Anaheim Resort Transit Shuttles Duplicate Council-Coveted $319 Million Streetcars
Once again, the OC Register’s failed its own Affliction Test and missed easily researched facts that the proposed end points of Anaheim’s $319 million streetcar debacle are already served by the 11 year-old Anaheim Resort Transit (ART) system, a public-private partnership operating shuttle buses between Disneyland’s Main Gate and dozens of hotels and other tourists stops throughout the Anaheim Resort District. ART also serves attractions and shopping areas in Orange, Buena Park, Santa Ana and the Garden Grove hotels which focus on Disney guests and conventioneers.
Register writer Marroquin might have discovered this for his 3/27 story via some simple research on this Blog or by sticking his head out a window. ART operates 18 routes daily with over 60 buses of different capacities to match their varying passenger loads (they also operated small electric buses a few years ago, and still may). ART’s been successful and grown rapidly, per this 2012 Register story, by adding stops at non-Disney attractions like Knott’s Berry Farm, Discovery Science Center, MainPlace and GardenWalk.
A simple shuttle bus system like ART does not operate on a “fixed guideway” like the steel rails embedded in the roadway a streetcar uses. Buses don’t need a dedicated overhead high-voltage power supply infrastructure as discussed below. This means buses are far less expensive to operate and much more flexible as they’re easily rerouted when new requirements emerge or usage patterns change (temporarily or permanently), AND there’s little infrastructure costs other than bus stops, signage, seating and perhaps shelters. Buses are less expensive to buy than streetcars and far easier to maintain by ordinary mechanics.
For the handful of stories the Register has done on the externally-funded Anaheim streetcar project, ART has never been mentioned even though it operates two routes between the Disneyland Main Gate and the Anaheim train station, double the number planned for the streetcar. Neither has any research been accomplished to compare ART’s ridership on its two now operating routes with the concocted passenger projections for the streetcar that are as incredible and mysterious as our savings will be from ObamaCare. We suspect that the tourist traffic ART is carrying now to/from the train station (only the third most used in the OC) is nowhere close to the optimistic projections the streetcar proponents have ginned up — and there’s no reason they’ll improve as recent news of the Bullet Train that’s supposedly coming to the ARTIC Barn is getting worse: High-speed rail’s strongest backers now express reservations, and the numerous lawsuits opposing it are just now picking up speed.
Anaheim is represented on ART’s Board by Tom Morton, a Convention Center executive, but streetcar’s REDUNDANCY with the existing ART shuttle routes was never mentioned in the Council session when the project was approved. This was the same meeting at which current Mayor Tom Tait championed the notion that no money from his General Fund would ever be used for the streetcar he isn’t “against”. With a save like that, Tait should be pitching for Mike Scioscia. Tait also told Marroguin “I want to make sure the Anaheim taxpayers aren’t stuck with the operation costs” — but rest of us who’ve been paying into Measure M for ten plus years and will never ride this dog can pound sand.
The streetcar will be built using gifted Measure M funds that former Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle snatched from the OCTA. There’s no indication the City will receive the Federal funds they’re also seeking to pay for the trolley. Per the Marroquin story:
Half of the streetcar’s costs would be funded by Measure M, the half-cent sales tax adopted by county voters to pay for transportation improvements. OCTA officials plan to apply for a New Starts federal transit grant to pay for the remaining half of the project. A bus line would not qualify for federal funding. But those federal funds are not guaranteed. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, whose congressional district includes the proposed streetcar, has not taken a position and continues to study the project “to determine its viability given the projected costs,” said the congresswoman’s chief of staff, Adrienne Elrod.
Imagine a liberal Democrat like Sanchez not wanting to spend OPM in her own District.
It’s unknown what financial stakes the City, the member hotels or the Disney Company maintain in the ART partnership. But as far as we know, non-unionized ART is self-sustaining from farebox revenue and is not publicly subsidized. This certainly won’t be the case with the streetcar.
Had it come up to the Council, the obvious redundancies between ART and the streetcar would have certainly inconvenienced Councilmember and trolley-sycophant Murray and generated questions she’d need her mentor Lucy Dunn to answer as it’s likely one of Dunn’s OC Business Council Engineering “Investor” members would be dropping this turkey into traffic on Katella Avenue once Anaheim Public Works Director Natalie Meeks awarded one of them the Purchase Order. Both Murray and Meeks have completely ignored ART and its provision of nearly the same services as the trolley they covet.
We’ve portrayed the two ART routes that Murray and Meeks have never heard of below:
ART is a textbook example of a public need being filled by private enterprise — the Anaheim Resort hotels and the Mouse required a feeder system to move families and guests to/from the Mouse’s Main Gate, and conventioneers to the Convention Center. Disney participates in the partnership which has a clear advantage over the planned streetcar routing as ART’s shuttles offl and onload on their property along with the incoming tour buses and private shuttles. The streetcar can not enter the Main Gate area (there’s no room and Disney won’t want the liability), rather it stops at its own station further away on the east side of Harbor Blvd.:
It then runs south to the Convention Center, but does not enter its property either or stop at the Hilton and Marriot Hotels for even more inconvenience. The $319 million streetcar can’t get closer to Disneyland than a five-figure ART shuttle, and we’d can anticipate a major add to congestion where Disney Way intersects Harbor Blvd. as the streetcar sloowwwly turns southbound or eastbound.
The end of the Register story is pure fiction:
“Rubber tire buses will not get the funding or the ridership,” said Anaheim City Councilwoman Gail Eastman, who also sits on OCTA’s board. Additionally, new streetcar routes often lead to “significantly high” property values while also spurring business growth and land development within a dense area, Meeks said, pointing to similar results in Seattle; Tampa, Fla.; and Portland, Ore. In Anaheim’s case, a streetcar could be the impetus for reigniting construction of the long-delayed Platinum Triangle housing development, supporters said.
Eastman might stick her head out of the same window as Marroquin — we’ve personally seen SRO (Standing Room Only) on those rubber-tired ART shuttles (but we were alone when we rode one from the train station), especially when the Parks close. Meeks is wildly speculating and can not support any increases in property value caused by a streetcar system. The definitive work in this area that’s never been read in Anaheim is from just last year by Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute: The Great Streetcar Conspiracy. From his Executive Summary:
The real push for streetcars comes from engineering firms that stand to earn millions of dollars planning, designing, and building streetcar lines. These companies and other streetcar advocates make two major arguments in favor of streetcar construction. The first argument is that streetcars promote economic development. This claim is largely based on the experience of Portland, Oregon, where installation of a $103-million, 4-mile streetcar line supposedly resulted in $3.5 billion worth of new construction. What streetcar advocates rarely if ever mention is that the city also gave developers hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure subsidies, tax breaks, and other incentives to build in the streetcar corridor. Almost no new development took place on portions of the streetcar route where developers received no additional subsidies.
O’Toole has written frequently on streetcar systems (see our bibliography below) via his Antiplanner website, and has never found a situation where they’ve been cost-effective, or more suitable than a bus system AS ANAHEIM ALREADY NAMED AFTER ITSELF (and add another if one counts the OCTA’s ordinary bus service that runs throughout the Resort District). From the quote above, we also note that the Portland streetcars were one-third the estimated cost of the Murray/Meeks Express.
It was reported last month in the union-funded Voice of OC that OCTA Directors Will Scrutinize Anaheim Streetcar Project (Marroquin’s piece discusses this as well — six weeks after the VofOC article). OC Supervisor Todd Spitzer and Irvine Councilman Jeff Lalloway (who has his own transit issues) want the OCTA to have another look at the Anaheim debacle and how Measure M funds that have been collected County-wide are being spent for a duplicate, redundant transportation system in Anaheim which is also enjoying no financial participation from the Disney Parks it’s to benefit. Per Adam Elmahrek’s VofOC story, Spitzer “requested a public workshop this month to answer a host of questions after Voice of OC published an email chain that has Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and others at City Hall questioning whether local officials planned to misrepresent information about the project to a federal agency.” That’s a terrific idea, no matter when it occurs as long, but as it’s before Natalie Meeks starts writing checks to the OCBC membership.
A workshop (or Grand Jury hearing) might sort out three items of special interest:
1) Statements like this from the Elmahrek piece: “The streetcar is to provide a “last mile” connection to the transit depot, which is expected to have 19,000 daily boardings by 2035 and increase to 50,000 daily boardings with the completion of the state’s high-speed rail line, according to a city report.” Out of whose ass do these ridiculously bloated and fallacious numbers come from? And why weren’t ART’s ridership stats from the 14 & 15 Routes above never used as a metric to illustrate the transit needs between the train station, Disney and the Convention Center today?
2) What happens when the obvious occurs — that is, when the Bullet Train never makes it to Anaheim? Who rides the streetcar then? What will it cost to remove (compared to the simple cancellation of the ART routes that serve the train station now) if CHSRA isn’t built? And what of ARTIC, the $174 million folly to be built to catch the Bullet?
3) Answer OCTA Director and Supervisor John Moorlach’s paraphrased question from the VofOC article: “What problem is the streetcar intended to solve?”
This dog doesn’t hunt. The OCTA needs to pull their funding for this streetcar project ASAP and kill it.
*A common photographic trick when portraying streetcars in contemporary urban settings is to hide the cantenary cables and wiring that’s suspended above the street to power the vehicles. Note the triangle-shaped object in the upper right-hand corner of this picture — a long metal cross-arm is extended from the roof of the vehicle to conduct power from the overhead cantenary. Unless power is available below ground, a very uncommon and expensive design, an overhead power grid is required similar to the diagram below. Anyone familiar with the San Francisco “Muni” transit system will recognize this as catenary power’s been used to power their streetcars and electric trolley buses for decades.
Here’s a bibliography of our previous work on streetcars and ARTIC in Anaheim:
- The Antiplanner on Anaheim’s NONSENSICAL $319 Million Streetcar Project
- Pringle’s Folly
- Another California city gets punked by Streetcars:
- Anaheimers need to VOTE on development to counter Council corruption and incompetence
- Transit expert bashes streetcars
- Updated: Stop the Madne$$ — High-Speed Rail is a Train Wreck
- Anaheim: The Portland streetcars have come up short again
- Scandals could stop Disney from wasting tax money on streetcars & hotels
- Trains Still Can Make Sense — ARTIC Does Not