Anaheim Streetcar Project Dealt Another Blow

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A committee of the Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors is recommending that Anaheim officials drop their plans for a 3.2-mile streetcar system.

The committee’s findings emerged this week in a staff report attached to the board’s Monday meeting agenda, ending weeks of speculation and political intrigue surrounding the committee’s work. For reasons that are still unclear, some directors believed that the board was supposed to discuss the report over a month ago.

Citing the over $300 million cost and the likelihood that federal funding won’t materialize, the ad-hoc committee – consisting of board Chairman Jeffrey Lalloway, directors Shawn Nelson, Tim Shaw and Tom Tait, who is also mayor of Anaheim – is recommending that the city quit the streetcar project and instead explore alternatives, like enhanced bus services.

“The Committee recommends the city no longer pursue a streetcar alternative and instead work with OCTA on future planning efforts that are broader and include conventional as well as advanced bus transit alternatives,” the report reads.

The report is just the latest blow to the controversial streetcar project. An environmental study was supposed to be completed last December, but was delayed after a local hotel owner resisted the city’s plan to knock down his business to make way for the streetcar. City officials are now studying alternative routes.

Supporters of the project say it will increase connectivity in the city and help reduce the region’s dependence on cars. It would also spur investment along the route, they argue.

But it has far less support on the Transportation Authority board than the Santa Ana streetcar project, a fact that sources say makes it all the more likely that Anaheim’s project would fail to win funding under the Federal Transit Administration’s highly competitive New Starts program.

The report also expresses concern about the project potentially worsening traffic congestion on Katella Ave., and the technology being incompatible with the Santa Ana streetcar. If the two systems aren’t compatible, then far off ideas about eventually uniting the projects into one streetcar line travelling up Harbor Blvd. might be impossible.

“This is not a project that’s in the best interest of Orange County taxpayers, who are ultimately going to be asked to pay for the entire project, which will be, including operations and maintenance, $400 million to $500 million,” Lalloway said.

Anaheim spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz declined to comment on the report. But in a letter to the Transportation Authority CEO, City Manager Paul Emery indicated that city officials would continue working on the environmental study, regardless of the committee’s findings.

Emery’s letter went on to say that officials have been looking for ways to cut costs. He also wrote that hoteliers in the resort and Platinum Triangle areas voted to assess themselves a special hotel tax that would help fund the project, a point that emphasizes the apparent importance of the streetcar project to the city’s tourism business.

“We believe the [streetcar] project will improve mobility in this critical transit corridor and provide a link between the existing rail systems and the major employment and housing areas in the Platinum Triangle and The Anaheim Resort, providing an attractive incentive for residents, employees, and visitors to make trips to and from the region via public transit,” Emery’s letter states.

The full board is expected to discuss the committee’s findings at its regularly scheduled board meeting at 9:00 a.m. Monday.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

  • Michal Rozkydálek

    Well. Enjoy your imagination.

  • Cynthia Ward

    Just left a meeting that started at 9. Palm to forehead time. Dear God the people Orange a county are screwed if this is the caliber of leadership we have working for us.

    • RyanCantor

      I mean this seriously: How bad does a public project have to be to NOT actually be built?

      Anyone know of a rejected one? I’d like to know how low the bar actually goes.

  • Alex Brideau III

    I’d prefer to just see the Disney monorail connect to ARTIC instead. The station sure has the capacity and with ticket prices what they are these days, I’ve got to think the Mouse has enough $$$ to pay for it. Then redistribute the ART shuttles to decrease headways on other ART routes.

  • artnouveau

    I’m not sure why this particular streetcar project is as expensive as it is. The Portland (Oregon) Streetcar cost $114.5 million for 8.2 miles of streetcar system. That works out to $13.963 million per mile. Why was Portland able to build theirs at such a low cost, relatively speaking?

  • RyanCantor

    “Emery’s letter went on to say that officials have been looking for ways to cut costs”

    Hey Paul, I can help you avoid $300,000,000 in capital and $5,000,000 a year in maintenance.

    Don’t build it.

  • Cynthia Ward

    City Manager Paul Emery indicated that city officials would continue working on the environmental study, regardless of the committee’s findings.

    He DOES understand this is not his own personal piggy bank to play with as he pleases, right? True, the latest money pot to fund this phase of study is not OCTA money, Natalie Meeks already blew through the millions allocated from OCTA for that and is now working her incompetent way through MORE millions from ATID money. That ATID was committed by Hoteliers who agreed to collect 2% bed tax from their guests, on top of the 15% City tax, and they took that risk of hiking taxes on guests comprising a market of cost-aware families who can chose to go elsewhere for a lower tax base, with the BELIEF that Feds and OCTA would fund the project. Why would they commit those millions for something not to be funded? They can recapture that money and put it into marketing, or upgrade the current bus shuttle service to replace the ART contract (another Pringle client) since the Alternatives Analysis admits there is a current bus system but it fails to meet the needs of guests, thus a streetcar is needed! (I didn’t say it made sense.) These same hoteliers have been strafed for $4MM to underwrite ARTIC this year, thanks to poor projections by the SAME Public Works Director in charge of spending hotelier bucks on the ARC study. Hmm…you don’t get to be a owner or GM of a major hotel in Anaheim by being stupid. (That only works for becoming a department head at City of Anaheim) so at what point do these very smart, very bottom-line savvy hoteliers get the clue that Pringle has hosed them with bad projects to boost his own ego/testicular shortfall and lobbying contracts? When do they understand the underwriting the Chamber (also a portion of ATID for “marketing”) is more good money after bad? TIME TO WISE UP! Dump Pringle! Dump the Chamber! Get someone in there to audit the books on ATID and assorted spending, and demand accountability from leaders perpetually on the dole for the next campaign who then turn over expensive projects to idiots who squander the serious funds offered in good faith! Hey Anaheim hoteliers! Had enough?!

  • cynthia curran

    What if the Paris attack and the San Berandino attack have a negative effect on tourism. After 9-11, Disneyland and Knotts were losing tourist because people were not traveling as much.

  • LFOldTimer

    I’m going to faint. The government finally made the right call! Even the feds saw it as a stupid idea and refused to fork over funding money. Miraculous. My guess is that the Anaheim Council will continue to try to force a square peg into a round hole, even if they have to break it into dozens of pieces to make it fit. Their sugar daddies certainly aren’t going to be happy about this development. No doubt there are some long riot-act telephone conversations tonight. You might see a few council members walk into council chambers next meeting with their tails tucked up high between their legs. 🙂

  • Paul Lucas

    This project is a disaster from conception. Im glad its being denied.

    • David Zenger

      “Im glad its being denied.”

      Now why on Earth do you think it’s being denied? PringleCorp has no doubt been working the OCTA small fry for over a month, promising who knows what sort of magic beans.

      Keep your eyes on councilfolk from Tustin, Orange, Buena Park, Mission Viejo, etc.

      • Paul Lucas

        Yeah, maybe we should be nudging them to start denying Curt Pringle outright ban the guy if possible. After ARTIC, the attempted theft of Angels Stadium and the 45 year long robbery of Disney gate tax dollars I don’t thin we can possibly afford anymore Pringle. We should be asking for a ban on that guy and all his hydra heads like Brandman, and his PR Troll from Irvine, as well as the other two Reps on the dais.

        • cynthia curran

          Well, I think he had a good idea to redeveloped Anaheim but went about it the wrong way. Too much Disneyland money.

    • cynthia curran

      It aint going, there is one already for Santa Ana which connects better to the bus system and is at least a little longer.

  • David Zenger

    “City Manager Paul Emery indicated that city officials would continue
    working on the environmental study, regardless of the committee’s

    Well, sure, why not keep pumping in good money after bad. That’s the Anaheim Way: taxpayers keep funding projects that are of no benefit except to big contractors, hotel operators, a well-known mega billion dollar amusement park, and of course to the Anaheim Lobbyist.

    Just think: the “we” in Emery’s letter (who wrote that, I wonder?) is just one vote away from “they.”