Los Angeles — Downtown streetcar project gets 30 years of O&M funding

Simulation of proposed streetcar in downtown LA [Source: Wilder Utopia blog].

Los Angeles, California — In a victory for supporters of a proposed electric streetcar line in downtown LA, who have campaigned for years, on March 6th the Los Angeles City Council okayed up to $352 million to cover the streetcar’s operating and maintenance (O&M) costs for three decades. Operation would be covered for 18 hours a day, seven days a week.

A March 6th story in the Los Angeles Times cited officials’ explanation that “The money will come from Measure R, the 2008 ballot measure that added a half-cent sales tax to fund county transportation projects….”

Linking the Civic Center to the Convention Center, according to the Times, the 3.5-mile loop “would run primarily along three of downtown’s main arteries — Broadway, Hill and Figueroa streets — and connect various neighborhoods, including the old banking district, South Park, Civic Center and the fashion district.” The proposed route stretches 10 blocks along Broadway before it veers over to L.A. Live and then runs through the financial district. Other streets it would run on, in addition to Broadway, include 11th, Figueroa, 7th and Hill.

[Map source: Streetcar.la]

Investment cost of the streetcar project is estimated $125 million. This past December (2012), approximately 70% of voters approved creating a tax assessment district to finance the local share of the project capital investment, and federal funds are being sought to finance $75 million of the total. The line is currently projected to open in 2016.

Councilman Jose Huizar, who sponsored the motion to approve the O&M funding, issued a statement that declared: “We are rapidly moving from a city that focuses on how many cars we can move to one that asks how many people we can move, and what are the best ways to do that.”

As the March 6th LA Times report further noted,

Supporters have emphasized the trolley’s potential to create economic growth in downtown, particularly along Broadway, where the city is working to revive old theaters and other historic buildings. Studies commissioned by the city have estimated that the streetcar could create 9,000 jobs over 25 years.

A December 4th LA Times story emphasized the strong popular support for the streetcar, perceived as a “missing transportation link”. The paper quoted downtown developer Scott Denham, vice president of Evoq Properties:

If you’re in New York, or San Francisco or Portland, you forget about your car. You walk, you take public transportation, and you get a much richer experience. The whole concept of being in L.A. and not having to drive to have a whole Saturday or Sunday to experience downtown … It’s really not that far off in reality.

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