Although it revisits a number of previous themes, the present comparison also highlights the many improvements that were made to Los Angeles’ basic street infrastructure during the 20th century. By modern design standards, each of the city’s major arteries would have appeared remarkably primitive on the eve of the Great Depression. Traffic lanes and marked crosswalks were non-existent along Wilshire Boulevard, while traffic signals had been installed at only ten intersections on the 7.5-mile stretch between Westlake Park and Santa Monica Boulevard.
In the early 1930s, Wilshire became Los Angeles’ testing ground for innovations in traffic engineering which eventually spread across the city. The first roadway markings were applied in 1930, consisting of a single center line separating opposing traffic (visible in the top photograph), and an additional line on each side to mark two traffic lanes. In the following year, the first synchronized three-light traffic signals were installed at 28 intersections, accompanied by the first painted stop lines.
Owing to Wilshire Center’s development into one of the city’s busiest commercial corridors, crosswalks and traffic signals have since been placed at the vast majority of its intersections. Also visible in the present view is the addition of curbside parking spaces, accompanied by the requisite curb striping, meters, and signage. Street trees and planters, completely absent in the original photograph, have been placed throughout most of the boulevard’s densest, walkable areas.
1. “Step taken to make Wilshire greatest artery.” Los Angeles Times. 7 Sep. 1930. E1.
2. “Traffic check reveals improved conditions.” Los Angeles Times. 3 Apr. 1932. E2.
3. “Wilshire signals work” Los Angeles Times. 4 Oct. 1931. E1.
Original photo: Dick Whittington Studio. “Intersection of Wilshire Boulevard & South New Hampshire Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, 1931 – DW-1931-03-03-12~03.” Dick Whittington Photography Collection. USC Digital Library. USC Libraries Special Collections. http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15799coll170/id/19265/rec/7.