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Angels Flight: LA’s historic tiny railway opens today

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The bright orange cars cost $1 to ride

Freshly painted Sinai traverses Bunker Hill.
Bianca Barragan

Closed for nearly four years due to safety issues, Los Angeles’s favorite funicular—Angels Flight—reopened to the public today in Downtown Los Angeles.

The tiny railway ferries passengers up and down Bunker Hill, just as it did more than 100 years ago. Back then, the train cars, named Sinai and Olivet, were painted white and roundtrips cost just a penny.

Now, it costs $1 (cash only) for a one-way ride, and the cars are painted vibrant orange and black. Riders with Metro TAP cards can get a reduced fare of 50 cents.

It’s a short, rickety ride—but absolutely one worth taking. It feels like stepping back in time. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took the first official ride, and was all smiles afterward.

Before hopping aboard, he told the gaggle of media gathered for a press conference that this is a great day “for all of us who love history, all of us who love Downtown.”

The 282-foot-long railway opened in 1901 next to the Third Street tunnel, a half block north from its present-day location directly across from the Hill Street entrance to Grand Central Market. At the time, Bunker Hill was a residential neighborhood filled with Victorian mansions, and the railway connected residents with the businesses below.

The city redeveloped Bunker Hill in 1969, and Angels Flight was dismantled and placed into storage. It opened at its present location in 1996.

Angels Flight has been closed since a derailment in September 2013, the most recent in a string of safety concerns over the previous years. A 2001 derailment that resulted in one passenger’s death shuttered the railway until 2010. Another safety issue in 2011 resulted in closure of the funicular yet again.

Preservationists Richard Schave and Kim Cooper launched a petition in 2015 to reopen the funicular, but city leaders seemed more motivated after the attraction was featured in 2017 Oscar Best Picture nominee La La Land.

“Angels Flight is a treasure that captivates us universally as Angelenos,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember José Huizar. “It speaks to our past and a restored and safer Angels Flight points to our future as a modern, multi-modal Downtown Los Angeles.”

The cars will run again as the city looks to redevelop the park that surrounds the tracks with a tower of “unlimited height.” The property is fenced off to the public and has been marketed as prime for mixed-use development that would integrate the funicular and Metro station next-door.

Angels Flight at its original location next to the Third Street tunnel.
Los Angeles Public Library photo collection

Angels Flight’s new operator, ACS Infrastructure, worked with the nonprofit Angels Flight Railway Foundation and Sener, an engineering firm, to reopen the beloved Bunker Hill attraction. According to the Downtown News that repairs to the tracks and cars, including the installation of a new emergency stairway and updates to the motors, cost almost $5 million.

The group will continue working together as the Angels Flight Development Company to operate the railway; they have a 30-year contract with the city.

Angels Flight Railway

356 South Olive Street, , CA 90013 (213) 626-1901 Visit Website