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Los Angeles - September 2004

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Los Angeles — Two Downtown Trolleys

Rail Transit Online — September 2004

The Community Redevelopment Agency has approved spending a $100,000 federal grant on a feasibility study of a proposed downtown streetcar loop running all the way from Chinatown on the north to the Staples Center sports arena at the south end of the central business district.  The five-mile (8 km) route would serve virtually every major traffic downtown generator including the Music Center, Union Station, the financial district, the Convention Center, Little Tokyo and hotel and shopping areas.  It would start at Ord and Alameda streets in Chinatown and zigzag over to Broadway and 3rd Street before heading south to 12th Street.  The tracks would then head west to Figueroa Street, turn north to Temple Street, east to Broadway and north again back to Ord Street.  Replica historic trolley would be purchased, although a few authentic museum pieces, possibly Pacific Electric or Los Angeles Railway cars, would be sought.  A conceptual design completed by Korve Engineering in 2001 called for a 10-car fleet providing service 12 hours a day on a five-minute headway serving up to 24 stops. The proposal has already generated widespread and enthusiastic support from the political and business communities. 

 Giving the project solid credibility is the influential Central City Association (CCA).  “It is not a slam dunk, but we believe it's doable,” CCA President and CEO Carol Schatz told the Los Angeles Downtown News.  “We' don't get involved in pie in the sky projects.  It can happen over the next several years, but certainly not immediately.”  Broadway Federal Bank President Paul Hudson offered even more encouragement.  “It would have a lot of cachet, having a Red Car trolley running through downtown,” Hudson told the Los Angeles Times.  “The fantasy or vision is it would be used almost like the trolley cars in San Francisco — not just for tourists but as a functional way for residents to get around.”  However, as usual, obtaining money for the project — an estimated $40 million or more — is the big problem, with an MTA spokesman already saying that his agency doesn’t have the resources.  “It's not on our radar screen,” MTA spokesman Marc Littman told the Times.  “Not that it is a bad idea, but it is not on our list of priorities.” 

Another trolley proposal is struggling to get both funding and city support.  It would link Angelino Heights, an early L.A. suburb located in hilly terrain northwest of downtown, with the civic center and lower Chinatown, resurrecting the old Los Angeles Railway Edgeware Road Shuttle Line which was scrapped in 1946.  The nonprofit Angeleno Heights Trolley Line Inc. already has possession of a 1920 Birney Safety Car, L.A. Railway No. 1030, which once trundled along the 5.5-mi. (8.85 km) route but is in need of extensive restoration costing an estimated $600,000.  At least two more cars would be needed to maintain a viable schedule.  Supporters believe much of the track still exists below layers of asphalt and could be used again, cutting the capital cost to about $15 million.  The route would circle Angelino Heights, then run along Sunset Boulevard to a downtown loop on Spring, Aliso and Main streets and on Cesar Chavez Avenue, intersecting the downtown trolley line at Figueroa Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue.  “It would be something people would ride,” Angeleno Heights Trolley Line President Bruce Lash told the Los Angeles Times.  “It would connect a lot of the attractions that draw people to downtown Los Angeles.”  Here again, there is strong political support but the MTA has no interest in participating. 


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