Mass transit on a mini scale is coming to car-choked Los Angeles. Final designs for an elevated "people mover -- a fully automated, electrically run system introduced in amusement park over a decade ago as transportation for the future -- are expected to be completed this fall with construction beginning in late 1981, according to city officials.
Long one the country's laggards in mass transit development, Los Angeles will the first major US city to boast a people mover with its three-mile-long, $175 million system begins operation in early 1984.
Under an Urban Mass Transit Authority (UMTA) project announed in late 1976, the cost of building downtown people movers in Los Angeles and in St. Paul., minn. both project will serve as models for other cities intereted in building similar systems.
"We want to see how it will be accepted, see if it will do what it supposed to do, before we start building people movers all over the country," says Joe Marshall, a UMTA spokesman.
Proponents tout people movers as an efficient way boty to ease downtown traffic congestion and reduce exhaust fumes. Although some problems have cropped up -- the most publicized being over a system in Morgantown, W. Va. -- there are currently 17 people movers operating in the United States.
Most are in amusement parks such as Dissuch as Houston, Tampa, Seattle-Tacoma (in Washington), and Dallas-Fort Worth.
In Los Angeles, the people mover will run from the city's convention center to Union Station, the city's train depot. The route cuts through the central business district, which has been enjoying substantial revitalization in recent years.
Approximately 60 cars, each capable of carrying 170 passengers, will move along a guideway approximately three stories high. Although much of the track will be built down the center of city streets, other portions will actually run through office buildings such as the Security Pacific National Bank, which was built in 1972 with a hollow tunnel designed for a people mover.
During rush hour, vehicles will leave the 13 stations every 1.5 minutes, slacking off to every 4.5 minutes during slower periods. By 1990, when ongoing downtown redevelopment should be complete, city officials estimate that 72,400 riders will use the system daily.
The project has sparked some local controversy in the 10 years since it was first considered by the city, including the recent formation of a coalition that is making an 11th-hour attempt to derail the project on grounds it is a waste of public money. But there has been strong support from political leaders such as Mayor Thomas Bradley and from local businessmen as well.
So supportive is the business community, in fact, that the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Central City Association suggested that the city imposed a tax on the 1,500 businesses along the transit line to help pay for operation and maintenance costs.
Under that plan, which was adopted recently by the City Council, businesses within 1,200 feet of the people mover would be taxed to produce $1.3 million of the estimated $4.8 million it will cost to operate the system. Rider fares, which are expected to be 25 cents, and parking and concession stand leases would make up the rest of that cost.
Other cities which have received federal funding to begin preliminary planning for people movers include Baltimore, Detroit, St. Louis, Norfolk, Va., and Indianapolis.