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Catching Up With... The Downtown Streetcar

By Eric Richardson
Published: Saturday, December 27, 2008, at 03:17PM
Portland Streetcar Trip Eric Richardson [Flickr]

In April, a delegation from Downtown waits outside the Portland Streetcar's maintenance facility.

As we go through the last few days of 2008, we thought it useful to take a look at some of the important Downtown projects working their way through the system.

The Project: Though an old idea, 2008 was a year of sudden activity for the project to bring a streetcar back to Downtown Los Angeles. With the announcement of the Bringing Back Broadway project in January, the project got a political wave to ride, and successfully navigated its way to the creation of a non-profit, the earmark of $5 million in redevelopment funds and successful public forums. Though a final route has not been decided, the basic plan would have ends at the Convention Center and Music Center, with a north-south leg on Broadway.

Latest Status: The non-profit Los Angeles Streetcar, Inc., is officially up and running via the Community Partners incubator program (blogdowntown's parent, verbdowntown, is set up through the same program). The project is preparing to name an Executive Director for the organization, who would manage the engineering and outreach work necessary to more forward.

2008 Accomplishments: In January, Councilman Jose Huizar's office announced the Bringing Back Broadway project, an effort to restore Broadway to its previous prominence. The project named the Trustees, a group of almost 30 stakeholders along the street who would lead the effort. It also created several committees, including the Streetcar and Transportation committee. That committee folded in the Red Car Advisory Board, a previous streetcar effort that had overseen the CRA-led feasibility study.

In April, a group of stakeholders including Councilman Huizar visited Portland and Seattle to see streetcars that have recently entered operation in those cities. The visit energized Huizar for the streetcar project, and caused him to say that the streetcar needed to be one of the first pieces of Broadway revitalization instead of the "cherry on top."

In May, Reconnecting America and the CRA held a national streetcar workshop at the Orpheum Theatre. The day-long affair brought in experts from around the country and highlighted the economic development created by a streetcar.

A well-attended design charette focused on Broadway was held at the New LATC in August. It looked at how a streetcar would fit into the existing streetscape and offered a look at the challenges posed by utilities.

Also in August, the Broadway Trustees authorized the creation of L.A. Streetcar, Inc., a non-profit that would design and build the streetcar. Jim Atkins, a Downtown developer who had been involved in Portland's streetcar project, oversaw the conception and creation of the organization.

In October the CRA Board authorized the earmark of $5 million in redevelopment funds toward the streetcar. This money will likely act as initial funding to cover pre-development and the start of engineering and design.

What's Next: Within the next month, L.A. Streetcar, Inc., should name an Executive Director. This person will be responsible for managing the start of engineering and the drafting of documents for an assessment district that would provide funding for the project. Additionally, public outreach will surround the finalization of a route for the initial line.


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