Los Angeles is a shipping, industrial, communication, financial, fashion, and distribution center for the W United States and much of the Pacific Rim. It is also the motion picture, television, radio, and recording capital of the United States, if not the world, housing numerous studios. Once an agricultural distribution center, Los Angeles is a leading producer of clothing and textiles, aircraft, computers and software, paper, toys, glass, furniture, wire, biomedical products, electrical and electronic machinery, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, and fabricated metal. Tourism, printing and publishing, food processing, and oil refining are also important.
Los Angeles has one of the busiest ports in the United States, with roughly half of its commerce coming from other nations, and its international airport is one of the world's busiest. The metropolitan area's vast freeway system has made Los Angeles the archetypal auto-dependent urban area. The huge number of motor vehicles, combined with the city's valley location, often creates dangerously high smog levels. A light-rail system (opened in 1990) and buses alleviate freeway congestion only a little; a new subway (completed 2000) also provides insignificant relief.
Maintaining an adequate water supply has long been a problem for Los Angeles. The city obtains most of its water from California's Central Valley to the north. In 1992 the city ended protracted litigation with environmentalists when it agreed to curtail water diversion in certain areas until ecological recovery had been achieved.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.