Los Angeles

LA Streetcar Project Takes Another Step Forward

After becoming obsolete in the early-1960's, the alternate form of transportation is making a comeback

Los Angeles is moving one step closer to putting streetcars back onto downtown roads, more than 50 years after pulling them out.

Angelenos are being asked to tell city planners what they think of the plan during an open comment period that runs through August 8.

The $282 million project proposes a 3.8-mile fixed-rail circulator around Grand Park in downtown LA, connecting important areas such as Staples Center and the Historical Broadway District. The circuit would run along Broadway, 11th, Figueroa, Seventh & Hill streets, and is expected to run 7 days a week, 18 hours a day.

"We wanted to give people an alternative to getting downtown that was enjoyable, instead of sitting behind the wheel and hating yourself," said Shane Phillips, the project director of LA Streetcar Inc., a nonprofit working with the government on the project.

Studies are also being done to determine the environmental impact of the restoration of the historic streetcar service that was shut down in 1963.

The streetcar was a staple in LA during the early and mid-1900s, and was at one point the largest electric railway system in the world. The streetcars were eventually pushed out by the construction of highways and bus systems throughout the city, said Phillips.

Now, a half-century later, lawmakers have revisited the streetcar idea in response to high fuel prices and heavy congestion.

Phillips said public support has been consistently positive since the idea was conceived. In 2014, taxpayers voted to approve a property tax that would fund a portion of the project.

William Jones, supervisor of the environmental report for the streetcar project, said though many praise the streetcar project for potentially eliminating congestion, some are concerned the opposite will happen from adding another form of transportation to the already choked downtown streets.

He said that some residents argue the construction of the streetcar itself could cause increased street crowding. Construction is projected to begin in 2018 and last until 2020.

"People are always worried about traffic, even though in the long run this could relieve the area of some of that congestion," said Jones.

Phillips says the streetcar is joining the ranks of other projects recently designed and built to give LA residents an alternative to driving, such as bike lanes and new Metro lines.

"People drive downtown and go, 'What do I do now?' Phillips said, "They have to drive all around to find parking. We want you to be able to get around downtown without that."

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