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Glendale mulls plans for $250M streetcar

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It would run through downtown Glendale

Glendale’s mayor says a streetcar would be a more “attractive option” than the bus.
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Downtown Los Angeles isn’t the only place in LA County where local officials are pushing for streetcar service.

More than 60 years after Pacific Electric’s Glendale-Burbank trolley line stopped running, the Glendale City Council last week considered plans for a new streetcar that would run through the city’s downtown area, potentially traveling on to neighboring Burbank.

A feasibility of the project is now underway, and earlier this year city staff revealed two possible routes for the streetcar system, estimated to cost between $250 million and $300 million.

Since then, the city has launched a website with more project details and surveys for residents and those who work in Glendale.

Assistant director of community development Bradley Calvert told the City Council that more than 100 survey responses have been collected so far, with nearly 90 percent of those polled supportive of the project—particularly as a means to access shopping and dining options in the downtown area.

Survey respondents are so far split on which of the two proposed routes for the streetcar they would prefer. Both would travel roughly 2.9 miles, running from the Larry Zarian Transportation Center to just north of the 134 freeway.

One alignment would loop through the downtown area, traveling along both Brand Boulevard and Central Avenue. The other would focus streetcar service on Brand through most of the downtown area, switching to Central south of Colorado Street.

Calvert said last week that the second option would likely attract more riders—but not by much. Depending on which option the city selects, the streetcar line could draw between 1,400 and 5,000 riders per day.

“We do need to narrow that down,” said Calvert, acknowledging that the estimate was “pretty wide.”

Something else city officials will have to figure out is how to pay for the project. Unlike a long-discussed proposal for a Downtown LA streetcar, the transit line isn’t slated to receive funding from Metro through the agency’s sales tax initiatives.

In addition to the cost of building the system, the city will also have to find between $4 million and $5 million annually to keep it running. Calvert said fare revenue would probably only cover about half this cost.

During public comment at last week’s council meeting, Glendale real estate agent Greg Astorian pointed out that the streetcar route would simply replicate existing bus service in the city—at a far greater cost.

Mayor Ara Najarian suggested that a streetcar would attract more riders, simply by offering a more exciting transit experience than the bus.

“I think this mode of transit is something that’s more attractive,” he said. “People, I think, generally like to get on a rail car or a streetcar or a trolley—or even something that looks like a trolley.”

Whether plans for the streetcar move forward, travel between Glendale and Burbank could soon get a bit easier. Last month, Metro staff presented a report to the agency’s Board of Directors recommending improvements to existing train tracks between the two cities that would allow for commuter rail service every 30 minutes in each direction.