» Los Angeles submitted an application for U.S. TIGER funds with the intention of building a downtown streetcar line. But the alignments proposed are very similar to those offered by existing rail and bus services — and each would operate in a one-way loop, a failed transit concept.
Los Angeles has big hopes for its downtown, and, like most of the country’s major cities, it has seen significant population growth in the inner core over the past ten years. Now, to extend this renaissance, the city — also like many others — is planning a streetcar line that would traverse the district from north to south. Last month, it applied for $37.5 million in U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant dollars, which it hopes to supplement with local and private funds to complete an initial route of between 3 and 5 one-way track miles at a cost of between $106 and $138 million.
Despite the fact that planning for the L.A. streetcar goes back for more than a decade thanks to the work of a public-private local advocacy group, the city will have plenty of competition in its effort to win federal funds. Requests for the third round of TIGER funding outnumbered actual funding available by 27 to 1. With so many projects up for consideration, anything funded by Washington ought to be valuable. But L.A.’s project could benefit from significant improvement.
The fundamental problem with the proposed streetcar is that its service pattern would overlap that of other transit lines either funded or in service today. Though there are several corridors under consideration (a final route alignment will be selected in February 2012), each would run within the general north-south corridor between Broadway to the east and Figueroa to the west and Pico to the south and Union Station to the north.
This broad corridor, it turns out, will be mostly duplicated by light rail once the Regional Connector — a more than $1 billion project — links the Blue and Expo lines south of downtown with the Gold Line north of it by 2020. The Silver Line, a bus rapid transit route that connects El Monte to South L.A., runs a very similar alignment. And literally dozens of local and rapid bus lines running with headways of 15 minutes or less throughout the day (shown in yellow on the map below) run similar routes. All of these lines are within half a mile or less of all of the proposed streetcar routes.
(Click on the above map to expand – the top-rated streetcar route based on a study of alternatives is shown in bold pink; other potential alignments are in dotted pink)
Just how many similar transit lines does Los Angeles need running through its center city? Is a route that replicates existing transit necessary? And in a city with so many major transit projects waiting to be funded, is this a priority?
Business groups representing the Broadway corridor see the streetcar plan as a potential avenue to economic growth; they argue that the line would attract more customers to their stores and contribute to a more vibrant environment. The majority of costs for the line ($50 to $60 million) are expected to be covered by property owners, who are enthusiastic about the regeneration of the area. The Bringing Back Broadway group, which has led the effort, has a promising streetscaping plan that would work well with either the streetcar or improved bus service.
Even so, it is dispiriting to see yet another city make decisions on streetcar planning that imitate previous mistakes seen elsewhere.
The first is the one-way loop travel pattern of all of the proposed alignments. Rather than running in two directions on Broadway, which would appease those who feel that the east side of downtown is underserved by rail transit, all of the routes would run south on Broadway, only to turn around and run north on another street west of there. The result? People on Broadway would have to go south, then west, then north — just to get to the center of downtown. And people at L.A. Live, where a new football station is planned near Pico station, would have to go north, then east, then south — just to get to Broadway.
That is out-of-the-way thinking that does not address the travel needs of most people. Unsurprisingly, similar one-way transit loops in other cities have had difficulty attracting ridership. Though the transit agency predicts 7,000 to 11,000 daily riders on the line, one wonders what percentage of this group would simply be switching out of existing transit modes on parallel routes, to little benefit of anyone.
There are no transportation capacity concerns here: Not only would streetcars run in alignments shared with cars (with the predictable consequences: limiting capacity, slowing trains, and disrupting services), but Broadway has a total of five lanes reserved for automobile circulation. So why not just run the trains up and down that street, perhaps with a connection at the southern terminus to Pico station? Or why not simply focus on taking advantage of the frequent bus routes that already run in the area by directing streetscape projects to their needs?
L.A.’s transit priorities are generally in the right place — focusing most funds on extending rapid transit, both in the form of rail and BRT, to areas of the city suffering from lots of traffic congestion and too few transit options. Downtown is not one of those places.
Image at top: Conceptual rendering of Los Angeles streetcar on Broadway, from Bringing Back Broadway
51 replies on “Los Angeles’ Streetcar Plans: Too Duplicative of Existing Services?”
I agree that the large southern loop is not well designed. I don’t agree that a streetcar is unnecessary downtown, though, especially on Broadway. What isn’t necessarily apparent from the map is the topography of downtown, and the separation of “Bunker Hill” and the historic core. The streetcar will be most helpful in the historic core along Broadway, where the two directions are separated by one block (unfortunate, but not unheard of in successful systems). The silver line, though just a few blocks away, is separated both by topography, and the division between the older part of downtown that is lacking investment, and Bunker Hill, which is characterized by glass curtain high-rises. Additionally, the silver line is largely designed for commuters coming from outside of the downtown area to get to those office buildings and has service levels designed around that kind of rider. Some of the other design decisions are there in part to attract funding. The “tail” coming off the top of the route is designed to connect to the Broad museum, the pet project of billionaire Eli Broad, who is likely to cut a large cheque to help pay for the line. The bottom loop seems designed to trade off serving a more run-down, transitional part of Broadway, and hitting LA Live, which is owned by AEG, another large investor in downtown and potential funding source. LA Live and the convention center are likely to drive many of the riders, who will perhaps be enticed to take a ride around the loop and go out to a restaurant downtown. In short, it’s an economic and urbanism project, not a transportation project per se. It’s not a perfect project, but it is not one that doesn’t understand its purpose, and the tradeoffs seem to be deliberate.
Serving convention centers, stadiums, and short-hop trips for out-of-towners isn’t a recipe for mass transit success—LA’s streetcar sounds just like Detroit’s people mover, only at grade and in a sunnier location.
You know, that isn’t a bad comparison. It’s probably more promising than the people mover, but solely because of serving a somewhat less blighted downtown, rather than a much superior design.
Some sort of surface streetcar is probably a good idea, given that downtown LA blocks seem (to this San Franciscan) bigger than life-sized. Walking a few blocks to your destination, or between subway stops, can be quite an enterprise. But the route could be seen as duplicative of the two subways, and the big loop is very odd.
On visits to Little Tokyo in the 1990s, I never bothered to figure out the DASH downtown shuttles, as there were too many of them and their routes were tangled and didn’t really go where I wanted. The big loop could be another of those.
Amen, about the one way loop. Broadway should have two-way streetcar, it is the main street downtown anyway, isnt it?
The problem is they try to spread out the LID funding and benefits of streetcar over as large an area as possible, so it becomes very diluted. They would be better to concentrate it on fewer streets where it has really strong benefits… really reinforce Broadway, the historic main street which was designed around a concentration of streetcar lines on a 2-way track. I cant stand having to catch the other direction of a transit line blocks away, its an unnecessary pain, confusing and many times is in a completely different neighborhood.
Sometimes I think route planning a streetcar line is like laying out a long rope and letting all property owners push and pull the rope where they want it or dont want it. What you get is a confusing convoluted zigzagging route that doesnt benefit riders but only property owners who want it in front of their front door.
Its possible for a loop to work as the end of a two way route, but the main transfer points should be on two-way sections. Then you can always get back on the service to get back to that main transfer point.
In the main route sketched above, 7th Metro Center ~ already a multi-line and multi-mode transfer point ~ is on the one way loop section. Someone using the 7th Metro Center transfer point to get to the southern stretch of Broadway or anywhere else on the southern loop would need to transfer from the northbound streetcar they are on to a southbound streetcar, which is already turning a single transfer into a double transfer ~ and have to walk the short end of a block to do so.
To me, two blocks the long way is already less than ideal, and four blocks the long way between the two directions of an open loop seems like just too far, so if they are going to persist with an open loop route running northbound up Broadway and southbound down Hill, they should keep those two directions as close together as possible for as long as practicable. So it would be better for the run up to 7th/Metro to be a two way section to a reversing terminus, even if most of the route runs one direction on 11th and the other direction on 9th.
I look forward to this project. Broadway was really made for streetcars and has a very high pedestrian count, especially for LA. It is still an underutilized street though, and this is more of a real estate project than transit, which can be dangerous.
I don’t have a big problem with the loop as it connects South Broadway and the up and coming South Park area with LA Live and the subway stations. While the route will be duplicative in some areas with the subway and regional connector, it will also pick up some of those riders who then want to an area on the streetcar that is not near a subway station. Also, it takes time to go down and up a subway station so if you are only going to the next station, it can make more sense to just take a streetcar as it may be faster for these short distances.
Never been to Detroit, but the area around the Convention Center is also bustling with LA Live, hotels and new condos. I don’t think a shrinking city like Detroit would have that. Overall, it is a lot of transit in a small area, but this area has some pretty extreme density and the services will likely build off each other to some degree.
The article is flawed, and is very one-sided. The author is concentrating on the wrong priorities while omitting the important benefits that streetcars have proven to bring.
First off, the streetcar is NOT duplicating the existing routes, but rather complements the transit system.
Second, the goal of the streetcar is not to provide a fast transport, but to spur economic development and to move pedestrians while opening-up those pedestrians’ eyes to the retail and shopping that is around the area.
Just look at the success of Portland’s streetcar! Before the streetcar was launched, only a half-a-dozen businesses existed on a corridor; now there are over 400 shops!
Streetcars create an amazing pedestrian atmosphere, something that buses will never do.
The question I’d ask about Portland’s success is this: How many of those shops exist because there’s a streetcar, and how many exist because of far wider efforts and funds put into regenerating the district it serves?
I’m also unsure about the assertion that the streetcar complements the transit system. The more different types of transit you provide in an area, the less frequency each merits and can be afforded – so, by duplicating local buses downtown, you’re potentially compromising frequencies on a number of corridors not only within, but extending beyond, downtown.
In addition to that, in Helsinki, where buses and streetcars routinely duplicate each other, the exclusive lanes are frequently compromised to fit the large volume of traffic, and neither mode of transport can be offered effective signal priority. I’ve illustrated this in detail on my blog.
While local stop and limited stop transit compliment each other, as do different transit routes that offer useful transfers between each other, it seems difficult to say the same of routes that are competing to take passengers that want local stop transit on the surface.
What about replacing the silver line BRT with a streetcar and then extending the line down to the area they intend to serve now?
It just seems like it’s always a better option to replace buses (of any form) with streetcars.
Jake, why do you think transit riders are eager to spend hundreds of million to attain slower service?
I’m not sure I understand what you mean? If you took the designated lane given to the BRT and laid tracks and catenary then why would it be slower service? It would be a more efficient, cost-effective service with the same speeds.
And also, speed isn’t everything in transit. We funded transit like that for years in the Bush Administration and got rail lines that don’t live up to their full potential.
I have nothing against duplication of service as long as it serves different needs. Though controversial, I don’t see a problem with running a local streetcar with stops every 1000 feet alongside a rail rapid transit line with stops every half mile.
That seems uncontroversial. There’s always a need for local service to exist in addition to rapid transit. Downtown LA, however, has a whole lot of local service anyway.
“plenty of”? What would that be? Except for the stretch between 11th and 7th/MTC, I don’t see the duplication.
Indeed, that’s part of why I’d prefer Broadway / Pico / 11th / Hill as the bottom of the loop ~ 7th/MTC is a good interconnect between those regional services, but each of them have a more effective place to connect onto a local transport Broadway route than 7th MTC ~ Pico, Pershing Sq, Broadway Spring, or Civic Center.
They should go with the double track version of this running down the street but give the streetcars their only lanes that are streetcars only by paving them in bricks which will make people want to drive on the pavement off of the bricks. Also they could replace the bus line this thing runs along with the streetcar.
There is however one streetcar project that LA should go after and that would be rebuilding the streetcar tracks under the city streets in a section of the city where the streetcars ran though subway tunnels under the city streets in the 1930’s to a large underground train station that was under one of the hotels or something. That would be very cool to restore.
I’ve always had a weird disregard for the streetcar plan. A lot of its goals could be accomplished with better streetscaping and bus infrastructure—full-map signage and fancy bus shelters.
But while there is a lot of existing transit density, it’s a panoply of non-interoperating long-distance routes. And while the one-way loop at first glance seems inconvenient, the southeast corner—the most inconvenient place on the loop—is basically a dead zone, so fewer people would be going there. Though the combination of basically a shuttle model (the northern half) and a loop model (the southern half) seems like it would be equally awkward as a two-way route.
The streetcar project is only really redundant with the DASH buses. Perhaps they could make their case for the streetcar by introducing a “Broadway DASH” with the above-mentioned streetscaping improvements, and lots and lots and lots of branding. In fact, the streetcar seems more about branding than anything else, so they could probably start with a diesel bus branded as a streetcar, then electrify it once they’ve proven the viability of the route.
Scratch the “diesel” above. All the buses are already CNG, so they already run clean. Why are they electrifying this again?
One of the things I’ve noticed is about Los Angeles is that it has a pitifully small downtown. Because the streetcar is a powerful development tool, something they should consider doing is extending the line along Broadway/Hill/Grand south of I-10 (instead of going to Pico Station) to integrate that area into the downtown, kind of like what Portland has done with the Pearl District and what it’s planning to do with the East Side.
Interesting idea, although that is really an industrial area and a functioning one at that. Not sure the city wants that going to some residential district. Even now, this streetcar only hits a portion of Downtown and there are some people disappointed it will not go farther north into the Civic Center and Union Station.
I disagree that Downtown LA is small. Yes, the financial district is not huge, although it does have the tallest high rises in the West. The Civic Center is 2nd only to Washington in concentration of government workers. Overall, Downtown is still the largest employment center in the West.
The Historic Core, once forgotten is now teeming with residential units and retail at the ground level. Same with South Park. Meanwhile some areas like Chinatown and some of the far eastern sections of Downtown near the river still haven’t seen much yet from the Downtown revival.
There are proposed variants in the study that go up towards Union Station, and get close to Chinatown. I think the tradeoffs that they are considering now involve whether it will be possible to fund the line at all. That involves (i) getting the most possible funding from local sources such as Eli Broad and AEG, and (ii) making sure the ridership per mile of track is as high as possible to make it competitive for federal funding. Once an initial section is in place, I’m sure there will be calls for extensions in all kinds of directions, but it has to start concretely somewhere. I think a lot of the complaints about routing, etc., can be fixed by intelligent extensions separating the initial phase into 2-4 different lines. Each line could focus on DT + some more marginal area that might receive more development if there were a fixed rail route running through, e.g. other areas of Southpark, Pico Union, Chinatown, etc. The large loop could then be fixed without too much additional money by having an east-west route, and a north-south route. None of this happens, though, if the initial segment doesn’t get built.
‘Pitifully small’? Have you ever been to Downtown LA? Its absolutely massive, and contains dozens of distinct sub-neighborhoods like the Historic Core, Little Tokyo, the Arts District, Bunker Hill, the Financial District, the Fashion District, the Flower District, the Toy District, South Park, etc.
DTLA looks small on a map of Los Angeles, but only because LA is astoundingly, mind-bogglingly huge.
Pitifully small by comparison to New York (obviously), and London. Pitifully small by comparison with Chicago (Loop/West Loop/Magnificent Mile).
Fact is, I’m realizing most other cities have tiny downtowns. We just naturally compare LA’s downtown to other cities with humungous population.
In nice round numbers… Metro Los Angeles is 2/3rd of the size of metro NY. Metro Chicago is 3/4 of the size of LA or half the size of NY.
Yeah, I wonder what was the last time such a line was built outside of the States, like in Europe?…
LA would be better off not building thing but going for double track doing Civic Center/Broadway/Pico. A starter route for a broader streetcar network or line.
To speak for European countries I’ve been to, and the one I live in, they simply don’t do that. Building rail that won’t be any faster than buses, and not take you as far as buses, would be a bit silly.
Generally (to conflate a lot of quite different countries), if you’re building a tram in Europe, it’s because a bus route taking a logical straight-line route is well-loaded enough that you need several carriages, and as such the savings in operating costs are worth building the rails.
Build the Downtown Light Rail connector first!
In a city as large and complex as LA, downtown can probably support an underground rapid transit system AND surface buses/streetcars. So if the cost is low, and businesses are paying for the streetcar, I guess it can’t hurt. But please, don’t do this as a one-way loop. Run N-S on Broadway, take a right turn to Figueroa on the south end. Integrating it with the DASH circulator service is the right idea. Ideally all the circulator lines could be converted to streetcar service.
Squeeze down the big loop for an L-shaped couplet. That is, run on 11th/12th between LA Live/Staples and Broadway/Hill. Then, light rail can interface streetcar at Pico, instead of Metro Center, with the subway interface remaining at Pershing Square.
Lastly, the LA Live turnaround for the L-couplet should wrap around Staples from 11th to 12th providing direct access to the Convention Center, instead of Figueroa. And if AEG complains they like closing 11th for Nokia events, they must not really want streetcar all that badly.
Within Los Angeles County borders for 20+ years there has been an overt neglect to make sorely needed improvements to the commuter freeway system. Most of the federal funds received to pay for transportation infrastructure is wasted on high-cost rail projects that serve only a very few at the expense of hundreds of thousands of taxpaying commuters in time , fuel and needless repairs. For some reason logic left LA long ago.
All that said, Los Angeles has an amount of road usage that’s disastrous in terms of congestion, emissions, the undermining of transit service and the urban form it creates. This leaves the city with the choice of spending its money perpetuating that, or engaging in the slow process of creating alternatives.
That is simply not true. The 405 widening in West LA and now through the Sepulveda Pass has been paid for almost exclusively through federal funds (several billion dollars). These road widening projects do little to ease traffic and are very expensive. Meanwhile, the Expo Line is using no federal funds (for either of its phases), while other rail projects have had at most 50% federal funding, while freeways tend to get 90% from the feds. Finally, the LA rail system gets over 300k riders a day now – hardly serving only a very few as you allude to.
The last thing Los Angeles needs is more freeways. Expansions are ferociously expensive and provide essentially no extra capacity.
The demand is high. LA needs more urban rail. The subway is already carrying an enormous number of people and expansions *within* the city limits will carry far more.
Just a thought – with the building of the regional connector, the silver line will be more or less duplicated. It could potentially be routed via Pico, a two-way bus lane on Broadway, and Arcadia to the busway, providing service to Broadway and very useful transfers at Pico and Broadway/Spring stations, both from the busways to the regional connector, and from the light rail lines to Broadway; for both journeys to/from the south and north/east.
With exclusive lanes, well-identified vehicles, improved frequency, exclusive lanes downtown, and a compromise stop spacing between local and rapid of about every 400m, that would serve as an improvement to mobility both downtown and across the region.
Pico would seem to make a better southern connector for the streetcar layout ~ going westbound from Broadway on Pico and eastbound on 11th to Hill makes a much tidier L loop.
If the Silver Line’s connection from Pico north to 11th was the streetcar lane, transfer between the regional Silver line and the streetcar as a local Broadway/Hill circulator could be as simple as sharing the same stop.
A similar design pattern looks appealing on the other side as well, since the streetcar could then run directly to Union Station.
In London with a similar process, they reduce cars inside downtown, that s a good thing i think ;-)
I don’t think the streetcar is all that duplicative with existing transit (there’s no DASH on Broadway, and the bus services there are really scheduled and priced for longer trips).
However, I think the planning for the streetcar is being done almost in a vacuum, without any real thought given to the interaction between it and other transit services.
Will it share stops with buses on Broadway, 7th, etc? or will it have its own stops? How will it interact with buses or other traffic sharing the same lane? Will “bunching” of either buses or streetcars happen?
I’m not crazy about rail in mixed-flow lanes, although its liveable for a short route.
The big one-way loop nature is clumsy, and screams “Tourist Toy” rather than transit project. I’d endeavor to have two-way operation (or at least, lines no further than a block apart) to assure people can go somewhere and return without the added inconvenience of riding around a loop.
Now, if they were talking about replacing the current DASH routes with streetcars, that’s a different animal.
What this article fails to acknowledge is HOW streetcars work as opposed to the Subway or proposed Regional Connector.
As an “at grade” system the streetcar allows persons to quickly hop-on and hop-off the system and CIRCULATE persons EFFICIENTLY within a specfic geographic area. The subway doesn’t and can’t accomplish this task efficiently. The subway moves large numbers of people into and out of downtown quickly and effienciently.
If a resident of the Old Bank Distric was going to Ralphs in South Park they wouldnt use the subway to do that, but they would use the streetcar. They can hop on the streetcar within a block of the neighborhood, ride the store, grab a few bags of groceries, and ride back quickly. This kind of convenience will stimulate commerce by making commerce accessible to more people and convenience is HUGE in developing commerce.
Secondly, a streetcar system has far greater capacity than any bus including the accordian buses. If there was a convention at the convention center and the organizer needed to move 10,000 people to from hotels on the north end of town to the convention center within a short amount of time no bus system we have in place now could do that. But a streetcar could. The streetcar could also move these people back to their hotels quickly, efficiently and without hassel.
Streetcars, buses, subways, taxis and bicycles each play thier own UNIQUE role in moving people into, out of, and around a dense urban center like downtown.
Portland’s street car is successful because it brings people into downtown. It starts in the NW neighborhood, runs through downtown, and ends at PSU. The extremities of the line require fare. The downtown area does not require fare.
By looking at the map. Would you wait 10 minutes and pay $1.50 to go a few thousand feet. the streetcar route is very walkable.
Put the money towards the regional connector, and other projects.
Toronto has had streetcars sice I was akid in the 50’s. It’s still one of the best models in north america
Why not just run the streetcar from the Pico Station directly east to Broadway, then all the way up Broadway to Chinatown? Broadway is also the main street in Chinatown, so this would be a significant improvement for that district as well, and better connect it to the rest of downtown.
I know that this basically duplicates the Blue/Gold line at its endpoints, but this would provide local circulation for people coming from the Expo, Blue, Red, and Gold Lines.
If they have to make it one-way route, then use Broadway and Hill. If the new Dodger owner wants to chip in for a new bridge and/or tunnel, maybe they can even try to get the thing past Chinatown and closer to Dodger Stadium.
No, not too duplicative.
Tony Hoover is right. This is a different use and purpose. More convenient than the heavy rail or light rail (both of which will be subways in this area), and able to carry more passengers than the DASH buses, or even super long artics. More of a circulator than a transit line from one place to another. Downtown can use it, Downtown is MUCH more dense than almost any other part of Los Angeles. This will be required as convention business increases, Farmers’ Field opens (which may just be housing The Dodgers as well), and the Broad Art Museum gets constructed. Also the topography of downtown with the flat Historic Core versus the elevated Bunker Hill is not to be ignored, almost San Francisco like in its elevation.
Not duplicative… but the one-way loop seems unwise. Why not run a plain two-way line? They’re more effective.
First, I think some of you are just looking at lines on the map and do not have a real good sense of the physical geography of Downtown LA and the residential and commercial density and patterns. There is a reason why the southern loop exists that way… that’s where the bulk of the residential development is happening in Downtown LA. The majority of the ridership is likely to be between Southpark (major residential) and Bunker Hills (major employment zone). These two points are located exactly at opposite corners (southeast and northwest of the proposed alignment). What this says to me is that the one-way loop is not likely to be an impediment to ridership. Personally, I think consolidating on Broadway in 2-way trunk is probably better idea but the Broadway-Hill pair is acceptable. The alternative is to not serve Convention Center/LA Live area and that will probably be more problematic than the existing loop design.
Second, Metro Silver Line and ALL existing Rapid buses are long distance commuter services and have very few Downtown stops. They not ideal core Downtown circulator substitute. Streetcars will serve a completely different purpose.
Third, the subways (both of them, eventually) will surely compliment the Streetcars rather than compete with it. The subways lines connects Downtown with suburbs and bring in commuters (similar to Silver Line BRT and Rapid buses). The Streetcar is locally oriented and will likely serve Downtown residents far more than suburban commuters.
Fourth, the DASH buses (the existing bus based circulator service) are pitifully inadequate and generally unreliable means of moving around the Downtown core area. For one thing, service ends at 5 PM, precisely when Downtown residents may need it to venture out. DASH also has limited service on weekends and highly prone to traffic disruptions. Try using one to get from Southpark to USC football game or from Bunker Hill to Staples Center for a Kings game… you will wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait…
Not duplicative… but the one-way loop seems unwise.
Keep in mind, the block between Hill and Broadway is very short. As an example, Grand Central Market has entrances on both the Broadway and Hill sides and the market itself is not enormous. Therefore, I think the lack of two way running here is not really a problem, especially considering that Hill seems to be coming into its own and this gives the line some more exposure. The loop may be an issue, but that is another debate.
Another boondoggle! Why not walk? Rail-based transit is expensive and only worth building if it is mostly on a segregated alignment and designed for trips of 3 km or more.
Americans do not walk 2km from one location to another, they drive that distance. Increasing the density of development beyond the auto-only density wall requires a frequent, convenient alternative to driving. And a city that is as exposed to a catastrophic impact of a loss of access to gasoline as LA needs to develop non-petroleum alternatives to driving across the board.
A dedicated lane electric trolley bus might have a higher benefit/cost ratio, but its politically harder to get people behind a trolley bus route with a dedicated lane than to get them behind a streetcar project, so the question at hand is whether the benefit/cost ratio is over one.
I’ve followed this project since its inception and been to nearly all of the community and other meetings. Now that they’ve released 7 final alternatives, I think it’s clear that some are better than others.
For someone who knows Downtown as someone who lives and works here, here is my perspective:
A circular route can work, if it’s done right, and the streetcar is not designed only to be a transit option (Downtown does have other good options), but as a development tool as well.
Alternative 4 (the pink route shown) would work, with the loop returning west on 9th. South on Broadway and north on Hill would be fine, as the streets are close together. I had no problems with a similar set up in Portland, and I had never even been there before. That would also boost development on Hill. The permanence of a streetcar attracts business’ and investors in a way that buses cannot, no matter how frequent.
The Streetcar should connect L.A. Live/South Park with Chinatown/Dodger Stadium via Broadway/Spring and 11th/12th. The Bunker Hill area will be served by the new 2nd/Flower subway (Downtown Connector).