Council Tips Its Hand on Transit Priorities

6_9_09_council.jpgSketch of the future Broadway after a streetcar arrives via Bringing Broadway Back.

In addition to discussing Measure R, tomorrow’s L.A. City Council Transportation Committee also features a couple of motions that spell out the top priorities for the city’s transportation planning in the 2010 Fiscal Year.

The three motions would move just over sixteen and a half million dollars from the city’s general transportation funds to advance the Green Line Extension direct to LAX, the downtown Streetcar project for Broadway and pedestrian safety improvements for the Foshay Learning Center after the Expo Line is completed.

None of the new funds will result in project construction in the next fiscal year, but they could help insure that all of these projects move forward and could be part of changing the transit culture in Los Angeles.  In the case of the Green Line Extension and the streetcar, the funds will be used for needed environmental and planning documents.  For the pedestrian improvements around the Foshay Learning Center, the funds will pay for land acquisition needed to build a pedestrian bridge required by court orders. build a pedestrian tunnel and for other pedestrian improvements.

While it’s not a surprise that these projects are moving forward, after all they’ve been talked to death at City Council hearings; it’s always good news to see the city moving forward on transit funds.  If there’s any major changes to these motions, we’ll be sure to let you know.

  • For the pedestrian improvements around the Foshay Learning Center, the funds will pay for land acquisition needed to build a pedestrian bridge required by court orders.

    There is no court order, and the CPUC decided just the opposite at Foshay. The CPUC decision explicitly found (pp 36-37) the existing pedestrian tunnel “is already a grade-separated crossing that provides for adequate separation of pedestrians and rail operations at Harvard Boulevard.”

    Councilman Bernard Parks’s motion requested the City of L.A. fund $5,571,569 of Measure R Local Return money for “Exposition Light Rail Project land acquisition aud safety mitigation” at Foshay Middle School.

  • Argh, very embarrassing mistake on my part. Thanks – D

  • DJB

    You’ve got to love the name of the initiative in the picture’s caption: “Bringing Broadway Back”. This kind of begs the question, bringing it back for whom?

    Anybody who’s been to S. Broadway in Downtown LA knows that it’s a very vibrant and very Hispanic street. I’m not familiar with the other parts of Broadway (which apparently goes all of the way down to north Long Beach and north to Lincoln Heights). In a way it would kind of be a shame for the street to loose its organic charm and become another Hollywood complete with gentrification, supergraphics and electronic billboards.

    Anyway, if City of LA/MTA does do a streetcar on Broadway I hope it covers the whole street and functions as more than a novelty pedestrian amenity for an urban renewal area. Otherwise, you could get the same feel at a lower cost with a trolley-shaped novelty bus.

  • DJB,

    While there is a vibrant community along Broadway downtown, there’s certainly a lot of improvement that can be made without displacing that (mostly street-level and daytime only) community. A major component of the plan is assisting existing street-level retailers and preventing vacancies in retail spaces to ensure the community remains vibrant. I’d be very surprised if Councilman Huizar didn’t have the existing community in mind, since they are likely a large portion of his constituency. I recommend you look at the project website (http://www.bringingbackbroadway.com/)

    There are a number of essentially abandoned buildings and many underutilized buildings along Broadway, some of which are iconic architectural gems. These include the old theaters, a few of which have already been refurbished and reopened as a result of this project, as well as a number a number of classic office buildings which were literally rotting from the inside. Getting these buildings back into shape, encouraging businesses and new residents to move in, and providing transit down the corridor can only make it better.

    The trolley line is planned to run 3-4 miles, which essentially ensures that it’s more than a novelty pedestrian amenity. Hopefully we can encourage the project to widen sidewalks, include bicycle amenities, and minimize/eliminate street parking to make it even better.

    The likelihood of super-graphics and giant electronic billboards seems pretty low, when you consider that many of these buildings are or will be registered historic, and the corridor is designed for business, small retail operations and some residential use rather than as some ad-saturated tourist destination. If that sort of thing does begin to happen, it’s our job as L.A. residents to fight it, but opposing improvements because they might lead to crass commercialism is simply cutting off our nose to spite our face.

  • I really wish the best of luck with the Broadway Streetcar project. There are numerous other areas that may not see heavy or light rail in our lifetimes, but would benefit from trams.

  • Spokker

    “This kind of begs the question, bringing it back for whom?”

    For everybody.

  • Michael T. Greene

    The idea shown looks good, with lots of folks out and about. I do hope that if a rail line is placed back on Broadway, for historical accuracy, it should be a narrow-gage line, as was the case on Broadway until 1963. It should be evocative of the “Yellow Car” system, which, at the end, was a system that used streamliners similar to those used today on San Francisco’s “F” line. I saw the “Red Car” in the drawing…it may be something for another Downtown line, if one is placed on Main Street, if only for historical accuracy. For Broadway, it should be Yellow.

  • “I saw the “Red Car” in the drawing…it may be something for another Downtown line, if one is placed on Main Street, if only for historical accuracy. For Broadway, it should be Yellow.”

    ————-

    It could be plaid if it will get it up and running, but I like the idea of recreating historical colors of the cars.

    Perhaps the F-Line of historical streetcars was originally expected to be for the tourists, but I know several people who ride them for actual transportation up and down Market Street.

    Three other places to try streetcars/trams are Sunset Blvd. between downtown and the Strip, and Hollywood/WeHo/Beverly Hills on the unused R.O.W., and then I’m wondering how the Valley would feel about a Ventura Blvd. tram from Universal City to Warner Center.

    The SFV isn’t as organized politically as the SGV and perhaps this is a project that could get started within the City of L.A. itself.

  • “I’m wondering how the Valley would feel about a Ventura Blvd. tram from Universal City to Warner Center.”

    We are talking of the same folks who fought to make sure the subway DIDN’T run under Ventura? And engaged in an epic battle of who could push a project into someone else’s backyard (i.e. Chandler vs. Ventura Freeway rapid transit proposals)? My guess-squelch it. And with a lot of empty racket, to boot.

  • cph

    I still think this proposed Broadway Streetcar is more Rick Caruso than Henry Huntington, but ….

  • xalexisx

    I would prefer to see them save money and simply close down a large portion of Broadway to cars and just have the 20 some odd bus lines that currently run along Broadway use the middle of the road, more like a brt, and make the rest of the street a pedestrian and cyclist promenade. Bring Broadway back by closing it to cars and filling it with street performers, vendors, outdoor dining, and promote the existing transit.

  • Buses don’t promote street life.

  • If you closed Broadway completely to cars and created a promenade, you’d end up with a one-off project with no real impact on future development and planning in the city. If instead you transform it into an integral part of the city that functions well for all users, rather than as an attraction, you have something you can use as a model for future improvements throughout the city. Light rail or street cars, by virtue of their permanence, encourage growth and commerce that bus routes cannot.

  • cph

    Forgive me, but I’m not all that gung-ho about this streetcar, or the “Bring Back Broadway” movement in general.

    1. I have some technical and procedural questions about the streetcar. I assume itwill run in mixed flow traffic, rather than having its own lanes (cf. Blue Line on Washington, etc.) If it runs down the middle of the street, will there be an easy way for passengers to get on/off? If it runs near the sidewalk, how will it interact with the buses and cars already there? Where will the vehicles be garaged and maintained? How well will it connect with existing transportation facilities (transit and parking)?

    2. Who is this project really for anyway? What need does it meet? Broadway shoppers looking to save a little shoe leather? Railfans? tourists and other joyriders? Homeless people trying to stay out of the rain? Commercial developers who say, “Look what a trolley did for the Grove and the Americana….now what could it do for Broadway”

    3. I’m hesitant to advocate scarce tax money for such a project, when there are other needs, not only throughout So. Cal, but just within Downtown itself. People are moving to Downtown, and still using cars to get around, probably because the existing local transit, primarily designed to bring people TO/FROM Downtown, doesn’t really function well to move people IN Downtown. Perhaps the streetcar, along other fixed rail transit, buses and taxis could be rerouted to do a better job of local Downtown circulation.

    4: There’s also the issue of transit somehow being subordinate to real estate development. That was Henry Huntington’s impetus for building the Pacific Electric–to sell land. Once most of the land was sold, he lost interest in maintaining the railway, and the service slowly deteriorated.

    Then we got into using roads and freeways to open up land for development, and got into the mess we have today.

    5: (This one is not so much about the streetcarBroadway is a reasonably well functioning shopping street for people (vast majority who are Hispanic) living in the communities surrounding Downtown. It is neither skid-row, nor a sterile corporate business park. Many, if not most Broadway shoppers use the existing bus system (some walk over from the Pershing Square Red Line station). These people have essentially kept Broadway more or less viable while everyone else abandoned Downtown for the suburban malls and such.

    Now is there a plan to price/move them out, so that we can make yet another LA Live? Or can the existing constituents be part of a Broadway that meets their needs while attracting new customers from other cultures?

    I think we need to ask and answer some serious questions, not just get googly-eyed and think “Wow, a streetcar!”

  • There’s a lot of questions on the Bringing Back Broadway project – and it’s great to hash them out. The issues mentioned above have been combed over again and again in online forums, in local discussions and on a political level between neighborhood councils and the city council, property owners, residents. I’d like to know what outreach has been done for the business owners.

    Right now, Broadway is very active during the daytime, yet at night it’s completely transformed with shuttered storefronts, empty sidewalks and almost no activity whatsoever. That’s what I think “Bringing Back Broadway” means to the committee behind the project – restoring the once-active nightlife with theaters and restaurants. Unfortunately, it takes an elitist connotation when one thinks about Broadway during the daytime.

    Still, the committee isn’t focused on what stores should go where, who should operate a business or to whom those businesses should cater. As I wrote in a recent comment thread somewhere: If there’s a demand for 12-packs of socks on Broadway and a business owner can make a profit by selling that, that is fine by me.

    Let’s look at what Broadway is, right now. It’s the largest collection of historic movie palaces in the US (and possibly the world). It’s LA’s grandest historic district. The upper floors in these buildings are almost entirely empty, except when used as storage. The theaters are literally crumbling from the inside-out.

    I think it’s smart investment for the city to use tax dollars to fix the sidewalks, improve transit and encourage property owners to fix up their properties in a manner befitting the historic resources they truly are.

    By the way, the streetcar is less a “Grove-style” line than it is a Portland-style concept. These types of transit projects have proved their worth in other cities by allowing increased development, density and tourism. It would help tie together South Park with the Historic Core/Broadway and Grand Avenue, something that’s currently wanting. Also, I believe private money will also be used to build it.

    So to sum up some answers to the questions posed above, the Broadway streetcar line will serve everyone – shoppers, tourists, residents and workers. It will spur redevelopment of underused buildings, as similar lines have done in other cities. It will help bring about the reuse and reprogramming of the historic Broadway theaters which currently sit empty. These are worthy goals, and I’m glad the city has allocated some funding toward it.

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