December 6, 2011 13 Comments
Downtown LA seems poised to get a new streetcar line in the next few years – the first of what will hopefully be a new system re-introducing the streetcar to Los Angeles, which at one time boasted the largest streetcar system in the world. In the 60 or so years since the streetcar fell out of fashion, it’s purpose has changed, and we must take that into account in planning for the new one.
The red and yellow cars of yesteryear were a regional mass transit system. Yes, they took people through Downtown, but also took them out to the “suburbs” of Pasadena or Hollywood and beyond. They were the equivalent of today’s Metro system, which is made up of busses, subway, and light rail. Today’s streetcar is more of a local transit option. It is an urban circulator, a “last-mile connector.” The streetcar of today will help pedestrians make the connection within that 1-2 mile area that is too far to walk. They should be quick, but speed is not ultimately the most important aspect as they are usually only covering relatively short distances anyway. One of the main purposes of the Downtown Streetcar is to be a development tool, according to Bringing Back Broadway and LA Streetcar Inc. The hope is that a permanent route, as well as the attraction of streetcars, will spur development all along that route (particularly on Broadway).
Someone may take the subway into Downtown for an event, and then take the streetcar to get drinks afterwards in another part of Downtown. The streetcar was not their main method of transportation to or from Downtown, but expanded their options once here. With that in mind… I’ve been following the LA Streetcar project since its inception and now that it’s nearing the time to choose a route, I want to put my observations and suggestions forward.