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Bunker Hill Trolley Gives Weary Pedestrians a Lift

Transportation: The city leases a bus to temporarily shuttle people up the steep bluff as the future of Angels Flight is weighed.

July 07, 2001|JILL LEOVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's not quite the Angels Flight of old, but a trolley service begun by Los Angeles this week takes pedestrians to similar heights.

The new Bunker Hill Trolley is a small bus with wooden seats and a bell on the front. It looks a little like the historic Angels Flight funicular, which has not operated since a Feb. 1 accident in which one man died.

The leased trolley tools around an eight-minute downtown Los Angeles loop, sparing pedestrians the grueling climb between Grand Central Market and California Plaza.

Since the accident that shut down the funicular railway, downtown visitors determined to scale the natural bluff between Hill and Olive streets have had limited choices: They could trudge up the 153 steps alongside the funicular's tracks or try a similarly steep side street.

As a result, weary stair-climbers, huffing and puffing their way to higher elevations, had become a familiar sight at lunch hour.

The trolley ride, like the funicular, costs 25 cents. It runs north on Hill Street, stopping to pick up passengers behind Grand Central Market, just across the street from where the funicular took off, and again near the market's parking garage.

It then climbs 2nd Street and drops passengers at an elevator and short stairway on Olive Street that leads into California Plaza, then heads back down the hill on 4th Street, following a circular, counterclockwise route.

Hours are 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends.

The trolley costs $72,000 a year to lease and about the same amount to operate as a DASH bus, said Phil Aker, a city transportation planner. Its use is expected to be temporary as city officials decide the fate of Angels Flight.

The first trolley runs began Monday, and downtown denizens were seemingly won over. "It's amazing. We got riders right away," Aker said.

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