Off-Ramp®

A weekly look at SoCal life covering news, arts and culture, and more. Hosted by John Rabe

Will we be riding Angels Flight by Labor Day?

by John Rabe | Off-Ramp®

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, aboard the Angels Flight railway on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, after announcing the historic funicular will be back in operation by Labor Day. Behind him on the train is John Welborne, who was caretaker of the train for many years. John Rabe

Wednesday, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti made an announcement that historic preservationists, tourists, and downtown residents have been waiting and hoping for for years: Angels Flight, the historic little railway that goes up Bunker Hill, will reopen in a few months. The key is a public-private partnership that turns over operation of the funicular to an international infrastructure company.

Los Angeles Downtown News reporter Eddie Kim at Angels Flight during one of its many recent down periods.
Los Angeles Downtown News reporter Eddie Kim at Angels Flight during one of its many recent down periods. John Rabe

This deal seems like Angels Flight's best chance to recover from the blows it's taken in the last couple decades.

Angels Flight was opened in 1901 to ferry passengers up and down Bunker Hill.

Angels Flight in downtown Los Angeles.
Angels Flight in downtown Los Angeles. Los Angeles Public Library/William Reagh Collection

It closed in 1969 -- they called it "urban renewal" when they razed Bunker Hill -- and the cars were mothballed until the railway was brought back by a non-profit in 1996. It ran fine until a fatal accident in 2001 - the first one ever in Angels Flight history. After that, it was periodically open and closed -- mostly closed -- because of disputed safety issues.

The Angels Flight Railway has opened and closed several times since it was first built. It was dismantled in 1969 and reopened in 1996 a half-block from its original location on South Hill Street and West 3rd Street.
The Angels Flight Railway has opened and closed several times since it was first built. It was dismantled in 1969 and reopened in 1996 a half-block from its original location on South Hill Street and West 3rd Street. Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Now, the foundation that runs Angels Flight is giving a 30-year operating agreement to ACS, an international infrastructure firm that's bidding on the people mover project at LAX, and a presumed competitor for the downtown streetcar City Councilmember Jose Huizar is promoting.

The North American CEO of ACS, Nuria Haltiwanger, says her company is making this long commitment to help the community, but also hopes to make a profit. She says they'll probably charge a buck a passenger, and LA Metro will kick that down to 50-cents for people with a TAP card. ACS gets to keep any revenues up to a certain point, she says, then above that will share with the Foundation.

Importantly, the PUC has signed off on the safety upgrades Angels Flight needs, with a target date for re-opening on Labor Day.

Angels Flight has appeared in countless movies, most recently in "LaLa Land," which you might have heard of. Here's what I think is a scene from that movie.

https://youtu.be/g4tqy5eUebc

Wait, that must be a fan reenactment ... the dancing is too good.

 

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