondo Beach Venice

At its inception, the PE was run as a business venture by industrialist and financier Henry Huntington. Success for Huntington depended heavily on drawing in passengers while supporting commercial development along its routes; interurbans may have been costly but could accommodate twice as many passengers than regular buses or taxis while producing less pollution than other modes of transport.

Chandler Boulevard was part of PE’s vast network, and one of their projects to resurface the roadway between 27th Avenue and 19th Avenue will include adding a bike lane and context-sensitive lighting that will amplify this historic corridor. These works form part of a larger effort to revive Chandler’s downtown retail district with independent shops, name-brand retailers and restaurants providing everything from fast food to fine dining experiences.

While all Red Cars were retired by 1949, PE’s history lives on in unexpected ways. Some streets were even built over its right-of-way; murals and plaques on Huntington Drive in El Sereno mark where an old PE bridge operated between North Hollywood and Kester Junction.

Chandler Boulevard once lined by streetcars is now home to a tiny-home village for the homeless, opening in February 2021 and boasting 40 two-bed cottages that can house 76 individuals. Overseen by local faith-based nonprofit Hope the Mission, which offers services such as assistance with accessing city services, case management services for mental health issues and job training services as well as help finding permanent housing solutions for residents.