Ever since President Benjamin Harrison skipped La Cañada on his 1891 Pacific rail tour, La Cañada has been disconnected.
Harrison’s route took him to Los Angeles, and from there to San Diego, Santa Ana, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Pasadena, San Fernando, Santa Paula, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Bakersfield, Tulare, Fresno, Merced and to other points north.
It’s hard to imagine that La Cañada was less deserving of a railway system than Merced or San Fernando. La Cañadans grew grapes and other crops. The founding mothers and fathers yearned for a transportation system, for roads and railways. As recently as 1903, “influential citizens” in La Cañada told the Los Angeles Times that construction of a local railway was a high priority.
“For a long time a railway has been needed in the foothill country six or eight miles northwest of Pasadena,” they told the Times. “To this end, influential citizens have issued a call to a meeting in the town hall…when an improvement association is to be formed.” (“La Canyada wants railroad,” Los Angeles Times, Aug. 26, 1903.)
The association was “supposed to take up the cudgel” for a railroad.
Apart from the obvious, that the cudgel, a short thick stick used as a weapon, lacked the light touch needed for the politically charged, allegedly-impartial-yet-corrupt political process that rail-route decisions attracted in 1903, our region’s subsequent history proved that these “influential citizens” lacked the clout to achieve their goal.
Their goal was to connect the Crescenta-Cañada valley with the rest of the world, to unite La Cañada with mainstream Los Angeles and Pasadena using an inexpensive, readily available transportation management system — the railroad track system.
Three years later, in 1906, hope returned with the incorporation of the Los Angeles, La Cañada and Pasadena Railway Company. The Times reported that when the railway company filed its articles of incorporation, rumors began to circulate about the coming railroad line to connect the foothill community with Pasadena and Downtown Los Angeles (“La Canyada road talk excites,” L.A. Times, Nov. 14, 1906).
Alas! The plan fizzled. No tracks were ever laid in La Cañada. Our town remained off the beaten path. It stayed isolated, long hours away from the other town centers. All this despite the political efforts of its “influential” citizens.
Fast forward to 2013. Once again, there are no light rail routes planned for our town.
Light rail has been suggested as an alternative option to mitigate the 710 and 210 freeways connection, but no one has suggested that La Cañada Flintridge be connected to Pasadena or Los Angeles, with any system other than the freeways.
Yes, there are a few commuter buses. There’s the UCLA van pool and the Caltech shuttles. There are public buses as well. La Cañada Flintridge is 12 miles from Pasadena’s civic center, which is six to eight minutes by car, and one hour, 17 minutes by bus.
What this means for La Cañada Flintridge’s future is as clear today as it was 100 years ago.
The future of Southern California is mass transit. Without mass transit to La Cañada Flintridge, we will be out of the loop in 10 years. Just like we were in 1906.
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.