Streetcars a Step Closer to Returning Downtown Los Angeles

Voters approved a measure to fund half of a 4-mile loop through downtown

More than a half-century after downtown Los Angeles was served by a network of streetcars, the vintage mode of transit could see a revival, thanks to voter approval of a property tax to fund about half of a $125 million project.

A mail-only election that finished Monday night asked voters in the area to approve a tax on property owners for an approximately 4-mile fixed-rail streetcar line that would circle through downtown.

About 73 percent of downtown voters in a specially created district approved it, well more than the two-thirds majority needed, according to unofficial results from the Los Angeles City Clerk (PDF). Just over 19 percent of the 10,658 registered voters in the district cast ballots, far exceeding turnout expectations.

If the federal government provides the remaining funding, the line would run be built to share traffic lanes in a circuit along Broadway, 11th, Figueroa, Seventh & Hill streets, as a map of the proposed route shows. The streetcar is expected to run seven days per week, 18 hours per day.

The tax approved by voters will pay for bond that is expected to cost $62.5 million but will not exceed $85 million.

Taxes will be assessed based on square footage and proximity to the streetcar line, a prospect that frustrated some business owners who will have to pay the tax but were unable to vote because they don't live in the district.

Most residential units will pay about $100 per year, according to nonprofit Los Angeles Streetcar Inc., which was founded four years ago to push for the line.

The LA City Council in summer approved a Community Facilities District extending for three blocks on either side of the proposed route, calling for a special election on the streetcar.

City Councilman Jose Huizar, who has pushed his "Bringing Back Broadway" initiative and is a streetcar supporter, vowed to push for federal funding to complete the rail line.

Streetcar supports say construction and operation will bring 9,000 jobs and $1.1 billion in new development to downtown.

Los Angeles was once serviced by the fabled Red Car system, which expanded well into the suburbs and was once the largest electric railway system in the world. The last cars were retired in the early 1960s.

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