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Proposed Glendale streetcar rolls into focus

Glendale streetcar
An artist’s rendering shows a potential Glendale streetcar configuration at Central Avenue and Laurel Street. The streetcar, currently in a feasibility study, would initially connect the city’s downtown area to its transportation center.
(Courtesy city of Glendale)

A proposed regional electric streetcar that would initially connect a transportation center in south Glendale to the city’s downtown area is chugging along to its next phase of study, as details of its potential route, ridership, cost and traffic impacts take shape.

Last week, Glendale city staff unveiled a more detailed look at two potential streetcar routes for the streetcar that were first proposed in March.

Both options would span 2.88 miles, have 16 stations and carry a price tag of $250 million to $300 million to construct, with an additional $4 million to $5 million in annual operating costs, according to an update on the streetcar’s feasibility study presented during a special City Council meeting last Tuesday.

“It’s always best to have a project in the planning stages, or past the planning stages, on the shelf, ready to go, because you never know when funding is going to appear,” said Mayor Ara Najarian said before the City Council voted to complete the study. Najarian also sits on the Metro board.

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With the loop option, the streetcar would run north on Central Avenue from the Larry Zarian Transportation Center in south Glendale, before turning on Stocker Street and heading south on Brand Boulevard, said Bradley Calvert, the city’s assistant director of community development, who gave the presentation. South of Maple Street, the north and southbound tracks would both operate on Central before connecting back at the transportation center, Calvert said.

The bidirectional option would run north and south from the transportation center on Central, before cutting across Maple to Brand. It would then run north and south on Brand, Calvert said.

“It’s capturing the largest potential audience,” including pedestrians and existing transit users, Calvert said of the bidirectional option. “But it does obviously cause some disruption, especially during construction periods, because it’s all focused on one street instead of split between two.”

City staff predicted the bidirectional route on Brand would attract 1,500 to 4,000 riders per day — slightly more than the 1,400 to 3,800 daily riders predicted for the loop option.

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Both routes would result in a loss of parking along their respective corridors.

With each route planned to run curbside, city staff said angled parking along some areas on Brand and Central would need to be converted to parallel parking to preserve the number of existing traffic lanes. Parallel parking takes up more horizontal space than angling cars outward toward the street, leading to an approximately 30% loss of parking in the conversion, Calvert said.

Planned stations would also displace some spaces.

According to the study update, the loop option would lead to a loss of 70 to 80 parking spaces, with an additional 30% loss of angled spaces. The bidirectional option would lead to the loss of 60 to 70 parking spaces, with an additional 30% loss of angled spaces.

Council members Frank Quintero and Paula Devine expressed relief that the streetcars would not run in the center of the street, potentially displacing trees and other landscaping in the medians.

Further study needs to be completed before city staff can seek certain state and federal grants to potentially help finance the project, said Phillip Lanzafame, Glendale’s director of community development.

“It’s a step-by-step,” Lanzafame said.

Down the line, the streetcar could be expanded to Burbank and beyond, Calvert said.

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Residents can submit comments and complete a survey about the project at glendalestreetcar.com.

By fall or winter of this year, the study should be complete. At that point, the findings will be presented to the City Council for further consideration.

The streetcar could be complemented by a Metro-directed, $287-million bus-rapid transit system, or BRT, planned to connect Pasadena and North Hollywood via Burbank and Glendale.

With Metro officials wrapping up a public-comment period for the 18-mile bus line this week, it will then undergo further environmental analysis. It’s expected open to the public in 2024.

Seidman writes for Times Community News.


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