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A streetcar undesired

October 26, 2013
  • An artist's rendering depicting the proposed steetcar as it might appear at the intersection of 6th and Hill near Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles.
An artist's rendering depicting the proposed steetcar as it might…

It would be four miles long, serve downtown L.A. and cost "only" $125 million. Or, at least, that's what area residents and businesses were told.

It turns out that the electrified trolley that downtown voters last year agreed to tax themselves in order to fund might cost more. As in upward of 100% more — and staff members in City Hall suspected as much before voters gave their OK to the project, according to a Times article Tuesday.

Not surprisingly, the revelation that the streetcar project may actually cost about $327 million didn't sit well with readers. More than a dozen wrote to express their disapproval, and their ire wasn't directed at this project alone. Nearly all said that this miscalculation was symptomatic of a broader ineptness by local policymakers and planners in creating transit systems to get people where they need to go.

Here is a selection of those letters.

-- Paul Thornton, letters editor

Marvin Engquist of Downey laments L.A.'s disconnected transit systems:

"Los Angeles County already has a rapid transit train system that does not connect to the airport or to the Metrolink station in Norwalk, thereby not serving people commuting to L.A. from Orange and San Diego counties or through LAX.

"Now City Hall warns us the proposed downtown L.A. streetcar is way over budget — by $200 million — and will not connect to high-profile landmarks like the Walt Disney Concert Hall or the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

"Is there anyone in local government paying attention to our transportation systems? This is just another project that highlights the failures of urban planning in Los Angeles, and it should be scrapped before it confirms once again that our shortsighted city planners are inept at providing services people need. We don't need another expensive transportation project that does not go where people want or need to be."

San Pedro resident Frederic E. Bloomquist says there are other transit priorities:

"So instead of extending the light-rail line to LAX (a no-brainer) or having the Blue Line end in San Pedro — within the city of Los Angeles instead of where it does end, in the city of Long Beach — we're going to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a four-mile rail line that will primarily service the well-heeled gentrifiers in a minuscule area of our expansive city?

"Apparently, in Los Angeles, if it makes sense, it isn't feasible."

John W. Hazlet Jr. of Pasadena isn't surprised by another big project coming in over budget:

"The estimated cost of the L.A. streetcar project was off by at least 50%. Ditto the bullet train proposed to connect L.A. and San Francisco. Ditto numerous other feel-good public works projects. Even at these projects' original estimates, their cost-benefit balance is questionable.

"How about spending our tax money on stuff we actually need?"


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