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L.A. Now Live: Is the streetcar returning to downtown L.A.?

December 5, 2012 |  6:15 am

Voters in downtown Los Angeles this week approved key financing for a $125-million streetcar project that could create a truly car-optional neighborhood in the center of a region defined by its car culture.

Times reporter Sam Allen will join L.A. Now Live at 9 a.m. to discuss the proposed streetcar project.

The streetcar would run mainly along Broadway, and Hill and Figueroa streets, three of downtown's main arteries, connecting various neighborhoods, including the old banking district, South Park, Civic Center and the fashion district.

Developers — and some residents — see the streetcar as a missing transportation link, Allen reported.

"If you're in New York, or San Francisco or Portland, you forget about your car. You walk, you take public transportation, and you get a much richer experience," said Scott Denham, vice president at Evoq Properties, a downtown  developer. "The whole concept of being in L.A. and not having to drive to have a whole Saturday or Sunday to experience downtown. ... It's really not that far off in reality."

The streetcar is one of two major transportation infrastructure projects planned for downtown. The other is the so-called  regional connector, a $1.3-billion, Metropolitan Transportation Authority subway line that would run beneath 2nd Street, linking trains from Pasadena and East L.A. with the Blue Line from Long Beach and Expo Line from Culver City.

Both projects have won support from city officials and business leaders, but there remains skepticism about whether downtown can truly break away from its reliance on the automobile.

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