Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar hosted a public meeting on the proposed downtown streetcar on November 4. Despite the surprise increase in the streetcar’s price tag, Huizar vows to continue championing for the project. A report from city staff concluded that the streetcar could cost at least $232 million, not the $125 million originally estimated. By contrast, Huizar stated that the project could be done between $125 million and $165 million, a price range that does not include utility relocation. If nothing else, proponents assert that they wish to be as transparent as possible when it comes to the true costs of the streetcar. A downtown parcel tax voted into effect would provide $62.5 million for the project, while Los Angeles can secure $75 million in federal grants if officials can identify other funding sources.
Huizar believes that building the streetcar will foster investment in Downtown LA, especially as part of an effort to restore Broadway to its original glory. To be fair, new shops and residences are sprouting along the corridor even in the absence of a streetcar. However, other cities that are merely constructing them at this time are already reaping in the benefits. This is what Riverside officials had in mind when they brought in an assembled streetcar for denizens to peruse, as mentioned below. Critics contend that the high price of streetcars that serve a small area should make cities averse to installing them, despite their proven ability to garner economic growth.
In fact, one mayoral candidate in Cincinnati won the office last week on a platform to stop advancement of a streetcar project in that city for the reasons cited above. Mayor-elect John Cranley and three new city councilmembers vowed to stop the project despite ongoing construction, secured local and federal funds, and locked-in contracts for both tracks and cars. Supporters swiftly gathered to devise a strategy that would keep the streetcar alive and under construction, with the hope that they can enlist business leaders and entrepreneurs to convince Cranley of the project’s merits and the concept’s successes elsewhere. In fact, streetcar proponents point out that it may very well cost more to eliminate the streetcar at this stage than to continue the project. Mind you, this is coming from the same city that has a half-built subway that has never been in service.