Before it had its freeways, Los Angeles had the Red Car system, a massive commuter streetcar network that spanned the city, making travel around town affordable, fast and convenient. But when Angelenos fell in love with the automobile, they fell out of love with the Red Cars and the system was slowly dismantled and the streetcars scrapped.
Fast forward to today and there’s a plan to bring streetcars back to Los Angeles, with mass transit advocates and some business and political leaders supporting the construction of a streetcar system in downtown L.A. If built, the cars would run in a four-mile loop around downtown, with stops near Staples Center, Bunker Hill, the Civic Center, and the fashion, jewelry and historic core districts along Broadway Boulevard.
Streetcar supporters hope the system will not only move thousands of passengers a day, but also keep the momentum going for the continuing gentrification of downtown. They argue that the streetcars will make the central city a more attractive destination and attract new businesses and investment.
Building the streetcar system is estimated to cost $125 million, with half of that coming from the federal government and half from a tax on downtown property owners. To approve the tax, downtown residents are being asked to vote on it in a special mail-in downtown election. That’s raised the ire of some downtown property owners, who both question the need for a downtown streetcar system and being required to pay for it if the tax measure passes.
If the tax passes and the rest of the funding is secured, streetcar supporters say the system could be built by 2014. Below, you can hear more about the streetcar issue, including some details about the proposed tax: