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Should Angels Flight Increase Its Quarter Fare?

By David Markland
Published: Tuesday, November 16, 2010, at 10:07AM
Angels Flight Eric Richardson

If you listen closely, you can hear the Angels Flight streetcars talk to each other. Or, you can simply follow them on Twitter. The twin cars, known as Sinai and Olivet, share an account on the social media network, where they frequently boast about movie and television shoots they'll be starring in along with other commentary.

Last Wednesday, the chatter turned to finances as Sinai asked how Angels Flight's thousand visitors a day were working out at 25 cents per trip. Olivet observed, "A lot of riders (and our donors) say that 25 cents is too inexpensive. Revenues cover less than half our expenses."

Sinai suggested, "50 cent fare then?" to which Olivet replied, "'50 Cent?' Isn’t he a singer? Management says it wants to keep the Angels Flight fare at a quarter. The question is 'How?'"

Finances are sound according to John H. Welborne, president of Angels Flight Railway Foundation, the non-profit that oversees operations. Still, he notes, "I'll never say we're not worried about continuing to find additional funding."

Welborne says he hoped Sinai and Olivet's conversation would spur a community dialogue about a possible rate increase and continued ways to ensure the continued operation of the railway.

Welborne's non-profit foundation for "The Shortest Railway in the World" must raise approximately $120,000 per year. "The generosity of the community is impressive and it continues to keep Angels Flight operating sixteen hours every day,” he says, noting that a banner that lists the names of Angels Flight's largest donors will soon be replaced with a permanent plaque.

Additional revenue comes from filming permits, including for recent shoots of television shows "Southland" and "The Bold and the Beautiful," and the upcoming new Muppets movie.

As for a $198,000 grant announced by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34) in 2004 for the Angels Flight construction, Welborne says "it made for a nice press release," but that he's never seen the money.

In the meantime, the question remains if the ticket price on Angels Flight should be increased.

Welborne says that the quarter fare continues to be charming to bloggers worldwide. In addition to the publicity, the low cost keeps Angels Flight a lucrative attraction for school groups and a practical means of transportation for senior citizens needing to traverse the hill up to California Plaza. And, he notes, the fare hasn't increased since 1998.

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