Los Angeles Department of Transportation
The history of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation
can be traced back to the end of World War I. The automobile
was transitioning from a novelty to a necessity, and Los
Angeles experienced the most rapid population increase of
any major city.
Nowhere were the impacts of the automobile
more intensely felt than in Downtown Los Angeles. Immediate
innovation and creative solutions were needed, prompting
45-minute parking restrictions in 1919, followed by experimental
traffic signals in 1920.
During the 1920’s, the City adopted a Major Traffic
Plan and the first simplified Traffic Code anywhere in the
nation. However, there was no single City agency to handle
But Ralph T. Dorsey, a traffic engineering
pioneer and long-time city resident, emerged as the creative
innovator Los Angeles needed at the time. Built around Dorsey,
the Bureau of Street Traffic Engineering – a traffic
management organization – formed as a unit of the
City’s Police Department in June 1930.
The Department of Traffic Engineering was
created in 1949 to address post-World War II traffic growth
on a more professional and programmatic basis. In June 1953,
a change in the City Charter created the Department of Traffic.
But by the mid-1970’s, it was apparent
that the complex problems of mobility could not be resolved
by traffic control measures alone. An agency with a broader
mission was necessary to manage gasoline rationing, car
pool efforts, rail transit system goals and environmental
quality law compliance.
The Department of Transportation was formed
by ordinance on February 25, 1979, and consolidated most
transportation-related functions into a single department.
Unresolved issues delayed the transfer of other functions
to LADOT until 1984.
Since then, the Department of Transportation
has evolved and increased services to meet the changing
needs of the nation’s second largest and most dynamic
For more detail on LADOT’s
history and to view era photographs, please read our “Transportation
Topics and Tales: Milestones in
in Southern California” brochure, written by John
Fisher, Assistant General Manager of Transportation Operations.