Anaheim Approves More Money for Streetcar Study

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The Anaheim City Council this week approved spending $1.3 million to study alternative routes for its planned streetcar system, a move that could save a family owned hotel, restaurant and ice cream shop from being knocked down by the city.

In 1962, Sicilian immigrant Carmen E. Scalzo built the Park Vue Inn on Harbor Blvd., located just across the street from Disneyland. To make way for the streetcar, city officials were planning to demolish the hotel and an adjacent IHOP restaurant.

But Scalzo’s grandson Paul Durand fought to save his family business, and now city officials are willing to study two possible alternative routes. One route would take a different property on Harbor Blvd., and the other would avoid taking private property by traveling down Disney Way.

What other properties might be on the chopping block isn’t yet clear. Public Works Director Natalie Meeks said officials won’t know until they conduct further study.

The Disney Way alternative would be much cheaper. The $318-million price-tag for the 3.2-mile streetcar system, which on a per-mile basis could be the most expensive in U.S. history, is so high partly because of the need to acquire the hotel and restaurant.

But it could also prove unfeasible. Prior studies for a scrapped monorail system showed that the Disney Way route’s ridership numbers would drop heavily because it doesn’t take riders directly to Disneyland’s main gate, city officials had said last year.

The vote to approve a contract amendment with Philadelphia-based Hill International was 3-2, with council members Kris Murray, Jordan Brandman and Lucille Kring voting yes. Mayor Tom Tait and Councilman James Vanderbilt voted against the agreement.

Tait has long opposed the streetcar, arguing that it is “wildly expensive” and would worsen traffic congestion along Katella Ave. He says taking the money and investing in a robust public bus system would do much more to help poor residents who can’t afford cars and rely on buses to get around.

Tait also said that an Anaheim Resort Transit bus route – which travels between the city’s train station and Disneyland and is similar to the streetcar route – sees as few as 24 people a day.

To spend more money on a “system that I don’t believe will ever be built, and shouldn’t be built, I don’t believe makes any sense,” Tait said.

Vanderbilt wasn’t against further study, but voted against the amendment because of a provision in the contract that promises $6.9 million to Hill International for a preliminary engineering phase that would come after the current environmental work is completed.

Vanderbilt questioned whether Hill International would be “unbiased” in its study, the findings of which are crucial to move the project forward, if it’s already promised money for the next phase.

Meeks said the streetcar system would help get cars off the road because people are looking for a “last-mile” connection to the train station. That’s the problem officials are trying to solve with the streetcar, she said.

“It’s about taking cars off the freeway, it’s about reducing those longer trips, and really reducing congestion on a regional basis,” Meeks said.

Councilwoman Lucille Kring argued that not spending the additional money would mean the previous money spent on studying light rail systems for Anaheim – almost $9 million – would have been wasted.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

  • Roy Reynolds

    Maybe they oughta hire this guy: http://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=10935

  • kburgoyne

    I wonder if somebody was going to be a little short on money to pay out bribes at the next election, so the supervisors had to find a reason to pump more tax payer dollars their way so they could be returned in campaign bribes.

  • Vern Pat Nelson

    “Councilwoman Lucille Kring argued that not spending the additional money would mean the previous money spent on studying light rail systems for Anaheim – almost $9 million – would have been wasted.”

    Leave it to Lucille to trot out the “sunk cost fallacy” which has historically kept nations committed to endless wars (like Vietnam) just so that all the sacrifices thus far won’t have been in vain.

  • astar2b

    I bet the Angels can hadly wait to start talks with the city… Save your money Anaheim…

  • Arnie Hajnal

    ”He says taking the money and investing in a robust public bus system would do much more to help poor residents who can’t afford cars and rely on buses to get around.” WHAT? I live in Europe and it doesn’t matter whether you are poor, from the middle class or a rich director of a company, everybody rides the metro, streetcars/light rail and buses. There’s nothing wrong about it, nothing to be ashamed of, it’s completely normal in Europe, the only thing that’s just wrong is the American mentality…

    • David Zenger

      “Streetcar is definitely the right choice! Trust me, I have some experience :)”

      You probably do. But you don’t seem to have a grasp of the facts here. What is being proposed has nothing to do with commuting or daily business or anything else except wasting $100,000,000 per mile, for three miles, to get tourists to Disneyland’s Third Gate. That’s not an expense any sane person would salute – even the most starry-eyed, big-government European.

  • It’s so exciting to think about a Streetcar line running through Anaheim outside the Disneyland resort. For those who crave a more immediate encounter with historic Red Cars outside the theme parks, you can still ride The Waterfront Red Car Line (sanpedro.com/spcom/redcar.htm) down in San Pedro, California, until the end of this month (September 2015). After that time it will be shut down for an indeterminate amount of time while it’s refurbished. Be sure to go down there and ride it while you still can, the line features two replica cars (#500 & #501) built from scratch by port of Los Angeles employees, and an actual vintage Pacific Electric 950-class car (#1058). – John Glass (author, 100 Things You Don’t Want to Miss at Disneyland 2015; facebook.com/100Disneyland )

    • David Zenger

      Oh great. We can pay $300,000,000 so people can can get to Disneyland on the back of the taxpayers and jamming up traffic through Anaheim.

      David Zenger (author, 1 Thing I Want to Miss at Disneyland: them igniting tons of heavy metal and other noxious chemicals over my neighborhood 300 times a year).

      • Just trying to provide interesting information on Red Cars still operating in California for people who are fans of such things.

        • David Zenger

          The Pacific Electric may not be a good analogy for what is proposed in Anaheim. It was a private enterprise and its principle purpose was to bring reliable electricity to new developments in the sticks.

          Of course Henry Huntington and his cohorts no doubt used lots of financial lubricant, when necessary, and maybe even got some politicians elected along important rights-of-way.

          One undoubted point of similarity: the Red Car lines didn’t make money on fares. The Anaheim line is a guaranteed loser – no matter how long and hard the kleptocrats cook the books.

          • kburgoyne

            Getting right down to the nitty gritty, the test condition for determining how well designed a transit system is would be based on how well it convinced visitors to the area to not rent a car at the airport. (Don’t mention that to the car rental counters at the airport.) The service will only be honestly successful if visitors to the area find out through travel agents, online review services, etc, that “you really don’t need (honestly) a car if you’re going to Disneyland or the Anaheim Convention Center.”

            This does NOT mean the service needs to be free. In fact, a “day pass” to use the service should be priced just a little below the day rate for renting a car. The service does not have to compete 1:1 based on price with car rentals. A well designed transit service has the advantage over a rental car of less frustration, confusion, etc.

            When I visited DC I knew I didn’t want to be driving in DC. I very carefully looked for a hotel in Maryland at the very end (at the time) of the DC subway transit system. The hotel was a couple blocks from the station. I’d get up in the morning, have breakfast at the hotel, and ride the transit line into DC. VERY relaxing and VERY time saving. No time wasted fighting traffic in the city and not time wasted trying to find parking and no parking fees.

            When I visited Vancouver, I very carefully located a hotel along the city’s “Skytrain” system that very pleasantly whisked me into downtown Vancouver and back out again. No driving headaches. No parking headaches.

            To me, being from OC, Anaheim isn’t scary to drive in. Although I will avoid the traffic on Harbor/Katella around Disneyland. Easily beats the heck out of downtown LA. However for vacationers and convention goers visiting from some other less populated areas of the country, it’s a different matter. (Everything’s relative.)

            When you’ve convinced people to skip renting a car, you’ve also captured their business within the resort area serviced by the transit system. They’re going to find restaurants, etc, easily reached using the transit system.

            Just make sure there is a day and multi-day pass option that is easily purchased. People get concerned about not knowing how much they’re going to use the transit system and therefore not knowing how to budget it ahead of time. Day passes solve that, provide ease of mind, and therefore more incentive for people to use them.

          • David Zenger

            Yes, but ARC isn’t a “system.” It’s a three-mile trip down Katella from the stadium parking lot (where the taxpayers, no doubt, will build parking structures) to Disneyland. It’s only function is to shuttle freeway drivers to Disney’s new third gate attraction.

            The real, effective terminus is not ARTIC (which would be stupid) but the confluence of the 5/57/22 freeways.

            Now, I don’t want to pay for that, and I don’t see why any M2 taxpayers should have to foot the bill, let alone people whose federal taxes are needed to build this nonsense. I’m one of those old-fashioned people who believe multi-billion dollar corporations can figure out how to get consumers to their products and pay for it, too.

            Disney’s contribution to the Anaheim economy is a total mystery, anyhow. Nobody even bothers to do a real, disinterested study to find out if the new expansion will leave the City in the red. The drum beaters just keep chanting “economic engine” until every other voice is drowned out.

          • kburgoyne

            Yes. I was speaking in the more abstract rather than addressing the current lame system.

        • Cynthia Ward

          The Red Cars were phased out by their owners because they were incompatible in mixed traffic. As more passenger cars were added to the post-war streets the congestion became unbearable and dangerous. Do you know what happened to the streetcar lines? They became bus lines. Look at nearly every bus line in the region, they began as streetcar lines from any of the private operators. There are some great publications out there by rail historians, which capture “then and now” images, and in many you see a bus trudging along where the streetcar is pictured in the earlier image. Why are we going backward? We are tearing up a street that taxpayers are putting MILLIONS into leading up the streetcar, because the streetcar is not compatible with the “smart street” status of Katella Avenue. The City’s own studies in the Alternatives Analysis show intersections currently operating JUST FINE despite the potential clogging of game night at the Stadium, events at Honda Center, and post pyrotechnic race for the main gate at Mouse o Mouse, will operate at less than optimal standards once the streetcar buggers it up. WHY would we do that? I can go on about danger to pedestrians in the most pedestrian heavy area of the City, or bicyclists while the City dismissed the potential for bicycles to cross the rail lines, because only recreational bicyclists count in their study and they predicted them heading EAST to the river trail for a day of Spandex clad running down of walking families. They dismissed entirely that the rail tracks sit smack in the path of the most heavily populated residential base for Resort workers, and their employment in the Resort, while recording that a higher than usual percentage of those workers do not own cars, thus leading to the conclusion that they are biking it to work over tracks that are dangerous to bikes. DUH.

          but beyond the insanity of the project itself, NOBODY on that dais (including two leaders I greatly admire but who got caught up in the quagmire of wonk-speak) failed to ask WHAT ARE WE GETTING FOR THE MONEY? The money does not buy additional study, I have invoices and progress reports showing they have been looking at the new locations for some time now. Much like the Chamber’s demand for more money for the same result on the Enterprise Zone, Hill is still producing the same report, but including a review of Disney Way…wasn’t that already DONE in the last round? Meeks said they looked at that and couldn’t make it work, that is why they had to take the Park Vue

        • Cynthia Ward

          Great. If Disney wants to buy some right of way and build a red car substitute, operate it at their cost, and take responsibility and liability for it, as the PE did, then have at it. Instead they stuck that on the taxpayers. No thank you.

          NOTE the streetcars were dropped by their operators as passenger cars took over in post war California. They were found incompatible in mixed traffic and frankly dangerous. Which is what the City found when they studies the previous phase of this project. Streetcars were dismissed in the first round of alternatives, “incompatible with mixed traffic” and left behind. Only after the project was several years and many many millions behind budget and the monorail they were aiming for was so excessive even the Pringle Ring didn’t have the stones to demand it (NOW THAT IS EXPENSIVE) suddenly they grabbed the streetcar from the dust bin, wiped it off, and presented it as the “PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE.” Which tells us the powers that be don’t care about moving people efficiently, they are merely looking for ANY justification they can conjure up to make taxpayers fund infrastructure for Disney. Well, yes Disney has been planning (since 1991) a parking garage east of the Park and a pedestrian bridge over Harbor to offer their credit card wielding patrons safe access to Happiness Incorporated, but suddenly that is a function of the STREETCAR and as a public works project it is not on Disney’s dime.

          • kburgoyne

            I mentioned that in a comment to a previous article. There’s a GREAT way to test whether Disney REALLY thinks any given idea is great. Tell them to fund it, they can operate it, and they can keep the revenue from it in return for their investment in building it. Just watch how quickly these “great ideas” dissolve into obscurity.

  • RyanCantor

    “Councilwoman Lucille Kring argued that not spending the additional money would mean the previous money spent on studying light rail systems for Anaheim – almost $9 million – would have been wasted.”

    I cannot believe this woman.

    It’s wasted money because it’s a stupid project. Throwing more money at it doesn’t make it any less stupid.

    Ms. Kring is not qualified to serve.

    • Greg Diamond

      The technical term for this kind of argument is “sunk cost.” Among other accomplishments, “sunk cost” argumentation kept us at war in Vietnam, at the cost of an enormous number of lives, well after we knew that that project too was an expensive disaster.

  • Cynthia Ward

    “Councilwoman Lucille Kring
    argued that not spending the additional money would mean the previous money spent on studying light rail systems for Anaheim – almost $9 million – would have been wasted.”

    Previous phases have run through a lot more than $9MM.
    Right here in Voice of OC, in response to a report that Natalie Meeks had tweaked ridership numbers by adding in not only High Speed Rail numbers but EVERY rider expected to use the system, whether coming to Anaheim or not, OCTA chief Will Kempton sent a chart showing where every nickel had gone.

    http://voiceofoc.org/2013/02/anaheim-releases-questionable-emails-about-federal-grant/

    Never mind that the scandal was not linked (then) to the
    cost of study, but instead focused on the skewed results. Kempton offered a
    nice red herring. In that memo, he showed $20,792,000 had already been approved for studying the project!

    http://voiceofoc.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/43/files/archive/editorial/7/0f/70f12d7a-6f61-11e2-9bb4-001a4bcf887a/5110adcc96c44.pdf.pdf

    If “we have already wasted so much we can’t turn back now”
    is the reason for spending, we are doomed. In fact, when the LPA was approved in October 2012,and the immediate approval of Hill International for the next phase of study was already lined up for the very next meeting, the Mayor was trying to PREVENT that very argument. He was told to quit worrying, the contracts can be cancelled at any time.

    http://records.anaheim.net/cityclerk/0/doc/1226229/Page1.aspx

    http://records.anaheim.net/cityclerk/0/doc/1235029/Page1.aspx

    Funny, the same thing was said Tuesday night. But it takes the political will of 3 Council members to tell their friends NO, friends like Steven Albert Chavez Lodge seen at the meeting, chomping at the bit to hear whether he would get yet another “opportunity fee” from Hill for even more money shoved into the gaping maw of the streetcar.

    Oops, reading those meeting minutes we were also told the studies would be done “next year,” which has come and gone several times over.

    I am glad for the Scalzo family, who did not deserve the treatment they received from City Hall. Now we can watch the project take Disney owned property as it always should have. What do you bet OCTA will be
    forced to PAY for the property from Disney? God forbid Disney should contribute anything to this boondoggle to their benefit.

    One last issue has haunted me for a long time.

    If it is possible to run the route without taking the Park Vue, why didn’t they? Why did avoidance of private property takes become a viable alternative only AFTER it became politically inconvenient to do so? If the City ALREADY studied the Disney Way route and discovered it doesn’t work, and thus chose to take the Park Vue property, then WHY are we studying the Disney Way route AGAIN? Would you not simply study the only remaining route not previously studied, which now runs through the Disney owned Carousel Inn?

    We KNOW from the Invoices and Progress Reports from previous
    contractors that Disney ORDERED the taking of the Park Vue. Since the City is
    now paying even more to Hill to study the Disney Way route, it is safe to
    assume that they didn’t bother studying it during the AA process, and simply
    claimed they did before pointing to the Park Vue as ordered by those really
    calling the shots. THAT is what many of us object to in this project. This is nothing more than another excuse for the public to fund Disney’s infrastructure.

    • RyanCantor

      The idea that spending more money to avoid waste is freaking ridiculous.

      How did she get in office? If it’s a bad project, then it’s a bad project.

      • David Zenger

        “How did she get in office?”

        She got into office by lying to me and a lot of other people. The woman has no shame and no honor.

        • octaxpayer

          Thought this was the qualifications or definition of a politician

  • David Zenger

    “Vanderbilt questioned whether Hill International would be “unbiased” in its study, the findings of which are crucial to move the project forward, if it’s already promised money for the next phase.”

    Of course this is a fundamental principle of government contracting: you don’t give a contractor the opportunity to engage in any kind of analysis if follow-on work is involved.

    This whole boondoggle is a $300,000,000 scam to dole out massive engineering contracts to the clients of a well-known lobbyist and ultimately a tax-payer funded shuttle service to Disneyland (another client) for that Star Wars park – and not because it goes to the empty halls of ARTIC – but because it goes to the stadium parking lot. Anaheim’s out-of-control kleptocracy is pretty shameless; but they managed to steal $200,000,000 from County Measure M taxpayers for ARTIC in broad daylight so they have reason to be confident.

    However, the Feds may begin to wonder if Natalie Meeks, the professional enabler of ARTIC with phony ridership numbers, has any credibility at all.

    Kring loudly declares herself an idiot every time she opens her mouth.

  • kburgoyne

    Tait inadvertently suggested the most intelligent approach to analyzing this by mentioning the Anaheim Resort Transit bus route. Simply put specially decorated and marked busses on the proposed route and measure ridership. Then after that ask yourself why an inflexible rail line at street level would be better.

    Seems like anything operating at street level would be questionable as to whether it would be any more efficient than flexible busses. Laguna Beach basically uses busses decorated much like San Francisco street cars.

    When it comes to moving people, the most intelligent thing (ignoring cost) would be an elevated system that runs between all the prominent hotels, Disneyland, and the convention center. An elevated system can operate at high(ish) speed without the conflicts inherent in street level systems.

    Any system should be one that could justify (by its usefulness) a fee to the riders. That fee could be indirect by allowing hotels to “sell” tickets to use it. The “selling” of the tickets would then likely be packaged into room promotions by many of the hotels, with the result being the fee hidden from the guest. Hotels already offer “free” (included in the room rate) breakfast and other “amenities” that are bundled into the room rate one way or another.

    And getting back to using one’s brain. Anaheim should have imposed a concessions sales tax on amusement parks rather than pursue a ticket tax. Disneyland was only concerned about their ticket prices already hitting the psychological price point of $100.

    Any amusement park operator knows visitors are FAR less sensitive to the price of concessions once they’re inside the park than they are of the ticket price. Heck, Disney already buries a $0.50 “Disney tax” in the price of drinks sold at the Starbucks’ in the park, so obviously Disney isn’t sweating whether people won’t buy those drinks as a result. Anaheim should have simply said “we want a $0.05 city tax alongside your $0.50 Disney tax.”

    • Cynthia Ward

      I would be totally on board for a monorail or sky buckets or any cutting edge technology with a “wow” factor. We keep hearing about becoming a ‘world class city” so we are we using the failed technology of yesterday? We have some of the most brilliant transportation minds in the world either working for Disney imagineering or on contract with them, and we are using ho hum vanilla ice cream ideas that neither spark the imagination, nor create the higher tech skilled jobs of a more innovative system. NOTE TO CITY OF ANAHEIM: if you insist on picking my pockets, at least dazzle me a little while doing it.

      • David Zenger

        I can think of a few kleptocrats I’d like to see in a sky bucket. Permanently.