A downtown streetcar system that once seemed like a far-off dream now looks more and more like it's going to take its place among new and redeveloped structures composing the rebirth of Los Angeles' core.
The Los Angeles City Council recently directed city officials to start negotiating with public transportation juggernaut Metro over $200 million in Measure M sales tax revenues slated for the project. “The city of Los Angeles will discuss with Metro possible ways that the funds can be released as soon as possible,” according to the office of city Councilman José Huizar, who has championed the trolley for much of the decade.
The move essentially means that Metro could accelerate the project, according to Huizar's office. The trolley also could tap into an additional $100 million in federal funds, Huizar's spokesman said via email.
Longtime downtown community leader Brady Westwater says opposition to the project has dried up and that developing it is now a matter of plugging it into a complicated and “moving street scene.” For now, he says, “It's not exactly a trolley plan, it's a trolley financing plan.”
The council's move to reach for that cash and lobby for a fast-track for the trolley was a victory for Huizar, who sees this as his DTLA legacy, Westwater says. “He's worked very hard on this — that's obvious,” he says.
Via email, the councilman said the streetcar circuit would boost the central city economy and tourism. “I talk to Angelenos all the time who are really excited to see a piece of our history and culture resurrected through our L.A. Streetcar project,” he said. “Beyond the nostalgia factor, the L.A. Streetcar will be a boost to tourism and a major economic driver for businesses along the route, as well as a critical first-last mile transportation connector for multiple rail and bus lines in downtown.”
The vote means the city will also pursue public-private partnership funds and federal Small Starts cash. Huizar's folks say the project can count on $390 million in local funding, as much as $85 million in voter-approved local capital funding and $294 million in Measure R funds to operate the system.
Boosters hope to see streetcars up and running by 2020.