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Workshop Looks to Sell L.A. on Streetcar

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, May 15, 2008, at 06:09PM
Portland Streetcar Trip Eric Richardson [Flickr]

A modern streetcar in Portland, traveling through the campus of Portland State University.

The concept of a Downtown streetcar isn't new, but the current push is picking up steam in a way past efforts never did. Political will, redevelopment and transportation necessity seem to all be coming together to make the project suddenly seem quite feasible.

Next Thursday, May 22nd, Reconnecting America and the Seaside Institute will be hosting the Los Angeles Streetcar Workshop at the Orpheum Theatre, and we've got a special offer for those looking to attend. The day is designed to help Downtown stakeholders understand what streetcar systems have done for other cities around the country, and what a new system might do for Downtown.

Recently, a delegation from Downtown visited Portland and Seattle to ride their streetcars and get a feel for how those two systems really work. While nothing can replace getting on and off of the streetcar, the Streetcar Workshop will be bringing important figures from both systems development to Downtown so that they can share their experiences.

The day will be broken into five panels, focusing on different issues and stakeholder concerns. The panels are made up of a mix of streetcar experts, city staff and Downtown leaders.

The day is a great chance for those who live Downtown or who are just fans of alternative transportation to come out and show the rest of the city that this project has some real support. The event will be broadcast later on LA36.

If you'd like to attend, but aren't quite sure about showing up, maybe this will sway you... In order to make sure that the Downtown community is able to made it out, the Historic Downtown Community Benefits District has offered blogdowntown readers a number of free admissions to next Thursday's workshop.

To take advantage, send your name and address to

You can be sure you'll be hearing more about the workshop in the days leading up to the event, and plenty more afterward.

Registration and breakfast starts at 7:30am. Sessions run until 4pm, when there's a closing reception. A box lunch is provided.

Descriptions of the five workshops:

Streetcars 101

"A 2-hour discussion about how streetcar systems shape development, stimulate economic development, increase transit ridership and connectivity, and leverage private investment in high-quality public space. Stories and lessons learned from Seattle & Portland about the affect of streetcar systems on urban development and sustainable living. Overview of political and funding strategies and the outlook for federal funding for streetcars through the FTA’s Small Starts program."

From the Red Car Trolley of Yesteryear to the Modern Streetcar of Tomorrow

"The City of Los Angeles is about to embark on the second phase of a feasibility study for a downtown L.A. streetcar, which has the support of downtown’s major public and private stakeholders. L.A. once had the largest electric trolley system in the U.S., with 6,000 trains running on 144 routes in four counties. A new streetcar system would be modern, efficient, and environmentally friendly – a departure from the tourist trolley, or vintage streetcar of decades past. Hear about the genesis of the current interest in a modern streetcar transportation system for downtown, what’s been done thus far, what the next steps will be and how you can be involved."

“OK, BUT WHAT ABOUT…?” Questions of the morning panelists posed by city & downtown leaders

"City and downtown leaders ask the advice of the national experts about issues relevant to Los Angeles: Topics may include: How will a streetcar system link to other transit options downtown? Why a modern streetcar, instead of a vintage trolley? Why rails, not rubber wheels? Who will ride a streetcar? How would a downtown L.A. streetcar system really get funded? What does that mean for property owners? How can we leverage private investment in affordable housing and high-quality parks and public space? What options exist for federal funding? And more!"

Streetcars 202: Design, Funding & Implementation

"How are streetcars different from light rail? What does a starter system look like and how much does it cost? Choosing the right system, boundaries and alignment. Storage & maintenance requirements. Limiting costs and designing to budget and addressing other infrastructure needs."

Local Case Studies

"Brief case studies will be presented on projects in Pasadena, Santa Ana, San Pedro and Irvine, with a discussion about some outstanding issues with each project."


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