West Hollywood’s new PickUp trolley connects bars, clubs, restaurants

Max Bruce snaps a picture of a PickUp trolley near a stop on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Cuddling and breakfast not required. At least, that’s what’s written — in large text — on the side of one of the bright yellow trolley buses that will be rolling down Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood during late-night hours at least for the next five months.

Make no mistake, city officials say: The PickUp service, launched Friday, is meant to be a ride to the party.

There’s a jar of free condoms next to the bus driver and party tunes from a local DJ blaring. Bars along the route offer drink discounts and other incentives for riders.

“You’re not going to see something like this in Calabasas,” West Hollywood Councilman John Duran said.


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Touted by the city as a “flirtatious take on public transit,” the two buses will travel a four-mile loop Friday and Saturday nights along the city’s notoriously congested stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard between Robertson Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue.

The rides, with 20 stops outside bars, restaurants and nightclubs, will be free. The buses are scheduled to arrive at each stop every 15 minutes from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m.

City officials hope the rides will ease parking woes, cut down on drunk driving and add excitement to being out on the town.

“It’s fun!” West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land shouted during a launch party Friday before brightly-colored confetti was shot toward a vehicle.

The PickUp line was approved by City Council members as part of a pilot program. West Hollywood’s general fund spent about $100,000 on the vehicles and marketing, said Lisa Belsanti, a city spokeswoman.

The trolley buses are 1997 and 1999 Freightliner All American Classic Trolleys that can seat 35 passengers, with room for one wheelchair, according to city documents. Wooden benches line the aisle; there is also standing room.

The trolley will not affect Metro bus routes along Santa Monica Boulevard and are intended to offer another option to people who would rather drive their own vehicles or take cabs than ride a bus, Belsanti said.


West Hollywood is one of several Southern California cities that wants to use trolleys — or buses disguised as them — to reduce congestion, spur business development and increase connectivity. Riverside recently won a $237,500 Caltrans grant to study the possibility of bringing streetcars to a 12-mile loop between UC Riverside and the western edge of the city. Anaheim is pursuing a trolley that would connect the city’s planned regional transit center to the resort district’s hotels and sports centers.

West Hollywood had a nighttime shuttle in the 1990s, but it was discontinued because of low ridership, Mayor Pro Tempore John D’Amico said. City officials, he said, hope marketing the PickUp line as something fun — and heavily pushing it on social media — will make it more popular than the previous effort.

If the ridership is good, officials said, they will consider expanding the route.

On Friday, Leonard Shapiro, 62, and his wife, Shari, 60, climbed aboard the PickUp about 7:30 p.m. to be some of the first riders on its inaugural route.


“It’s always festive around here,” Leonard said, laughing.

A few blocks later, Shari, a first-grade teacher, nudged her husband. “You’re missing the dance behind you,” she said as a few young men grooved between the seats.

“Do you want to sit here?” Shari, in an aisle seat, asked Leonard with a grin.

Late-night rides, long after the Shapiros exited, were filled to capacity, Belsanti said. Just after 9 p.m., dozens of players for the WeHo Dodgeball league climbed on, cheering, as they did a pub crawl.


As a Beyonce song resonated through the bus, players took photos of themselves with their iPhones and danced in the aisles. One rider said he would be taking the bus “all the time.”

Another man pushed down a window and yelled to people on the sidewalk: “Get on the bus!”


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