All Aboard: Group Hopes to Bring Back Streetcars

By Aaron Blevins, 3/29/2012


Organizers with Bringing Back Broadway have selected a route for the planned Los Angeles Streetcar line, and they hope to bring it downtown by 2015 or 2016, with construction to commence by 2014.

A rendering depicts how the streetcars would run on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. (photo courtesy of L.A. Streetcar Inc.)

The route will eventually head south on Broadway Street from 1st Street to 11th Street, west to Figueroa Street, north to 7th Street, east to Hill Street and north to 1st Street. According to a statement, it may travel up 1st Street and into Bunker Hill on Grand Avenue as funding becomes available.

“We’re really happy with it,” Bringing Back Broadway executive director Jessica Wethington McLean said. “It uses Broadway as the spine, and it reaches different spots downtown that aren’t connected right now.”

McLean said 65 total routes had been discussed, some of which had been developed since the 1990s. Organizers had several rounds of cuts until only one remained. McLean said the selected route has the lowest cost and the highest ridership potential.

According to a statement, a Fehr & Peers study projected the opening month ridership to be between 6,610 and 8,390 riders daily. Those ridership figures would place the streetcar near the top of the city’s transportation modes.

Furthermore, organizers expect the streetcar to spur economic development, creating a projected 9,300 new jobs, $1.1 billion in new development, $24.5 million in new tourism and consumer spending and $47 million in new city revenue.

“They’re a great urban circulator, but they’re also a great economic development tool,” McLean said.

She said it is possible that the city could create plans for more streetcars in the near future. In Seattle, a month after the first streetcar line opened, the city created a streetcar master plan for the entire city, McLean said.

“The key is public/private partnerships,” she said. “Our biggest problem is we aren’t going to be able to build them fast enough.”

While some L.A. residents recall the “yellow cars” fondly, the new cars are more modern, environmentally-friendly and ADA-accessible. The streetcar will run 18 hours per day, seven days a week, though no operator has been chosen, McLean said.

The cost of the project is expected to range from $107 million to $125 million, and funding has not been secured. Bringing Back Broadway will pursue federal money, though property owners along the route will foot a portion of the bill.

McLean said the plan will go before the Los Angeles City Council again at some point. Registered voters in the area will also be able to vote on the project through mail-in ballots handled by the city clerk.

She said Bringing Back Broadway will now begin the environmental review process, which is expected to last nine to 12 months.

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