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Los Angeles - October 2006

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Los Angeles — Streetcar Report

Rail Transit Online — October 2006

The glory days of electric streetcar service in downtown Los Angeles could return if the vision outlined in a consultant’s report commissioned by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is fulfilled.  The document predicts that an on-street rail circulator system could encourage development, attract tourists and bring more people to public transit, reflecting the experiences of Portland and other cities.  “This isn't just a cute little tourist attraction,” Carol Schatz, president and CEO of the influential Central City Association, told the Los Angeles Times.  “We need a sophisticated and fun circulator that ties together all the vibrant districts that are spread around downtown.” 

The idea for a new streetcar network has been floated before but this is the first official analysis.  The $100,000 study by consultant IBI Group looked at five possible routes, all on a north-south alignment connecting major traffic generators and costing between $60 million and $73 million, the price tag depending on length and amenities.  The proposed routes outlined in the 68-page report include a reverse "S" on Hope Street, First Street, Broadway, Seventh Street and back to Hope Street; a loop along Broadway, 11th Street, Flower Street and First Street with a short spur on Figueroa Street to the sports and entertainment venues at Staples Center and L.A. Live; and three variations of a loop generally serving Civic Center, Little Tokyo, the Arts District, Chinatown and the Fashion District.  IBI recommended a follow-up study to examine each route in detail.  

So far, there’s been no commitment from city officials, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who has previously announced that a costly extension of the Red Line subway to West L.A. and Santa Monica is number one on his transit agenda.  The CRA also has not taken a position on the proposal.   But Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents the area that would be served by the streetcar, said she likes the idea.  “I think that anything that could serve residents and tourists, and reduces the number of car trips, can't just be rejected,” Perry told the Los Angeles Times.  If it were to go forward, the project wouldn’t be completed for six to eight years and a funding scenario involving both public- and private-sector contributions still has to be developed.  It would most likely be managed by the city or a non-profit agency, not the Metropolitan Transit Authority.  Streetcars operated by the legendary Pacific Electric and Los Angeles Transit Lines once blanketed much of Los Angeles; the last lines were scrapped in 1963. 


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