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LA’s coolest ride: Angels Flight is a trip back in time

It is a very charming attraction

You can board Angels Flight from Hill Street.
Jenna Chandler

I want to acknowledge up front that I might be cheating just a bit in my choice for the coolest transit ride in Curbed LA’s Transportation Week challenge. Angels Flight—a steep little railroad that runs up and down Bunker Hill in Downtown Los Angeles—isn’t so much a mode of transportation that Angelenos use to get around as it is a very charming attraction.

Back when the funicular opened at the turn of the 20th century, wealthy residents living in mansions atop Bunker Hill and their attendants would ride the railway down to the commercial district below.

Bunker Hill was taller then (some 30 feet of soil was shaved from the top in the 1960s as part of a redevelopment plan), but it’s still a sweaty hike to scale the hill from Hill Street to Grand Avenue. So, if you’re too full after chowing down at Grand Central Market—located directly across from the bottom entrance of Angeles Flight—to walk up to, say, MOCA—located above the top entrance to Angels Flight on Grand—just hop aboard one of the two bright orange train cars, named Olivet and Sinai.

They’re the original wood cars from 1901, and you’ll sit on the same wood seats that passengers decades before you did. You’ll get a taste of what it was like to ride in a trolley car during the early 1900s. To this day, Sinai and Olivet “exhibit a pretty typical early 20th century enclosed trolley design,” says Kim Cooper, a preservationist, who, along with her husband, helped get the cars running again this month after a nearly four-year hibernation.

The ride is rickety (that’s part of the fun) and, with the tracks measuring 282 feet long, it lasts just 45 seconds. (It takes me about three times as much time to scale the flight of stairs that runs parallel to the tracks).

You can board at the bottom on Hill at the cute orange gate or up at California Plaza, where the darling ticketing booth is located. With your Metro TAP card, it costs 50 cents for a one-way ride.

It’s worth the two quarters. In a city best-known for its midcentury architecture, for experimentation and innovation, it’s a treat to still be able to use a 116-year-old time capsule.