The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles save Los Angeles rail transit in "Operation Blue Line" (1990)

As a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle enthusiast in childhood and a Los Angeles rapid transit enthusiast in adulthood, I should, by all rights, love Operation Blue Line, a ten-minute 1990 promotional video wherein the usually New York-based Heroes on a Half Shell defeat Gridlock, a villain bent on "suppressing all public information" about the Blue Line, the first branch of the city's modern rail system. It does, however, have a certain strike against it: its terribleness.

But then, Los Angeles transit riders have always had to put up with a lot. Between 1961 and 1990, this supposed "urban megalopolis" (in the words of Operation Blue Line's narrator) didn't have any rail lines at all, and even in 2015 we deal with a rapid transit system still incomplete but nevertheless promoted with a brazenness bordering on fraudulence: some posters boast of 80 train stations in a city that needs 800; others ask "What's not to love?" about a "rapid" bus line lacking almost every acknowledged element of bus rapid transit.

So in that sense, Operation Blue Line counts pretty much as business as usual for the promotional wing of the body then known as (and often called with irony) the Los Angeles Rapid Transit District. But at the end of the day, these guys in Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michaelangelo suits with surprisingly few points of articulation do at least vanquish Gridlock, leaving Angelenos relatively save to ride between downtown, Watts, Compton, Long Beach, and a great many disused-looking factories.

Eager Turtlemaniacs received VHS copies of Operation Blue Line handed out on July 14, 1990, the train's grand opening. For much more on the Blue and other Lines, true nerds may want to listen to my podcast interview with Ethan Elkind, author of Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail System and the Future of the City. In it, I ask him about everything we've all wanted to know on the subject, except for the most important issue: what superhero team will defend the Crenshaw Line?

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