Bringing Streetcars Back To Downtown Los Angeles: A Closer Look At The Economic Benefits Outlined In New Study


This week a new study was released indicating how the Downtown L.A. Streetcar will have a significant and profound effect on revitalization in Downtown Los Angeles.

The L.A. Streetcar Economic Analysis Report & Technical Appendix (64p. PDF) studied the longest of proposed route alternatives under consideration for a Los Angeles streetcar system:  a 4.75-mile loop around Downtown.

The economic activity generated by a Los Angeles Streetcar include not only the impacts from one-time construction and recurring operation of the streetcar itself, but also:

  • the induced impact resulting from the development of new comercial and residential property
  • reactivation of underutilized properties
  • creation of new businesses and jobs
  • increased downtown tourism
  • increased numbers of local and overnight visitors
  • spending by new employees, residents and visitors

But to what extent?

After accounting for expected baseline growth, the report comes to some rather staggering conclusions.

It finds that the Downtown L.A. Streetcar system will directly support:

  • $1.1 billion in new development
  • 7,200 new construction jobs
  • 2,100 new permanent office, retail, entertainment and hotel jobs
  • $24.5 million in new annual consumer spending
  • $47 million in new city tax revenue during the 25-year development period
  • 2,600 new housing units for 3,600 new residents
  • nearly 675,000 square feet of new and rehabilitated office space with construction costs valued at $210 million
  • 5,800 new hotel room nights from new convention and business visitors

These values are all above and beyond expected growth rates without streetcar implementation.

Go LA Streetcar explains that pedestrian circulation and connectivity drives urban development.  Cities everywhere are heavily investing in these pedestrian-friendly and environmentally-conscious systems to effectively and reliably take people where they need and want to go.

Larger than buses but smaller than light-rail vehicles, streetcars move with the flow of traffic, are integrated with existing urban environments and corridors, are ADA-compliant, have low-floor boarding areas that are flush with existing sidewalks and do no require dedicated rights-of-way.

Because streetcars run on fixed routes, riders are assured that routes will never change.  The accompanying kiosks, guideways, architecture, technology and other infrastructure can then be intergrated into the urban environment to provide route guidance and reliability.

At least three dozen streetcar proposals and projects are underway nationwide. (Click to enlarge)

Streetcar proposals are flourishing nationwide.

At least three dozen projects around the country are in various stages of development, and some are openly questioning whether streetcars can save America’s cities.

Downtown streetcars have created a noticeable economic impact where they have already been implemented.

Portland’s streetcar system has stimulated over $3.5 billion in economic development.  55% of all development in downtown Portland is within one block of a streetcar line, while 75% of newly constructed downtown residential development is within two blocks of a streetcar line.

Construction of more than 2,000 new residential units can be attributed to Seattle’s streetcar.

Over $1 billion of new development has occured along Tampa’s streetcar route, while property near the city’s convention center has increased in value by 313% over a six-year period.

Over $260 million in private and public projects within two blocks of Little Rock’s streetcar line has transformed the city, along with the construction of 2,740 residential units.

For downtown Los Angeles, a streetcar would provide a “last mile” solution, integrating our current and future rail, bus and parking facilities together in an innovative, efficient and modern circulation system.

If built, people would circulate between destinations and transit networks with ease, enabling people to visit entertainment, cultural and civic destinations in Los Angeles’ burgeoning arts, entertainment and business districts.

Direct connections to the Red, Purple, Gold, Blue, Expo and Regional Connector lightrail/subway lines as well as numerous bus lines would completely transform downtown’s transit and pedestrian experience for the areas 500,000 person workforce and a local population of 40,000 that continues to expand in one of the most rapidly growing areas of the city.

Now that the feasibility study and project definition phases are over, the environmental review must be complete before construction begins in 2012, projected to be completed in 2014 when funding is assured.

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