Downtown L.A. Streetcar alternatives released; community meeting coming next Thursday

The Metro team studying the possible resurrection of streetcar service in downtown Los Angeles has released a briefing package [PDF] that details the seven routes now under consideration and compares the pros and cons of each.

Metro planners have been winnowing potential routes — “alternatives” in planner speak — since this spring. For those who are new to the project, The Source attended the project kickoff meeting last May and had this recap, which covers the basics. Here’s an excerpt:

Metro staff members began the meeting by bringing the audience up to speed on a project whose conceptual roots go back to the mid-1990s. In short, Metro was brought on last year to head up the environmental planning process on behalf of the city of Los Angeles and the non-profit Los Angeles Streetcar, Inc., which are working to secure funding for the $125-million dollar project.

In March 2011, the city of L.A. and its Community Redevelopment Agency allocated seed money — including funds from the city’s Measure R local return funds — to pay for preliminary engineering, continued community outreach and other planning work.


The primary goal for the project is to enhance connections between downtown’s principal residential and commercial activity centers, including South Park, Bunker Hill and the Broadway corridor, among others. Metro Planning Director Robin Blair emphasized that the streetcar is, above all, really about “accelerating pedestrian” movement through downtown.

The briefing package [PDF] mentioned above is packed with interesting data and charts that are definitely worth a closer look. While the document stops short of recommending one particular route, some options appear to be stronger candidates than others based on Metro’s preliminary evaluation. Maps and charts are after the jump! [Update: Here is an additional PDF document with individual maps of the seven routes in greater detail.]

The map below shows the seven routes under consideration. Each brings something different to the table — two options jut north to Union Station, others skirt closer to Bunker Hill — but they all would travel southbound on Broadway.

One thing that jumps out at me: Metro’s planning team has eliminated an earlier proposed route that would have crossed the Blue/Expo Line tracks at Pico Boulevard and Flower Street. Instead, those alternatives have been tweaked to use 11th Street, where the Blue/Expo tracks are underground.

These are the seven route "alternatives" that Metro staff are studying in depth. Click the image for more detail.

For the first time, planners and community members have a chance to compare the various alternatives based on estimates of ridership and cost. Metro’s projections are in the table below. In particular, keep an eye on the “Boardings Per Mile” and the “Cost Per User” columns, as they’re the most useful for making apples-to-apples comparisons among the alternatives.

Lastly, the following table evaluates the route alternatives based on additional criteria including environmental impacts, access to important destinations and economic development potential. Note that “1” is the best score in each category, so the route alternatives with lower total scores would make the strongest candidates, according to Metro’s planners.

With all that info in mind, check out next Thursday’s meeting to hear more details from Metro staff to give the project team further input and feedback. If you cannot make the meeting, you can email your comments to or leave a phone message at (213) 922-3000.

When: Thursday, November 3, 2011

Time: 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Location: Caltrans Building, First Floor Conference Room, 100 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA

For More information about this project please visit

22 replies

  1. A tramcar takes all the disadvantages of a bus and all the disadvantages of a rail system and combines them. If there is an obstacle on the path, a bus can maneuver around. A tram gets stuck behind any obstacle. A bus can change route whereas a tram must run a fixed route decided at the time of construction. A tram has significant construction costs whereas with an existing bus system, one can use available buses to create a new route. Once tracks are set down, they make riding a bike down the same road nearly impossible because bike wheels can slip into the track and cause serious injuries. These accidents are very common in San Francisco. Even motorcycles and cars have slipped on the tracks. Because of their large size, trams also force cars off the road. Trams often operate to the exclusion of all other modes of transport on the road (cars, bicycles, pedestrians, etc.). It is decidedly not multi-modal and forces everyone to take the tram. This sounds like a disaster coming to Downtown LA.

  2. This is great, but as a USC student, I think it’d be awesome if the Streetcar went farther down Figueroa toward the EXPO line and USC.

    Obviously, when Expo opens, students will easily be able to get downtown and then to a streetcar, but there is a stretch of wasteland (car dealership corridor currently) between USC and LALive that is ripe for development.

    A streetcar that students could hop on and take down Fig could revitalize the street and make a new grand blvd./New Broadway entering downtown that is envisioned by

    Imagine a huge student population that can get on a streetcar and go right to LALive and what that would do for everything in-between.

    Getting around in a streetcar would definitely be cool, but I think drawing students through USC and also passengers through Union Station is the best way to spur development. Some people will go downtown, but others avoid it like the plague, even when they’re just down the street. Otherwise, having a streetcar going mainly through the Historic Core might not spur that much revitalization.

  3. […] Originally Posted by ironcouger LA is urban in a suburban way and is as dense as NY and Philly suburbs. LA sprawled in the early years being a auto focussed city . It is becoming more urban but will never be like NY or Chicago to many downtowns in LA. I agree LA is too autocentric, especially in the mindset of the residents. The public transportation is really not that bad. It's just that angelinos have this mindset that they have to drive everywhere (though it is slowly changing). Also cool (but not totally related to the topic) check this: Downtown L.A. Streetcar alternatives released; community meeting coming next Thursday | The Source […]

  4. I think people are forgetting the Regional Connector light-rail alignment which is being studied and will be built concurrently.

    This first streetcar alignment doesn’t need to connect with Union Station and the front of the Convention Center as the Regional Connector will allow both the Blue Line AND the Expo Line to do that frequently.

  5. Thanks Carter for the more detailed maps.

    Is there any reason why all the plans seems to purposefully avoid going directly in front of Staples Center and LA Convention Center?

    I personally would vote for the Yellow alternative as it passes through the major points. Going up that steep hill on Grand is a good alternative to reach the two California towers, MOCA, and the WDCH.

    However, I’d also prefer that the Yellow alternative went up to 7th instead of turning at 9th so that it’ll link up nicely with the 7th/Metro station.

    Streetcar project is nice, but it has to be done with ease of transfers in mind. Avoiding a major hub like 7th/Metro kinda defeats the purpose of a walkable city.

  6. I think this streetcar should connect to Union Station to facilitate transfers from commuter/ intercity rail and other Metrorail lines so that additional transfers don’t have to be made. Otherwise, a patron arriving on, say, Metrolink would have to transfer to Metrorail, go a couple of stops, then transfer again to the streetcar. The streetcar should also run along Broadway as to help spur along revitalization and if two way cannot be done, then it should at least run the other direction one block over as suggested in alternative 6.

  7. It’s most important to get to Union Station to connect with the Gold Line. That vital connection to Pasadena and to East L.A., not to mention the other MetroRail connections would provide access to downtown for all those who use the Gold Line, in particular.

  8. @Jeff Jacobberger: Good point… trolley tracks cause a lot of bike crashes in San Francisco. The Streetcar, 7th St. bike lanes and the MyFigueroa project should be planned to compliment one another, with bike lanes avoiding the tracks and/or crossing them at an angle.

    @Steve Hymon: Thanks for the info, I just emailed the project team my thoughts on this.

  9. I’d love an alternative streetcar/tram type system other than Angel’s Flight that will make it up Bunker Hill.

    The trams in Lisbon, Portugal are capable of going up and down steep hills so I think it’s doable.

  10. Will Metro give any consideration to bicyclists? The City of LA has just installed bike lanes on 7th Street from Figueroa west to Catalina, and is exploring bike lanes on 7th Street and Figueroa through Downtown. It can be quite dangerous for bicyclist to cross tracks, especially at angles if there are multiple track turns on Fig and 7th. Is anyone at Metro making sure the streetcar plans are consistent with LA’s Bike Plan?

    • Hi Jeff;

      Good point and good questions. I don’t know the answer; I definitely recommend notifying the project manager — it’s one thing to tell me, it’s another to officially get your concern on the record with the planners. Here’s the info, from the project website:

      Historic Streetcar Service
      c/o Laura Cornejo
      One Gateway Plaza, M/S 99-22-2
      Los Angeles, CA 90012
      Tel: 213.922.3000
      Phone messages are retrieved at least once a day
      Fax: 213.922.3005

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  11. Ah yes, the criteria-alternatives matrix. Otherwise known as “completely useless” because it does not accurately weight preferences.

    Assigning a numerical value of 1-3 and then adding up the numbers does not take into account whether, say, design is actually more or less important to you than environmental impact, or capital costs more important than ridership. You cannot honestly say that all criteria are weighted equally.

    Simply put, this is an incredibly lazy analysis, and I would expect better from Metro.

  12. Victor’s comment brings up the question–will an expanded/improved bus service approach also be modeled?

  13. Instead of waisting time building a street car, why can’t Metro focus on improving the Silver Line in Downtown? The Silver Line has NO BUS STATIONS, AND NO DEDICATED LANES.

  14. I agree with the people who say that running both directions on Broadway would work. However, of the proposed ideas, I like the Broadway/ Hill option, which would at least have two neighboring streets.
    the idea of going further up Grand is interesting.

    Still don’t need Union Station in the map, though.

  15. It has been several months since we last heard of the streetcar project. As long as the streetcar route serves the most passenagers and is built like a streetcar line (runs on city streets), not a LRT line, it would serve its purpose. The success of this line would encourage the expansion of streetcars outside the downtown area which has happened in Los Angeles’ past.

  16. I wish I could read the street names on the map to have a better idea of which routes will be used. It looks to cover the core and and outskirts from china town on down to latt.. Can we have a larger pdf map..

    • Transit Rider,

      Fair point. The best I’ve got at the moment is the one on page 5 of the briefing package. I’ll try to see if I can find a higher resolution one, though.

      Stay tuned,

      Carter Rubin
      Contributor, The Source