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Home Bruce Whitaker Updated: Fullerton to drop $300k on useless transit study — more streetcars?

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Updated: Fullerton to drop $300k on useless transit study — more streetcars?

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As reported in the Register last week (Fullerton to study transit line from downtown to CSUF), and flagged on the FFFF Blog, a Fullerton city bureaucrat and an “18-member steering committee” plans to spend $300k to decide why an existing OCTA bus route would be a less effective transportation mode than a slower streetcar or perhaps another megaspensive light rail debacle like the failed CenterLine project of ten years ago.  Senior city planner Jay Eastman is coveting $270k of Caltrans money (which would probably filter through the OCTA) and $30k of his own city money to hatch another redundant local transportation empire not unlike Irvine’s as we discussed weeks ago and as Frank Mickadeit analyzed in his Register column today.

Eastman wishes to connect Cal State Fullerton with downtown Fullerton (the “metro center”), but looks to have ignored the #26 OCTA BUS THAT ALREADY RUNS ALL OF TWO MILES BETWEEN the two locations (we re-oriented the map for North to be at the top):

It’s a surprise that Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker and the sensible conservative(s) on their City Council didn’t kill this study and his city’s contribution from its General Fund before it made the press — he should know better, and could have easily looked at the unusable OCTA trip planner or well done Google’s trip planning system to discover what we found above in about three minutes.

As we’ve seen too often in Orange County and State government, too much money sloshing around causes bureaucrats and cubicle monkeys to fantasize well above their pay grades — does Eastman want a streetcar or trolley because they’re in vogue like the growing debacle in Anaheim (that’s thankfully having another look) and Mayor Miguel Pulido’s pay-to-play project in Santa Ana?  Or doesn’t he have enough to do?

Eastman told the Register that public transit along the route “has a lot of opportunity…we are trying to find something that is right and and also accommodates our growth”.  Before they opt for an alternative to a bus system with proven performance that costs Fullerton nothing, Eastman might take a look at the another study we’ve often referenced on how transit-oriented development (a favorite urban planning shibboleth) failed in another mid-sized city– from Debunking Portland: The Public Transit Myth, in part:

Light rail and streetcars may be cute, but they are S-L-O-W. Portland’s fastest light-rail line averages 22 miles per hour. Portland’s streetcar goes about 7 miles per hour. I am waiting to see a developer advertise, “If you lived here and rode transit home from work, you’d still be sitting on the train.”  The developments supposedly stimulated by new light-rail and streetcar lines? They were built only after the region started handing out billions of dollars in subsidies after the transit lines were built.  When Portland opened its first light-rail line in 1986, the city immediately zoned the land near light-rail stations for high-density developments. A decade later, not a single transit-oriented development had been built in these areas.

To generate such developments, then-city Commissioner Charles Hales urged the city to offer property tax waivers, grants, and other subsidies to developers. “It is a myth to think that the market will take care of development along transit corridors,” said Hales.  To date, Portland’s subsidies have exceeded $1.5 billion, and its suburbs and other agencies in the region have provided even more. Hales neglects to mention this today because he now works for a consulting firm selling streetcars to other cities.

Among the subsidies, the city has sold parks, school playgrounds, and other lands at below-market prices to developers on the condition that they replace those open spaces with transit-oriented developments. So much for livability.  Portland has also learned that the so-called transit-oriented developments work only if they have plenty of parking. Though often located a few steps from light-rail stations, most of the people living in these developments still drive for most of their travel. That simply adds congestion to already crowded streets.    — Randal O’Toole

Mayor Whitaker needs to rethink this, find something else for his planner to do and quit this waste of money fast — and keep it the hell away from the OCTA that’s unconscionably allowed two similar projects to suck Measure M tax money away from better, more responsible use.  And Bruce, let the market determine what’s to be successful where — not the planners.




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