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Streetcar Project Unveils New Website, Asks for Input on Route

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, July 10, 2009, at 12:17PM
Red Streetcar Eric Richardson [Flickr]

A streetcar travels through Seattle's South Lake Union district in a 2008 file photo.

For many Downtowners, 2014 just can't get here fast enough.

That's the projected opening date for a Downtown streetcar planned to link South Park, Bunker Hill and the Historic Core. L.A. Streetcar Inc. (LASI) today launched a new website full of information about the project and its current status.

Most importantly, the site includes maps for three conceptual alignments currently under consideration.

The non-profit LASI was set up in 2008 to spearhead the streetcar project, following a model established in other cities like Portland. In January, the board named Dennis Allen its Executive Director and he's been hard at work on streetcar issues ever since.

We caught up with Dennis via email to ask a few questions about his first six months and the new routes.

BLOGDOWNTOWN: You've been on the job for just about six months now. Is your head ready to explode with all its new streetcar knowledge?

DENNIS ALLEN: Absolutely – instant streetcar guru!!! All kidding aside though, it’s been a wonderful experience so far, and I have learned quite a bit about both transportation/streetcars, as well as the federal and state funding and approval process. I am fortunate enough to have a some extremely knowledgeable partners and streetcar supporters to learn from, who really have done the lion’s share of the information gathering and technical input to date. We’re very excited as an organization to be able to present the website, the conceptual alignments, and our progress to date.

BD: The three routes that you're releasing today all serve the same basic targets (L.A. Live / Convention Center, Broadway and Bunker Hill), but do so in slightly different ways. What are some of the considerations you were looking at when putting the routes together?

DA: We've known for a while now that the initial route would serve these three key areas, which we're calling our Core Service Area. Part of the logic behind defining this Core Service Area was to transport people to/from areas they want to get to today, like the LA Live/Staples/Convention area and Bunker Hill/Civic Center, but also route them through the locations they might not have known about or seen previously, like a Broadway corridor or Pico Blvd. This is all part of the two-pronged approach that streetcar systems need to take – 1) as a local circulator and transportation solution, and 2) as one of the best economic development tools to surface in recent times.

Of course, looking at a map with the eyes of a planner, property owner, pedestrian or otherwise is obviously quite different from seeing the eventual technical issues of how and why a streetcar can run on a particular street, and in a certain way. Our next steps were to set up a series of meetings with the various different City agencies, engineering consultants, and key stakeholders to determine what technical obstacles, such as traffic, utilities, grade issues, etc., might impede us from running down various streets and areas. We also wanted to come up with a few different options that still adequately served the Core Service Area, but did so in a way that they really could be different enough to get some quality feedback from the public. As you can imagine, balancing all of these objectives was difficult, but we feel these 3 conceptual alignment options provide a good starting point to work from to reach a final alignment plan.

Now that we have these options which we as a group feel best serve the goals and objectives of these initial meetings, our board, and the overall streetcar concept, we’re excited to present them publicly and get critical feedback from the local stakeholders, because in the end, this streetcar system will need to most adequately serve those who will be riding it. So we are open and anxious to get as many opinions and comments from the public via great local community sites like yours, as well as our upcoming public meeting where we will have our team present to talk about various streetcar concepts in detail.

BD: This is a topic that has come up a lot during the planning process, but let's spend a second on the "couplet" idea that has the line running north and south on different streets. Why is that a good thing?

DA: A couplet, in which one set of tracks runs on a separate street, in a different direction, allows the benefits of the streetcar to be spread to two different streets instead of just one, and also doesn’t necessitate the additional traffic interruption on the same street. The benefit of having the lines close together, usually within a block or two, is that riders can still reach their destinations in a timely manner by walking a block over to catch the streetcar running in your direction, and not having to ride the entire route to get there.

We are also investigating the idea of having “mini-routes” on the alignment, which you can see on the maps with a dashed line connecting the couplet. The idea here is you might have a South Park loop that could run at certain times, separate and distinct from the Bunker Hill loop, and each separate and distinct from a few streetcars that run the entire route. So a rider could look up at the front of these cars that were arriving at frequent intervals, and see which route it was running, similar to the colored lines in the NY subway or the Metro system we have here in Los Angeles.

LASI, will be holding a community open house on July 29 for the public to discuss the potential routes shown below. It will be held at the Bradbury Building (304 S. Broadway), in LAPD's 5th floor Hearing Room, and will run from 4:00 - 7:30pm (4:00-6:00pm: Public Viewing and Comments; 6pm: Formal Presentation; Comments from Councilmember José Huizar and Dennis Allen; 6:45-7:30pm: Public Viewing and Comments).

Click on the maps below to see them enlarged, or check out LASI's Route & Destinations page and click on the routes PDF.


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