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San Pedro's Red Cars Might Be Disappearing Forever

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The Los Angeles Red Car trolleys famously disappeared in the 1960s, but in 2003, they came back just to San Pedro, with a limited route and weekend service. Now they are scheduled to disappear again and things aren't looking good for their return, the Daily Breeze says (and not so long after there was talk of extending the line). The Red Cars' fate is intertwined with upgrades to Sampson Way, as part of a larger makeover to the Ports O' Call collection of shops and restaurants, San Pedro's one-time tourist draw that's been awaiting a huge revamp for a while now. But keeping them around after the street work is done is looking impossibly expensive, with estimates coming in at $40 million, or four times what it cost to get the line up and running in 2003.

The Red Car service is scheduled to stop sometime this summer, for at least the 18 months that Sampson Way is being altered.The problem is that Sampson Way's rejiggering will move the street so that it cuts through the southern part of the Red Car route. Putting the rails back in would mean that the trolley would be sharing space with the street, and so the line would need not only new track laid, but also improved trolley cars in order to meet a host of new safety regulations they didn't have to worry about before. All that is expected to cost $40 million. Back when downtown businesses were rallying to get the streetcar to come into the shopping district, estimates of $26 million were considered prohibitive, so this is probably not going to fly. (The Red Cars cost $2 million a year to operate; they make about $11,000 to $18,000 a year.)

These revelations only recently presented themselves. Although the line is popular among San Pedroans and visitors alike, for some reason "no provision for a future Red Car line was indicated on initial renderings for Sampson Way." Apparently, no one noticed this hitch in the plan until a few months ago, when design work on the Sampson Way project ramped up.

Because they were preparing for an 18-month shutdown of the Red Cars, San Pedro was already planning to have "bus trolleys" fill in the gaps. Although that's something, it's hardly as cool as a Red Car.
· Has San Pedro's waterfront Red Car reached the end of the line? [DB]
· Red Cars Could Roll Through Downtown San Pedro [Curbed LA]