The Anaheim City Council Tuesday night approved pursuing a $319-million streetcar project intended to connect the Disneyland resort with an ambitious future transit hub.
Under the plan, streetcars — essentially 10 fixed-track buses would whisk riders from the future Anaheim Intermodal Transportation Center (ARTIC) westward to the resort, with stops at the Platinum Triangle and convention center. The area attracts 20 million visitors annually, according to a staff report.
City officials expect to fund construction of the 3.2-mile streetcar system with federal, state and local funds, including money from what Councilwoman Kris Murray described as the highly competitive Federal Transit Authority "New Starts" program and a countywide half-cent sales tax known as Measure M2. The federal program could fund up to 50 percent of the project, according to city officials.
The vote to move forward with the plan was 3-2, with Mayor Tom Tait and Councilwoman Lorri Galloway voting no, a frequent voting pattern for the divided council.
Tait said he wasn’t against the project but pushed to postpone approval until city officials answer several questions.
The mayor said he wanted city officials to find $32 million — the 10 percent of the project’s cost required from local sources — without dipping into the city’s general fund. He also expressed concern that the $4.3-million projected operating cost might affect the general fund.
Tait asked that city officials return with a more detailed comparison of a monorail alternative. The monorail’s operating cost was projected to be $10 million annually, more than double what’s projected for the streetcar. The mayor said he didn’t understand how city officials derived these figures.
Tait also said that Santa Ana and Anaheim may combine its streetcar system, a plan that Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido trumpeted at a council meeting earlier this year. Tait said he wanted more details on this proposal.
“I would think we would want to know how we’re going to pay for it before we start spending away,” Tait said.
Members of the council majority said that if the project would cost general-fund dollars, the council could withhold support. The City Council must next consider approving contracts to prepare environmental reports and engineering plans, a staff report stated.
The council majority also argued that delaying the project further could risk a timeline to obtain funding in 2015. Such a delay could happen after several months of postponements, according to Public Works Director Natalie Meeks.
City officials also studied a “rubber tire” alternative — enhanced bus service — that would cost far less. A city report projects the costs at $55 million to build and $2.6 million a year to operate. But city officials argued that the streetcar would attract more ridership because it’ is eye-catching and would promote greater business investment.
A city staff report states that other streetcar systems have generated millions, even billions of dollars in economic activity within blocks of their routes.