What if the Red Cars Returned?

We will talk about traffic here forever. There will never be a permanent solution. Any plan we come up with now will be obsolete in 5 years. There will always be more people than we can handle, and not enough money to build the transit system we need.

If you live in L.A., you accept those truths to be self-evident. Whether or not they are, will always be up for debate.

Why bringing back the Red Car could be the answer… after the jump.

Wendy Greuel wants L.A. to have a plan. Finally, somebody said it. We’ve known for a while that nothing was in place. There was no map, nor timetable. At least now, we’re talking about it. And your city council actually wants your input.

I could sit here and say the same things I’ve said before. We need both extensions of the Red Line – Wilshire and Santa Monica. Finish Expo. Get Green to LAX. Subway down Ventura, Van Nuys, under the 405 to Westwood. To Burbank. Glendale. I could go on and on about what lines we need where, and point over and over again to The Map.

But, I won’t.

You want a bold new idea? Bring back the Red Cars, even if it’s only temporary. If subways are too costly, take too long, and have too much opposition, why not streetcars? Lay track on every major corridor throughout the city and get those things running. Maybe down the road, we’ll find money to build another subway somewhere. Then another. And another. We’ll keep replacing each streetcar line with a subway until the system is complete.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Why on Earth would we even consider running old fashion streetcars in 2008 Los Angeles? 3 Reasons:

  1. To form the outline of an actual city transit system
  2. To alleviate traffic congestion in a shorter timeframe than the construction of an entire subway network would allow
  3. To add yet another cultural icon to the landscape that would cement L.A.’s reputation as a world-class tourist destination

So… anyone else up for riding the Red Car?

Photo from pantalonescagados2 1’s photostream

20 thoughts on “What if the Red Cars Returned?”

  1. Wow, what a treat that would be! I never had a chance to ride a Red Car. One of the things that would help is that many major thoroughfares still have islands in the middle that USED to be where the Red Car ran but have now been converted into greenspace islands or just concrete islands–and while I hate to lose the green, a Red Car ringing its nostalgic bell as it tooted past would be just as nice.

  2. I wouldn’t want to lose green space either. But, in most cases, many of the roads just need track. Can you imagine Hollywood, Melrose, Ventura, Van Nuys with these things rolling down the center?

  3. This is a great idea. A lot of the track are already in place. They just have to be cleaned up and we would have a system going in about two or three years. And an extensive one, too. I can imagine these going south and then east into Huntington Park (along Randolph) or South Gate (along Indepedence/Ardmore). This would be great!

  4. Lucinda — It’s not the same, I know, but the Red Cars down in San Pedro are authentic, and the ride at least gives you a bit of an idea of what it must have been like back in the day…

  5. They were repaving Sunset Blvd. in Echo Park a few years back and when they scraped away the asphalt- the old trolly rails appeared, right down the middle- just a couple of inches below the traffic.

  6. that would be just great. i live on huntington, which i think used to run a red car. would be very convenient, and give the city more sense of its own history. how can we make this happen???

  7. Many of the rights-of-way where PE used to run the red cars are still available, and some are even owned by the MTA. These include the ROW going to Santa Ana, and along Huntington Drive.

    The problem with the old style red cars, is that they have no access for handicapped riders and they are too high. New, low-floor or ultra-low-floor streetcars should be used. A new company, Oregon Iron Works, is now making them in the USA, with Portland, Or. as their first client.

    True streetcars are much cheaper to install than light rail (Gold Line, Blue Line), but they are not very good for traversing longer distances.

    They are best suited to downtown circulator type applications.

    For farther distances, say Temple City to downtown along Huntington Drive, or Santa Ana to the Blue Line along the old ROW that MTA owns, the larger “light rail” trains are better suited, and these are much more expensive to construct and operate.

    If streetcars are to be put in, they need to go in smaller areas, say downtown L.A., downtown Inglewood, or another area where it was proposed, Angeleno Heights to downtown, a very short route of about 2 miles.

  8. i think that’s a stupid idea. it was a stupid idea to take them out, and it’ll be a stupid idea to put it in again.

    san pedro already has a small replica of the red car, but it’s a joke. nobody uses it. there’s talk of expanding them in town, but without a connection to the blue line they’re useless.

    though an expansion in pedro isn’t a bad idea, there’s really no reason to bring it back on a larger scale. it would cost too much, and the speed would make them ill-suited for getting across the city.

    if any new passenger rail is to be built in LA, it should be light-rail.

  9. As someone who’s ridden the current Red Car in Pedro, I can say they’d be slow as hell. This city is too big, you would spend hours waiting at crossings trying to get anywhere. In small areas, like a local downtown, they’re cool – better than walking if you’re lazy or burdened by packages, but as a commuter vehicle, their day is over.

    What this city needs is real 21st Century mass transit – big lines, elevated or subterranean, that move fast enough to make them worth using. We need something like the BART system – a large REGIONAL solution that starts linking So Cal together in a non-linear manner.

  10. It’s funny and sad that the red car revival has to even be discussed.

    Yes, some of the rail lines are there but the nimby’s will stamp and shout, litigate do what is needed to keep it out of their neighborhoods. When I was in the valley that is exactly what happened with the rail line along Chandler from No Hollywood to Woodland Hills. What happened is the neighborhoods along the way fought it, end result rails ripped out and the bus express happened.

    I’m not saying it is right, but that is the historical pattern.

    We need to move and have routes along the major corridors we have people moving on already the key is making it appeal to those living next to it.

  11. I’d much rather see a realistic solution. Like a system of giant green pipes that lead to a subterranean warp zone. Some could even spit you out into the ocean when you’re not expecting it. And then you’d have to dodge fish whilst collecting coins in a very linear fashion until you reached another pipe that took you to your destination.

    Oh, and all bricks in the city should crumble at the touch of your fist. And sometimes there should be hidden bonuses inside said bricks.

    And there should be speakers embedded all sidewalks and music should play through them. And if your running late this music should speed up and totally stress you out.

    And touching stars on the walk of fame should make you invincible for 15 seconds.


  12. As noted by another poster,the MTA already owns many old PE right-of-ways and has even conducted studies and EIRs on several of them, they are all at the MTA library. Also noted by another poster is the fact that the trolleys wouldnt be an effective transit mode to move far distances.

    A complimentary system of HRT (red and purple line), LRT and busses is needed. Extend the redline down wilshire, Vermont (to the SBay), Whittier/7th, Crenshaw to LAX, the 405 to Ventura to Van Nuys Blvd up thru the valley, an orange line conversion, and an EM busway conversion would create comprehensive coverage of major corridors on the cheap. Outside of the denser central core areas of LA, all these HRT lines/conversions would go elevated or even at-grade similar to east coast versions (LongIslandRR), making each described alignment have no more than a mile or 2 of actual expensive subway (sans wilshire). Again, good comprehensive coverage of where people actually travel with minimal costs and few at-grade crossings. The mayor should also knock any wilshire extension west of the 405 down the priority list, as we should be trying to move people who actualy use transit, mainly owrking class latinos.

    What else? LRT to Glendale, Southeast LA county, a green line extension, esgoldline to the southern SGV, pasa to noho, foothill extension to azusa, and expo. All of these LRT alignment have an intact ROW owned by the MTA, and are feasable if we get the neocons out of office and our fiscal priorities straight.

    We should also vote for some more PT funding so the governator can raid it instead of taxing uberwealhty Californians.

  13. I honestly don’t see how streetcars ( are any more cost effective than light rail. The infrastructure (rails, catenary wires, power transformers, etc.) are exactly the same. Why spend huge amounts of money on a temporary solution, just use the money to build what will work. Streetcars, light rail, subways, whatever.

  14. Bringing back the Red Cars is the best thing that could happen to LA. I’ve been saying for years it’s an absolute crime that the city let Standard Oil buy them up and put them on moth balls- just to encourage people to do the whole ‘two cars in every garage’ thing back in the day. And look at where we are now. A 40r5 mph freeway, connecting to the 10r1 mph freeway… getting everybody nowhere. It’s a crime. We need to reclaim either the carpool lanes or the slow lanes and run street cars all over town… just like Europe.

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