Plans for a Downtown streetcar have been in the works since 2008, and the project has seen a number of delays and wildly fluctuating cost estimates since then. Most discouragingly, an analysis of the project conducted by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation last year revealed that the streetcars would be incredibly slow—like "come on, grandma, let’s just walk" slow.
At the time, LADOT estimated the cars would travel at speeds as low as three-and-a-half miles per hour during peak hours. However, in a new Environmental Impact Report submitted Friday, projected streetcar speeds have nearly doubled. That is, the streetcars are expected to travel around six miles per hour during the busiest times of day. That’s certainly an improvement, but it’s also basically a ten minute mile—you know, the time to beat if you want to pass gym class.
To be fair, most streetcar and trolley systems travel at very low speeds when passing through heavily congested downtown areas. The question is whether the transit system will attract many riders at such low speeds.
According to the report, 3,851 to 5,773 riders per day are expected to take the streetcar upon its projected opening in 2020. The 3.8 mile loop will take between 35 and 40 minutes from start to finish. It will transport riders from the Civic Center down Broadway to the Fashion District, then along 11th Street to Figueroa, where it will head North to 7th Street or—if an alternate route is selected—9th Street. At that point it will turn East before heading back to the Civic Center on Hill Street. A proposed extension would also allow the streetcar to bop over to Grand Avenue via First Street, before heading back toward Broadway.
Metro’s comprehensive ballot measure to fund future transit projects includes $200 million of funding that would allow construction of the streetcar to be completed in time for a 2020 opening, should the measure pass.