The city is considering a Griffith Park tram system that will take visitors through the vast city park, giving them aerial views of the landscape and easy access between attractions. As consultants working on the project reveal new details about possible routes and possible construction work for the tram, conservation activists have again criticized a development that they believe could permanently destroy Griffith Park's natural environment.
"It's about a massive commercial infrastructure system that will have lasting, far-reaching and devastating effects on the park," said a statement from the nonprofit conservation group Friends of Griffith Park.
The proposals for the Griffith Park tram date back to 1942, when the idea was first circulated. The preparatory work began on the top of the mountain. Hollywood, but the project was postponed and never completed amid the war effort. Trams reappeared in the 1960s as traffic jams increased in different parts of the park. Each time the ideas were finally destroyed after the outcry of the locals.
The concept returned in 2003 as part of a Griffith Park master plan that included a hotel, school, and additional commercial attractions. The negotiations between stakeholders and politicians on this master plan continued until 2014.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway could give an idea of how the Griffith Park Tram would work
The conversation about building a tram appears to have started around 2017 when a group of private investors – including billionaire mogul Barry Diller and his fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg – offered to pay for an aerial gondola that connects the LA Zoo with the Hollywood sign. They suggested the idea as a possible response to litigation between the city and residents of houses near the sign who complained of congestion. After that, Warner Brothers stepped forward with their own privately funded concept that would have placed the endpoint in a parking lot near their own Burbank Studio Tour attraction.
In 2018, the LA City Council commissioned the so-called Dixon Report to propose a number of possible options for easing Hollywood sign traffic.
"The Hollywood Sign and Griffith Park are loved to death," Councilor David Ryu said at the time, citing the increasingly unsustainable numbers of tourists and visitors trying to stage their perfect photo ops.
Based on the recommendations of the Dixon Report, the city of Stantec, a private consultancy, commissioned a feasibility study specifically for the proposal for a tram in Griffith Park. This study is currently in the second of four phases, the final result of which is for the city council to draw the advisory conclusions and decide whether to move the idea forward. Only then would a potential project take shape.
In late August, the Griffith Park Aerial Transit Study released new details about the possible routes they are considering and some new information on what this might look like. Apparently, they are investigating four different paths and connecting guests to different locations in the park as well as to a new Hollywood Sign viewing platform that is being built as part of the project.
Image: City of Los Angeles
Urbanize Los Angeles reports that, depending on the route chosen, the system would ultimately consist of 21 to 25 individual tours and offer total travel times of around 12 minutes. It is estimated that the tram carries between 3,000 and 13,000 passengers a day.
Friends of Griffith Park is opposed to any version of the proposal that the group claims requires miles of cables that obstruct visibility and cause gondolas to sway over people and wildlife that frequent the park for its natural beauty. They have also raised concerns that the paid tram may only add to the park's commercial and tourist appeal, possibly at the expense of local residents who use it for outdoor recreation.
"It is difficult to mentally grasp the enormity of such an ill-advised proposal," the group said in a statement. "The park has faced numerous threats over the years and while trams aren't new, that proposal is here now."
Stantec is currently accepting public comments in an online survey and is hosting an open house on September 3rd through Zoom for interested parties to exchange their thoughts on the tram idea.
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