The Los Angeles metro is 25 years old -- here's how mass transit made a comeback in the land of the car

Urban folklore in Southern California claims it was the car companies that engineered the destruction of the Los Angeles streetcar system. 

Unfettered by a lack of rail, and filled to the brim with Angeleno enthusiasm, Los Angeles’ highway network grew and grew and grew — to the point that the city is now synonymous with freeways and traffic.  

But the City of Angels also boasts the most trafficked light-rail system in the United States, which opened to passengers on July 14, 1990 — 27 years after the closure of the last streetcar.  

Business Insider is taking a look back at the first two and a half decades of Metro, which now serves 350,000 riders every weekday, via its 80 stations throughout LA County.

Ground was broken for the first line of what would become Metro -- the Blue Line -- on October 31, 1985, but garnering public support wasn't easy.

To celebrate the opening, LA turned to none other than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to star in an ad called 'Operation Blue Line.'

Over the years, Metro grew to eventually include 6 lines. The Red Line followed the Blue Line, opening in 1993.

More lines followed Red. Here, the Green Line celebrates its opening in 1995.

Originally, the system ran on the honour system. Unfortunately, not enough Angelenos could be trusted, and Metro resorted to fare gates like other systems.

While most of the system is above ground, the underground stations add a splash of colour when people dip below the streets.

Plenty of stars have ridden the Metro when not being driven by chauffeurs. Even the Harlem Globetrotters made an appearance in 2007.

The above-ground lines, like the Gold Line pictured here, look like commuter rail cars, with electrical power coming from an overhead wire.

Underground, the trains look more like subway trains you would expect to see in New York or Europe.

Los Angeles' Metro isn't done growing. The Expo Line is currently being extended as part of a $14-billion project -- the largest public works project in the country. It will connect Santa Monica, on the coast, to inland Culver City and the rest of LA County.

In 25 years, the Metro has carried over 1.5 billion passengers on its 87 miles of track. To celebrate, officials recreated the exact scene that opened the original line -- with smoke and banners.

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Here's to 25 more years.

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