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Streetcar Workshop Intros Highlight Downtown Transformation

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, May 22, 2008, at 09:34AM
Gloria Ohland Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Gloria Ohland of Reconnecting America talks about the success of streetcars in other cities.

The introductions to today's Los Angeles Streetcar Workshop focused on the transformation currently underway in Downtown, and how public transportation in general and the streetcar in specific are necessary components of urban revitalization.

Opening remarks were given by Councilmembers Jose Huizar and Jan Perry, Don Spivack of the Community Redevelopment Agency, and Gloria Ohland of Reconnecting America.

Councilman Jose Huizar kicked things off by talking about Broadway and how it was nostalgia that first got him excited about the streetcar project. He pictured the project as a fun addition to a revitalized Broadway. "I thought the streetcar would be the cherry on top," he told the audience. The recent trip to Portland that Councilman Huizar attended with other Downtown stakeholders convinced him that the streetcar was instead something that needs to right away. While he's been telling people that the project would take ten years, he now thinks it could happen "a whole lot sooner."

Councilwoman Jan Perry talked of Downtown's transformation from "the world's largest office park" to a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood. She encouraged the crowd to be creative about how the system might be financed, and threw in her own idea. "One suggestion," she told the crowd. "I'll put it out there on the record -- maybe we can talk to the hotels" and get them to contribute some money.

Don Spivack of the Community Redevelopment Agency gave a history of current efforts to revive the streetcar Downtown. The CRA has been involved in the concept for a number of years now.

Gloria Ohland gave what she called a "Reader's Digest version" of her book on streetcars. She gave success stories from other cities and talked of her vision for Los Angeles, her home town. She talked of a "truly urban spine" running along the subway and the light rail system. "The future is about bringing the people to transit, and not the other way around."

Ohland closed her talk with a question for the audience: "I think the question really is this: do we want the city to be filled up with cars or with people?"


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