Developer Rick Caruso wants to extend the trolley at the Grove to the Beverly… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)
Billionaire developer Rick Caruso has an idea on how to better move Los Angeles — and it’s a blast from the past.
Caruso this week is talking up the idea of extending the old-fashioned trolley that runs through his popular Grove shopping center to other locations in the neighborhood, including the Beverly Center and LACMA.
The plan is still at its infancy, but Caruso vows to throw his weight and “a significant amount” of his money toward the trolley idea.
In an interview this week, Caruso challenged the city to “Get some vision,” and “build something that’s compelling.”
“We’re prepared to spend $1 billion to have a subway from downtown to the sea. We’re going to put people in a hole in the ground,” he said. “Let’s spend whatever it is … and move people around the city, above ground, because we have the best climate in the world.”
Under Caruso’s concept, the trolley would make a loop around the numerous attractions in the area, including the planned Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on Wilshire Boulevard, Park LaBrea and the hip West 3rd Street shopping district.
But for all of Caruso’s enthusiasm, obstacles are many.
It’s unclear how a trolley could run along the district’s already clogged streets. Some residents staunchly opposed laying new train track, saying that the trolley would jam traffic even more and present many safety issues.
Diana Plotkin, president of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Assn., said residents support a bus system, but “a fixed-rail line … is absolutely unacceptable.”
“To me, it’s absurd to even consider something like that,” she said.
Transportation experts also questioned exactly what kind of public-private partnership Caruso is envisioning to pay for the system.
Jim Moore, a vice dean at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, said a trolley on wheels rather than on rail would be far less expensive and more feasible. But he acknowledged buses would “be less sexy.”
“If what we’re really trying to do is support commerce and tourism, well, then … this high-cost alternative really has to pay for itself,” Moore said. “If it doesn’t, what we’re doing is using some public resources that could be used to move more people. It’s OK to build something fun, it’s just not wise to tax people to do it.”
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation said any fixed-rail project would require traffic studies, environmental reviews and other steps prior to construction.
Nonetheless, some key officials are backing Caruso. Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes Miracle Mile, said he will “do all I can to help” the project move forward.
“I’d like to get it done right now,” he said. “If Rick is hot on it, I’m going to go.”
Tony Borio, 67, of West Los Angeles said he remembers riding a Los Angeles street car from West Hollywood to downtown with his parents and grandparents. He likes where Caruso is going.
“It’s going to be hard for him to do this because they’re going to fight him like hell over 3rd Street,” Borio said. “The idea’s great, but I don’t know how they’re going to get it passed.”
That job is largely falls on LaBonge, but having Caruso in his corner won’t hurt.
“This is one of those things where you need all the stars in a row,” LaBonge said. “Catch the trolley now, or miss it. If you miss it, it ain’t coming back.”