Study: downtown L.A. Streetcar to bring $1.1 billion in new development

L.A. Streetcar StaplesA study by AECOM released today reveals that the proposed $125 million downtown L.A. streetcar system would bring major economic returns to the city center in the form of new development, job creation and tax revenue. AECOM is a “a global provider of professional technical and management support services” and was retained by the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA/LA) and Los Angeles Streetcar, Inc. to study the economic impact of the streetcar project.

The study, which can be viewed here, was based on the longest route alternative currently being studied – a 4.75 mile loop around downtown that serves major districts including Bunker Hill (Disney Hall), the Financial District, South Park (L.A. Live, Staples), the Fashion District and the Historic Core.

The study looks at both the short-term economic impacts of construction and the long-term economic impacts of having a fully operational streetcar running in downtown. Long-term predictions are compared to a baseline projection without a streetcar.

The main findings include:

  • Development of nearly 675,000 square feet of new and rehabilitated office space, with construction costs valued at $210 million
  • Development of 2,600 new housing units, with construction costs valued at $730 million, providing housing for 3,600 new residents
  • 7,200 new construction jobs over the development period, with employee compensation of approximately $500 million
  • 2,100 new permanent office, retail, entertainment, and hotel jobs with employee compensation of approximately $120 million annually by the end of the study period
  • 5,800 new hotel room nights from new convention and business visitors
  • New retail, restaurant, hotel, and entertainment spending reaching up to $24.5 million annually over the course of the development period
  • $47 million in cumulative City of Los Angeles tax revenues during the 25-year development period

Funding for the project has not yet been secured but typically funding is a mix of federal, local and private money.

17 replies

  1. Buses suck because:

    A. They get stuck in traffic just like every other car

    B. They annoy other cars when they park their heavy ass to pick up passengers from the curb

    C. Hence they are slow and inefficient and don’t really add up to speed up transit times nor add more frequencies as it’s dependent on road traffic

    D. They are dull and the hard seats are uncomfortable for a long ride

    E. It fills up quickly because the aisles are one passenger width and the seats are lined up facing the front instead of facing each other to widen the aisle space to add more standing room for passengers

    F. Fare box don’t give change (buses in Japan gives change, if they can’t figure it out, why can’t we?)

    G. It’s still an icon of disdain by taxpayers because it’s a subsidized form of transit where everyone pays the same price no matter how far you ride it. Japanese buses were on the distance based/profit oriented model decades before contactless became the norm.

  2. We need about 5 streetcars in the Los Angeles area. Downtown will be perfect. What about Hollywood to WEHO?

  3. Bringing back streetcars to downtown L.A. is a fantastic idea. They are great for the pedestrian rich areas of downtown that are ideal for streetcars. Face it, many people shun buses. Riding rail is comfortable and alluring for locals. Buses are less so. And a streetcar is downright sexy for tourists. When I go to another city, I ride rails happily anywhere. I never use buses. The name of the game is to lure people out of cars. That will work with enough rails, but will never work with buses. Too many people will not get out of a car for a bus. The streetcar in downtown L.A. is a great start. And they should be put in other areas as well.

    We are finally getting back to rails (subways, light rail and streetcars) all around Los Angeles. They should be added elsewhere, like the San Fernando Valley, Glendale, the Torrance area. We were put behind by 50 years when they removed the red cars. In another 50 years, our fine city will be criss-crossed with rails allowing for a complete alternative to cars.

  4. This is Lame, why does Downtown LA land of more transit connections than you could EVER need, need ANOTHER at grade mode of transit when the problem is in fact traveling AT GRADE. I am a HUGE LA mass transit history buff, but I really see no need for a StreetCar there. How about instead of further saturating Downtown with MORE needless projects (like that goofy regional connector,) you put streetcars where they and all other forms of rail transit ARE desperately NEEDED, here in the SAN FERNANDO VALLEY?!?!? We also, had the Red Car back in the day and the LARY, why don’t we get anything but a stupid BRT (which continues to be the biggest success story of modern LACTMA history) that should have been a train from day one. I could think of several other GOOD uses for street cars elsewhere in the city but Downtown LA is downright SPOILED when it comes to mass transit. Besides does anyone really NEED the already exorbitant property values of Downtown to go up any more, ISN’T RENT HIGH ENOUGH or do we need to force all the working families out of Downtown LA?

  5. 1. It’ll probably make money.
    2. It’s cheap to build. Pennies compared to a subway line.

    Essentially you’ll have a straightforward people mover in Downtown. What a win.

  6. AECOM is also a big design engineering firm, that would make tons of money should they win the contract to build the streetcar. No conflict of interest there, right?

  7. This is a good Idea but we really need to first build out our regional rail connectivity before focusing on local streetcars. I do see how it helps a downtown’s image though (like Portland and San Francisco)

    Also, for those stating that we should not be building rail because it reduces buses really need to look at the bigger picture and realize that the main issue is how metro chooses to cut other things. Its not BECAUSE of rail, its because metro often makes bad decisions in cutting bus lines (while still extensively funding highway projects) thinking that they will be redundant with rail lines when they really are not. Metro simply needs to look at the system as an integrated bus feeder system to the rails and how they all work in a single system. They don’t currently do that very well. Rail inherently serves as a transit backbone which busses feed into and fill in smaller gaps. that is the purpose of rail; a high capacity rapid backbone. Thats how it works in almost all major cities (that have good transit). We NEED more rail, it just needs to go more places and not take away non-redundant bus service, its really not all that complex.

  8. People’s perceptions of buses generally tend to be pretty negative overall, and buses tend to be invisible in the public’s eye.
    Even transit fans look down on buses.

    I can easily imagine people who wouldn’t take a bus riding the streetcar.

  9. Several people have quoted the human transit blog regarding streetcars. I think the point made there wasn’t that streetcars don’t have a purpose, but that they aren’t necessarily faster than buses. That doesn’t at all contradict that streetcars have high economic impact. This can be primarily attributed to that a streetcar’s fixed tracks send a strong signal to developer that it won’t be rerouted. Property owners then have a high degree of confidence that there will be large numbers of pedestrians that can frequent businesses located along the line. While a streetcar isn’t necessarily fast, it’s also not designed to carry passengers long distances, rather it extends the reach of pedestrians in a localized, dense area. The streetcar with its fixed route is more easy to navigate by casual users than a bus, and offers a much higher degree of comfort, ease of boarding, etc. The economic impacts in Portland are substantial and well documented. It is perfectly reasonable that that experience can extend to Los Angeles with its larger and more robust central business district.

  10. I guess the City of Los Angeles is looking for the MTA to cover the cost of this line. How much would the City of Los Angeles tax payers have to contribute to this line? The City of LA should be the primary funder for this project while the MTA could contribute a small percentage.

    • Warren,

      According to the LA Streetcar’s website, the plan is to pursue funding from a variety of different sources, both public and private. There has been discussion, for instance, of adding a small increase to property taxes for buildings adjacent to the new line. This would in effect “capture” some of the increased property values resulting from the presence of the streetcar.

      More info here:

      Carter Rubin
      Contributing Writer, The Source

  11. Just another TRANSIT waist of good money.
    Just check out the humantransit website. Just look at the bus lines the Gold line extension eliminated. As more rail or streetcars are added more bus lines are lost, to promote the rail, this is why they reach capacity as quickly as they do.

  12. I love trains and streetcars, though I also happily ride buses. But I have to question the findings of $1 billion of developement attributed to a future streetcar.

    LADOT already runs the cheap DASH buses thru Downtown, which provide similar service (if not as comfortable or stylish as a streetcar), and there are dozens of Metro bus routes criss-crossing Downtown, not to mention the subway.

    Will adding one streetcar line really be that much of a difference? Or are the changes to the street (wider sidewalks, trees, etc) in the plan the more important parts?

    Again, I would love to see streetcars in Los Angeles, and I think it would be great to turn the 733 or the 704 (for example) into an at-grade, light rail line, like a streetcar but with it’s own right-of-way. But I don’t see that the type of vehicle and the tracks in the ground are that magic, in an area that already has extensive transit service.

    The streetcar planners need to work with Metro and LADOT to plan a route that will not get stuck in traffic (i.e. it needs to be in a transit-only lane), and that can connect will with other trains and buses, if this is going to be more than a tourist amenity.

    Read this (Streetcars, an Inconvenient truth)

    Again, I would love to pay for streetcars (i.e. light rail at grade) all over Los Angeles, but I don’t think it is magic.

  13. I don’t think is a good idea, it be a waste of money especially with transit cuts.

  14. Great read,I would love to have a street car running in downtown again,my only question is,who would maintain,and operate this street car?Thanks.