These West Hollywood Trolleys Offer Free Rides And Sunset Strip Nostalgia
Get stuck in traffic on the Sunset Strip on a Saturday night and between swearing and frustrated honks, you may find yourself yearning for a simpler time. A time before the main thoroughfares of West Hollywood were stacked bumper to bumper with cars. A time when you could arrive at the club before the makeup melted off your face while sitting in traffic.
West Hollywood's hopping nightlife is a legendary slice of life in Los Angeles. The neighborhood attracts visitors from all over the region. Sadly, they tend to bring their cars along with them.
So, the city is trying to ease its notorious road congestion with free shuttle services. But to maintain the city's touristic flare of fun and flash, this transit option was given a makeover. It's technically a bus, but dressed up to look like an old-timey trolley car.
In 2013, West Hollywood launched The Pick Up as the first trolley-style free shuttle in town. It runs along Santa Monica Boulevard and is reminiscent of the old Red Car rail that once lined the street. In early June 2018, the Sunset Trip (not a typo) was added to the city's mix of public transportation. The also-free route runs Friday and Saturday nights along storied Sunset Boulevard, from Doheny Drive to Fairfax Avenue.
Hop aboard the Sunset Trip and you can almost imagine going back in time to when the iconic road was adorned with actual trolleys. You'll find wooden, slatted benches for seats and shiny brass handrails to grab on to. You can watch the Sunset Strip street scenes from tall, arched window frames that give the open-air feel of an old trolley car. You can slip back in history for a moment -- until the car in the next lane blasts Drake at top volume.
A BUS BY ANY OTHER NAME
So, why disguise a bus like an old trolley? Isn't a free ride a free ride? Not really, according to one city official.
"The idea of taking a bus to get to a restaurant or the The Comedy Store might not be appealing," said Francisco Gomez, a Transportation Program Administrator for West Hollywood. "But something about riding a trolley, there's a cool factor that doesn't exist with the word 'bus.'"
He said the shuttle is intended to bring convenience to local residents but also to entice out-of-towners staying in hotels along the Strip to shop, dine and party in West Hollywood.
AN UPDATE WITH AN OLD-TIMEY TOUCH
The city is promoting a holistic approach to mobility. They see a handful of payoffs for shepherding shuttles like the Pick Up and Sunset Trip.
"It's a way to ease traffic, to be okay with partying in the bars and clubs and have a very safe place to get into and transported down the boulevard," said Sheri Lunn, a spokeswoman for West Hollywood.
The Sunset Trip line connects with the existing route of the Pick Up, so the city hopes visitors will use public transit for an entire night out on the town.
The goal is for visitors to park once, then travel through the city with ease thanks to options like the trolley service, bikesharing and Metro (but not electric scooters).
The novelty has proved appealing for riders along Santa Monica. The Pick Up carries about 16,000 riders every weekend and 83,000 riders a year, although it's too early to tell how many riders hop on the Sunset Trip every weekend.
PLANS TO EXPAND
West Hollywood hopes their trolley will lead to a transportation trove. The city hopes to extend transit lines and become a transportation hub for Los Angeles. They want to start by running a line to Metro's Crenshaw extension that's currently under construction.
"The city of West Hollywood is working for getting an extension that would come up through the city of West Hollywood and then connect to the Red Line station at Hollywood and Highland," said communication manager Joshua Schare. "We think of this solution as one that connects the region."
It's yet to be seen if free shuttle services will be the remedy for West Hollywood's primetime traffic jams but it's fair to say local nightlife isn't drying up anytime soon. In the very least, West Hollywood can cart your drunk self around in classic style.
The Sunset Trip is free of charge and runs along the Strip Friday and Saturday nights from 7:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.
Editor's note: A version of this story was also on the radio. Listen to it here on KPCC's Take Two.
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