By Kay Martin, October 25, 2013
LEANING RIGHT-Sixty years ago a bus ride or Red Car ride to downtown Los Angeles always offered the opportunity to “see the world.” It was an opportunity to get out of the neighborhood and then hop on a trolley once you arrived downtown.
Half a century after the last of the lost Pacific Electric Red Cars rumbled through Los Angeles, a move has begun to return trolleys to downtown LA.
"Everyone has a story about themselves or their parents or somebody riding these streetcars," said City Councilman Jose Huizar, whose 2008 "Bringing Back Broadway" plan started the push before his efforts were side tracked due to sexual harassment in his office. Let me clarify, he was the sexual harasser.
Broadway was once the busiest and brightest street in the center of the city, then for decades became a symbol of downtown's decay. I myself remember riding the trolleys and enjoying their air conditioning system which consisted of throwing the windows opens and hanging you head out.
Huizar's plan has sought to revive the movie theaters and nightspots that have sat in disrepair.
It appears to be working, and the trolley line could make its restoration complete.
"It's a beautiful corridor," Huizar said. "It's located in a perfect spot."
With a route chosen by the city and an environmental review begun, the proposed four-mile Broadway-to-Figueroa loop is a modest project compared to the region's subway extensions and freeway expansions, but would provide a link between the key spots of the downtown renaissance and a symbolic link with the city's mythologized past.
The line 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.
While the streetcar has a long history in LA, the most recent streetcar restoration project picked up steam in 2008. The project is largely led by non-profit organization LA Street car Inc., which represents the private sector involved with the project, including downtown business and property owners.
The recent Streetcar timeline is:
- 2006: Idea for the project Raised by redevelopment agency
- 2008 Cost estimate set at $100 million
- 2012 New estimate of $125 million
- 2012 72% of downtown voters approve tax district
- 2013 In February the city transportation agency request new estimate
- 2013 City Council learns the cost could be $327 million
The proposed four mile route is scheduled to start at 1st Street, run 11 blocks south along Broadway before veering west to LA Live then north through the Financial Zone.
Over the years the cost has increased from $100 million to $352 million.
The route is great and goes down Broadway before swinging over to LA Live and adjacent Staples Center. The route then heads north to the 7th Street Metro Center before bypassing the LA Library and Pershing Square. The route continues north before it makes a u-turn at Civic Center and Grand Park.
Included in the reasons the price has been rising is that planners have learned that beneath Broadway lies a tightly packed tangle of power lines and century old pipes. Moving them or replacing them would be very expensive.
When I learned of this I asked myself:
- Why was this a surprise to these planners?
- Won’t the trolleys actually run on surface level tracks?
- Won’t the trolley’s power be supplied by overhead lines?
Some examples of where politicos have tried to do something and failed:
● The Grand Avenue Project has nothing to show after spending $120 million and 10 years. Can the trolley project top this?
● The Anschultz Entertainment Group will never have a downtown Stadium of Champs. AEG has nothing to show. Can the trolley project top this?
● Our debt was $10 trillion in 2008 is now $17 trillion. The “T” is not a typo.
● We are on the verge of wrecking our medical system with Obamacare.
● LAX is the only major airport in the world with no access other than the oval moving parking lot.
● Spending $600 million and 3 years on a web site that is a joke. Other experts have said they could have provided it for $1 million and it would have worked.
● Pouring billions down the War on Poverty hole since the 1960s and having nothing to show except disintegrated families and “victocrats” who are still standing there with their hands out.
● Government shutdown for 2 weeks including national veteran monuments.
● State release of 2,000 dangerous felons, location unknown.
● Huizar’s extracurricular activities have probably been getting in the way of his attention to the budget and to the cables under Broadway.
It would be a real pleasure to be able to hop on the trolley downtown again, hang out the window, and “see the world” but I doubt the trolley will become a reality. So it looks like I will just stay here in the ‘hood.