Doing the proper “due diligence” for Anaheim and Santa Ana Public Works, and the OC Transportation Authority is a tough job, but we’ll do it for nothing since they’re failing at it.
Here’s a revealing piece from Randal O’Toole at the Cato Institute: Slower Than Molasses in a Minnesota Winter. O’Toole is an expert on urban transportation systems that we’ve referenced before. He is unbought by the big transit systems designers (like the suits in the back of the OCTA Board meetings or Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido’s friends at Cordoba Corp.) and the vehicle vendors (a single streetcar is more than double the cost of an ordinary bus per O’Toole’s work, The Great Streetcar Conspiracy, Table 3).
This article is revealing as it actually presents verifiable facts — unlike the effluvia you’ll hear from Kris Murray and Natalie Meeks in Anaheim which has only fictional projections for ridership on their $318 million Disneyland-ARTIC streetcar that’s to share Katella Ave. with the Resort’s surface traffic. Per O’Toole, here’s what happened with light rail in Minneapolis-St. Paul:
Remember the Twin Cities light-rail line that was supposed to average 17 mph but, after testing, was scheduled for just 13-3/4 mph? It turns out that, in actual operation, it averages less than 12.5 mph. That means it takes 53 minutes to go from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul, 36 percent longer than the 39 minutes originally promised and more than twice as long as the 26 minutes required by a bus.
It’s not a coincidence that Minneapolis’ Hiawatha Light-Rail system was started and strongly promoted by former OCTA CEO Art Leahy when he ran transit in that city. This debacle on his resume was why he was hired. Once he thawed out and learned how to manipulate his Board, Leahy was out front in almost forcing the unneeded, unjustified and just plain silly CenterLine light rail into Orange County, but was fortunately lured into LA County to really spend some money on their Metro train systems.
Both [Santa Ana & Anaheim] streetcars would ride steel rails embedded in existing lanes of major city streets, traveling in regular traffic at an average speed of 11 mph to 14 mph and stopping two or three times per mile. Right now the two projects, neither of which has been approved by city or county officials, would not connect.
But the Register missed an important consideration. Per O’Toole:
What’s slowing the trains down? Traffic signals. Apparently, the city of St. Paul is reluctant to give the trains signal priority over all other traffic. “It is hard to rationalize a train with 300 people stopping at an intersection with no cross traffic,” says Metro Transit’s general manager. But it is also hard to rationalize giving the few people who ride the train priority over the thousands of people who use other modes of travel.
If Murray, Meeks and their colleagues had any common sense, and stopped ignoring the obvious (and stopped lying), they’d appreciate that a bus can connect between Disneyland and ARTIC faster, more frequently, more inexpensively and without a separate, enormously expensive infrastructure (rails, ties, switches, overhead electrical cabling, stations, separate maintenance facilities, existing vs. new vehicle pool, etc.). As we’ve detailed in the past, the existing Anaheim Metrolink/Amtrak train station is already a stop on Anaheim Resort Transit’s (ART) extensive shuttle bus system which connects dozens of hotels and other attractions with Disney Maingate — the current plan for Anaheim’s streetcar has it stopping on the east side of Harbor Blvd., NOT on Disney’s property as does ART and dozens of other shuttle and tour buses. AND, the streetcar stop across from Disneyland requires eminent domain takings — a tax-generating motel, chain restaurant and ice cream shop must be taken from their owners to accommodate the streetcar stop. To our knowledge, Anaheim has never added up the losses of transient, sales and property tax if those properties were take (on top of the extraordinary compensation to their owners — how much is a family-friendly IHOP across from Disneyland worth?).
Disney has plenty of reasons to ignore the streetcar and therefore not contribute anything toward it: 1) they don’t need the liabilities that would come with it on their property, 2) they already own the sixth largest parking facility in the world ($17/day) and have no reason to discourage guests from driving to them and 3) they’re not in denial like Murray and company about the Bullet Train — it’s more than UNLIKELY that California’s High-Speed Rail system is going to get built, and there’s certainly no guarantee that if the dog ever did make it on California soil that it would be coming the Anaheim no matter what Mayor-for-Hire Curt Pringle and Big Lucy Dunn at the OCBC really really want. No bullet train, no need for a streetcar — ARTIC will be a glass barn.
In Santa Ana, the traffic stop dilemma is even worse — local opposition and safety concerns are finally confronting its City Council and Public Works unit. Their latest plan shows dozens of intersections (some crossed diagonally in residential areas) that a streetcar will complicate — and some will not have existing traffic signals:
Neither Anaheim or Santa Ana can produce ANY believable ridership projections for these streetcar projects. Funding for them comes almost entirely from Measure M — OCTA’s half-cent sales tax add-on which is paid across all the County’s 34 cities — so 32 cities take no benefit from over one-half billion dollars in estimated expenditures to build these boondoggles. Facts from other mature systems across the country prove that this 19th-century technology is not a fast as a natural gas-powered bus, which then lessens their capacity as well. Neither are they as flexible in times of high-need or low-usage, and they certainly can’t be re-routed when necessary.
If these fixed-guideway systems are justifiable with real ridership numbers, prove to not poach users from existing systems, prove to actually benefit local businesses, don’t create additional safety situations and don’t add to existing congestion THEN wouldn’t it make some sense to first TEST them with buses? Anaheim has already done that via the ART connections, but Murray and her minions choose to ignore the numbers and extreme practicality of this long-existing service. We’re also aware that Anaheim’s current train station only does about 150 train boardings per day (most of its users likely park in its free lot). Santa Ana need to reveal those numbers as well. NO assumptions should be made that Metrolink commuters will use these streetcars.
These streetcar systems in Orange County, like the CenterLine before them, are foolish and complete wastes of money. Orange County taxpayers being swindled by the Santa Ana and Anaheim city governments, and the OCTA.