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A Little Late, but Finally the CRA Streetcar Study is Out

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, September 07, 2006, at 01:39PM

Earlier this week the LA Times ran the unfortunately named "In Los Angeles, the Desire of Some Is Named Streetcar. It talked about the release of the CRA's plodding streetcar feasibility study, which I last covered back in December, when the Advisory Board last met. The study, which was planned to last six to eight months, was awarded last April.

This post would have been much more aptly timed yesterday, seeing as one year ago I had posted about possible routes the group had made up. This route imagining comprises a large part of the study document.

As I said back in December, this isn't the time to worry about the details of "why would there be a stop here but not here." From my December post:

The main question to ask is: would Downtown benefit from some manner of circulator streetcar? If yes, then we as the community should be strongly behind finding the funding for the second phase of this project.

That's still true but the correctly phrased question might actually be: "Would the positives of a circulator streetcar for Downtown outweigh the negatives?" After all, any equation like this is going to have both its good and its bad sides.

Update (Sep 12th): The report is now posted on the CRA's web site.

On the plus side you have fixed route transit as leverage for private investment, improved circulation and lessened dependence on the auto for intra-Downtown trips. On the minus you have costs and concerns about traffic.

I would love to have seen the study outreach and address more of those concerns at this phase. The traffic issue, for instance, is often brought up. There are those who say the streetcar will bring Downtown's autos to a halt because they're slow to stop and start and they have to stop for passengers. The study merely states:

In general, all the concepts for the streetcar are not expected to have major traffic impacts, as they will operate along existing streets in mixed flow traffic, and many of the alignments identified for this study are along streets where the historic streetcars once operated, which minimizes the amount of capital improvements that would be required. Using signal priority at selective intersections may enhance the operations. Minor street and lane adjustments may also be necessary for all concepts to accommodate enhancements such as stop platforms and pedestrian access.

That's a nice generalized statement, but it's not going to convince anyone who holds the other opinion.

I would counter the traffic argument by looking at the buses that run through Downtown. Dwell times -- the time a bus or train is at a stop -- is going to be basically the same whether you're talking about a bus or a trolley, so the argument comes down to stopping and starting speed. The study lists streetcar acceleration at 3mph/sec. What's the operating acceleration on a bus? I don't know offhand, but if it's 3mph/sec or less that would seem to present a factual way to counter the traffic argument.

Bottom line is that coming up with $60 - $70 million to build this is probably going to be more of a challenge than convincing people Downtown that it could be a good idea.

Old posts on this topic:

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Topic:
Downtown Streetcar

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