Public meeting for downtown L.A. streetcar project on Aug. 2 to discuss study of routes

Click above to see a larger version of the map.

Metro has announced an Aug. 2 meeting in downtown L.A. (details below) to discuss the study process for a project to return streetcar service to downtown Los Angeles. It’s a city of Los Angeles project, but Metro planners are doing the studies.

Planners will discuss the initial screening of routes for the streetcar and the ones that they have selected for further study — shown above. Here’s a seven-page briefing that details issues with all the many routes that have been reviewed thus far.

Planners have divided downtown into three different areas – north of 5th, between 5th and 9th and south of 9th — to review the different route options within each of those areas. The one thing to keep in mind with the above map is that the southbound segment on Broadway between 1st and 9th is common to all the routes.

What do you think about the different routes? Comment please!

Another thing to keep in mind: the city still must secure funding for the project. The longer the route, the more money it will likely cost.

The meeting announcement is after the jump. Here’s Metro’s streetcar page and here’s the GoLAStreetcar website by project supporters.

The announcement:

Metro will host a community update meeting for the Restoration of Historic Streetcar Service in Downtown Los Angeles Project to discuss the results of the initial screening of alternatives.  Metro will make a brief presentation outlining the screening process and describe the project alternatives that will be further evaluated and considered for the locally preferred alternative.

Please mark your calendars and plan to attend:
Tuesday, August 2, 2011, 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Caltrans, 1st Floor Conference Room
100 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

The project website has been updated to include information regarding the results of the initial screening evaluation. For more information on the Project, please visit

Comments may be submitted at the meeting; sent via e-mail to; provided via voicemail at (213) 922-3000; or mailed to Metro c/o Historic Streetcar Service, One Gateway Plaza, 99-22-2, Los Angeles, CA, 90012.

Thank you for your continued interest in this project!

16 replies

  1. I cannot see the map in detail but I assume that one of the options is to run by/through Union Station…that along with running past LA Live/Convention center is critical to any success of this project.

  2. Needs Staples Center, LA Convention Center, and LA Live Area on Figueroa, right to LA Central Public Library on Flower, up Bunker Hill to connect with Angels Flight, right on 1st connect with Civic Center, to Little Tokyo, and onto Olvera Street/Union Station.

  3. Study maps for the LA Streetcar should also show the existing subway route and the entire light rail system in the study area once the Regional Connector is complete, with all the subway and light rail stations including Little Tokyo and Union Station. Only with this additional information can alignments be discerned that do not duplicate existing and upcoming rail transit service.

    • Hi Paul —

      I think you raise a very good point. For anyone reading and to try to help paint that picture, the Regional Connector will be under Flower Street between 2nd Street and the current 7th/Metro Center Blue Line station. The subway currently runs under Hill Street. The map does show Metro Rail stations but I think it does help to also know the Metro Rail alignments. If, in fact, Broadway is chosen for the streetcar, that would be the easternmost north-south rail corridor in downtown (except for Metrolink, which runs along the L.A. River).

      Thanks for reading and writing,

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. Honestly, I don’t think it needs to go to Union Station. Little Tokyo, maybe but not Union Station.

    The Red Line already provides quick access to Union Station. The Gold Line links Little Tokyo and Union Station. If the Regional Connector gets built, that will provide even better access to Union Station.

    The longer the route is, the less frequent service is going to end up.

    The route ought to connect Broadway/ Historic Core with Bunker Hill and the LACC/ L.A. Live/ Staples Center area.

  5. I’d like to see a two-way alignment that starts on Alameda at the Chinatown Gold Line Station, continues south on Alameda then onto Main Street, following Main all the way to 11th Street, following W 11th through South Park then making a clockwise turnaround via left Flower where the Blue Line is still running underground, connecting with the Blue/Expo Lines at the Pico surface level station, then right on Pico, right on Figueroa with a stop right across from Staples Center, then right on W 11th and back to the Chinatown Gold Line Station via the same streets. A relatively simple alignment through the heart of the new-old downtown. No duplication with other rail services. The north end turnaround could be the tiny block where the aerial Chinatown Gold Line Station is anchored.

  6. Putting it on Main would completely miss the point.

    The whole streetcar discussion got started because people were looking at ways to revitalize Broadway.

    I like extending the streetcar to Chinatown, but that’s only after you get Broadway and Staples Center linked together.

  7. It’s very important to ensure smooth transfers between different forms of public transportation. I have a few thoughts:

    Connect it to 7th street Metro Station. Not connecting here is mind-boggling. I get it, it’s steep, lots of traffic and there is already public transportation here. Yes, but surely the hill isn’t the biggest around can’t be a deal breaker. We want to reduce the traffic anyway that’s why we build it in the first place. Finally, the transportation hub is why it’s so important to bring this line here, to enable convenient transfers.

    Connecting ALL THE WAY to Union Station, not stopping across the street as the map (which isn’t very good) seems to indicate, is vital. Across the street is better than nothing but why not do it right the first time.

    You need physical and psychosocial reference points. Not extending the line to LA Live/Convention Center would be like building a train line from D.C. to New York and let it terminate in N.J. Don’t let this line have a loose southern end.

    Finally, don’t make this an above ground competitor to the subway. It’s a complement, something that bring people to and from the subway stations as well as conveniently around downtown. Service areas that are slightly out of walking distance from existing rail service. Enable revitalization of new areas.

  8. Bunker Hill being too steep for a streetcar? Pish-posh, I’ve ridden the electric trams in Lisbon whose electric trams go over inclines that put Bunker Hill to shame.

    Just because a certified engineer says you can’t make a tram go over steep inclines doesn’t mean ingenious methods can be used to go over a hill. Here’s a video of “elevated electric trams” going through the Lisbon:

    If cable cars made in the late 19th century can go over the hills of San Francisco, just imagine what 21st century technology can do to trolleys, trams, or streetcars.

    • Y,

      To be fair, a cable car and a streetcar are propelled in very different ways that make them suited for different conditions. Cable car vehicles clamp down on a center pulling cable which provides the propulsion, while the wheels on the track simply spin freely. A tram/streetcar/trolley on the other hand gets its power from engine-powered wheels. If the grade is too steep, the steel wheels don’t have enough traction on the steel track to effectively propel the vehicle. My recollection is that problems start occurring at around a six percent grade.

      The video you link to shows cable cars scaling the hill — you can see the third strip of metal in the middle of the track where the cable is installed. It’s the same system as in San Francisco — here’s an illustrative picture:

      I’ll give you that “ingenious methods” could be used to make it physically possible to have a vehicle and system that can do level and steep terrain, but do the costs actually outweigh the benefits? You’re talking about building a custom system with custom cars just so that you can get up to Bunker Hill? That seems like it could be an awfully expensive venture to serve an area that will already be served by the Regional Connector when it opens and is today served by Angels Flight for those who want a lift up the hill.

      Anyways, I just wanted to provide some food for thought.

      Carter Rubin
      Contributor, The Source

  9. I think this whole BROADWAY street car project has been hi-jacked to the point where too many people want ONE line to go just about everywhere important downtown. What we probably need are at least 2 streetcar lines to EFFICIENTLY serve riders. The current proposals have taken a simple and even elegant original proposal and complicated to to the point of mucking it all up. Let’s return to what is still supposed to be the purpose of this ONE and FIRST streetcar line: to revitalize Broadway. Therefore, let’s KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.

    The line should originate in Chinatown, a section that can also use some mighty revitalization on Broadway as it is a two-way street, the street cars should use Broadway for both directions because this will make it easier to use and, if I’ve read the documents correctly, cost less. It should continue down Broadway until making a turn NORTH to the LACC or LA Live, even a shot continuation from LACC to LA Live.

    Notice Union Station is NOT included in my view. It is unnecessary to have the line connect with LAUPT. LAUPT is already well served and is the entry point from points afar for most people. One can subway to a Metro station and connect to the line FASTER than the long street running route from LAUPT to, say LA Live. That is NOT an attractive option.

    Now, considering destinations OFF Broadway: If we agree to serve at least LA Live, than a line MUST serve 7th Street Metro Center. Not only would this be a faster option from LAUPT to reach LA Live, but it is crucial for those arriving from the west at 7rh Metro Center. Do we really want those people to continue to the next station or further to pick-up the streetcar that delivers them to LA Live’s doorstep. And no, xering to the Blue Line is a PITA way to get there with the extra walk and we don’t need more people on the Blue Line as it is. A streetcar line would continue to serve the Figueroa corridor picking up quite a few people along the way south to LA Live and deliver them back to hotels and 7th Metro Center.

    A street car could use two-say 7th street. Also, Grand Ave. is simply too cultural and important to ignore–in the long run of a 2nd line or if we are stuck with just ONE line. The city MUST do some serious investigation getting a streetcar up that steep Grand Ave. climb, and it is precisely that steep grade that WE NEED a way–other than a DASH bus–to get up there from the amenities and people along Grand between 5th & 7th. We might consider Temple instead of first, another two-way street, due its passing the Cathedral and government buildings instead of 1st.

    In summary, all the proposals, including the one recommended for advancement, are a meandering mess with silly couplets that serve to confuse visitors or just make taking it in one direction not worth the trouble. Trying to serve Union Station is especially inefficient and UNNECESSARY. Let’s get the success of a Broadway “only” alignment to LACC or LA Live up and running and doing so efficiently and revitalizing Broadway, and it will be such a success that LA WILL build another streetcar line serving more of the other desired destinations.

    Finally, the streetcar should consider using the new battery technology especially designed for streetcars rather than the ugly, EXPENSIVE, catenary overhead wires. They could save a bundle of $$$ on the bottom line adopting this technology and it is simpler and cheaper than have to build the power sub-stations necessary and construct the poles and cantenary and high maintenance on those pantographs. Then, maybe we could afford two lines for the price of one.

  10. Again, building a custom car to handle going up the hill is a technological feat that has its benefits of becoming a tourist attraction in itself.

    Whether it be the old 19th century cable cars of San Francisco or the lifting pneumatics of the trams in Lisbon, it’s something that not many cities around the world has and it’s the reason why it draws tourists from all over the world.

    LA should lead and pioneer such an engineering feat to get trams over Bunker Hill. Will it be difficult? Most definitely it is. But if you can make it happen, it will be an astounding feat that is sure to draw crowds to make LA another destination place to awe about.

    Not to mention that if LA gets it right, it might even be an innovator to export that technology throughout the world; there’s a lot of places in the world that could use trams going over hills too you know?

    Is it worth the cost? I’d say it’s definitely worth it. Let’s not shy away to build a tram to go over Bunker Hill, instead we should welcome the challenge. Let’s become a city where we can show the world that it’s a city of innovation too, a city that we can be proud to say “we built a tram that can get over a steep hill.”

  11. I think Broadway would be the best route as that is an area that was once the true heart of LA hustle and bustle but has since lost the true luster it once had. I believe there have been a couple attempts to revitalize broadway before but they have all fallen through. This is the chance to correct that. What the streetcar in downtown Portland did is what can be done on Broadway in downtown LA.