Downtown L.A. Streetcar May Be Delayed Again, Pushed Back To 2021

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Rendering of the downtown L.A. streetcar. (Courtesy of the City of Los Angeles)

It goes without saying that public transit projects are subjected to a number of hurdles before they become a reality. That's no surprise, but one project that aims to bring a streetcar to downtown L.A. has been hit with an especially bumpy ride.

A recent report from city staff, which will be reviewed by the City Council’s Transportation Committee, anticipates the project's due date to be July 2021, seven months later than the previous projection of December 2020.

This is only one of a number of delays that the streetcar has encountered; back in 2008, L.A. councilmember Jose Huizar (a major booster for the project) said that he wanted the car to be operational by 2014. Later, after plans had been shelved for a while, some in City Hall told the Times that it could possibly be done by 2019.

As noted at Curbed LA, a lack of funding is one of the main hurdles that has slowed down progress. It didn't help that projected costs for the project took a big spike after voters had approved the plans in 2012. The total went from about $125 million to a possible high of $327.8 million. The latest report, however, lists the project at $274.2 million, or $290.7 million after finance charges have been factored in.

Measure M, which was passed in November, is slated to bring $200 million to the streetcar project, but that money won't be made available until 2053, according to Curbed LA. As such, organizers will have to find funding from private sources and elsewhere to have the project done on time.

As the report states, the current due date is contingent on a number of things. Both a funding plan and an environmental review would have to be completed by end of summer 2017. The revised schedule also expects the Federal Transit Administration to award a federal "Small Starts" grant that totals $100 million.

The report also points out how crucial it is for the streetcar to meet its new deadline, as estimates predict an "increase of approximately $8 million to $10 million" to project costs each year that the project is delayed. It adds that "expediting the Project schedule would result in a similar level of Project cost savings."

The streetcar, when it comes (finally), should run in a loop in downtown L.A. It's expected to travel along segments of 1st Street, Broadway, 11th Street, Figueroa Street, Hill Street, and either 7th or 9th street. Planners say that there will be 25 platforms along the route, and that cars will arrive every seven to 10 minutes. Also, the cars are expected to hold 100 people each and run at speeds of about 6 mph (which is pretty slow, as we'd noted before). A round trip on the loop would take about 35 to 40 minutes.

LAist reached out to Huizar's office for comment, but have not heard back by time of publication.