Anaheim Council Votes to Continue With Streetcar Despite Lack of Funding

Mayor Tom Tait (left) and Councilwoman Kris Murray (right) at a recent city council meeting.

Kaitlin Washburn

Mayor Tom Tait (left) and Councilwoman Kris Murray (right) at a recent city council meeting.

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Anaheim City Council members voted Tuesday evening to keep their $300 million streetcar project on life support, despite failing to secure federal funding and a vote by the Orange County Transportation Authority to stop working on the project. 

More than $10.3 million has been spent so far on the project, which supporters say is a vital addition to the city’s transportation infrastructure, connecting the local Metrolink train station with key destinations like Disneyland, the convention center, and Platinum Triangle.

But support for the project has steadily eroded as the city has failed to secure outside funding and questions have been raised about whether there would be enough riders to pay off the expensive project.

The Transportation Authority (OCTA) is focusing its efforts on a streetcar project that would connect Santa Ana and Garden Grove – which is set to receive funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program – the agency has tabled the Anaheim streetcar project indefinitely.

The council’s decision came after Mayor Tom Tait, a vocal opponent of the project who sits on the OCTA board, proposed canceling the project entirely.

“I’ll make motion, since the funding is not there and the federal government is not going to fund it, [that] this council stop spending money on the planning process or any process on this,” said Tait. “And finally put an end to the street car project and find other alternatives to move people around the resort district.”

But Tait, as has often happened in the past, failed to get support from the majority of the council, who voted to keep the streetcar project alive. Only councilman James Vanderbilt voted with Tait to end the project. Councilwomen Kris Murray and Lucille Kring, along with Councilman Jordan Brandman, voted to keep it going.

Murray argued that stopping work on the project now would be a waste of the money spent so far. The city is currently in the process of compiling an environmental impact report, which is funded through a self-assessed tax on resort businesses.

“To cancel funding at this point doesn’t save taxpayers any money but wastes what’s been spent at this point, because we wouldn’t have a completed [environmental impact report],” Murray said.

She argued that there’s no reason for the city to stop planning for the project as the remaining funding for the environmental impact report comes from the Anaheim Tourism Improvement District, which takes money from resort businesses to fund promotional materials for the resort.

The tourism improvement district accounts for $1.7 million in funds spent on the streetcar project so far, while the bulk of the expenses, nearly $8.5 million, were paid for by OCTA. Another $240,000 came from the city’s general fund, according to a staff report. 

Murray also pointed to a recent report on light rail projects by the Orange County Grand Jury, which called efforts by OCTA, Santa Ana and Anaheim to pursuing light rail projects “on the right track,” as an example of strong support for the development of a streetcar in Anaheim.

“I think that’s a pretty fair and objective third party review of this project,” Murray said.

Tait, meanwhile, argued that the streetcar, which moves in traffic alongside cars and buses, would worsen congestion, and that the city and OCTA should focus on investing in its current bus system.

“Imagine if this money was spent on our bus system. OCTA has cut routes 20 percent, ridership has dropped from 68 to 42 million boardings, fares have increased from $1.25 to two dollars, and 60 percent of bus riders have a household income of $20,000 or less,” said Tait. “There’s a big population of folks who need help and don’t have access to a car.”

Tait said he spoke with the executive director of the Anaheim Transportation Network, which coordinates the system of buses that currently serves the resort district. The buses pick up 24 to 40 people a day from the Metrolink station, Tait said.

“The ridership isn’t there, and we’re going to spend all that transportation money that could be used for buses or all sorts of other things?” said Tait.

Although the OCTA board voted in June to table the project, the agency is still studying other transportation possibilities through a study of the entire Harbor Boulevard corridor.

The city also has a cooperative agreement with OCTA, which is the lead agency on any transportation projects for that corridor, that could open up a future avenue for the streetcar project. The agreement is expected to come before the OCTA board in September, said City Manager Paul Emery.

Kring pushed back against Tait’s argument that the city’s Metrolink station, known as ARCTIC, and the streetcar are doomed to fail.

“ARCTIC was built for the future. We can’t build something today and expect for it to have thousands of riders,” said Kring.

Clarification: A previous version of this article reported that the Santa Ana streetcar project has received federal funding. While expected to receive the funding, the project has not received it yet.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • David Zenger

    I almost forgot this gem:

    “Murray also pointed to a recent report on light rail projects by the Orange County Grand Jury, which called efforts by OCTA, Santa Ana and Anaheim to pursuing light rail projects “on the right track,” as an example of strong support for the development of a streetcar in Anaheim.

    “I think that’s a pretty fair and objective third party review of this project,” Murray said.”

    So now Murray is citing the grand Jury as fair and objective? Only when it suits the needs of her puppeteers, apparently.

    But Kris, remember this?

    http://voiceofoc.org/2015/09/grand-jury-provides-more-fodder-for-anaheim-battle-over-convention-center-financing/

    This is when you and Brandman and Kring told the Grand Jury to take a hike after they blew the whistle on your crooked little JPA end run around our municipal charter.

  • Philmore

    The foundational fallacy was the creation of the TID itself. By re-badging what WOULD have been (and effectively is, to the paying tourists) a TOT tax hike as a “self assessed” (from profits and NOT passed on to the customers ? HAHAHA !!!) TID fee, BUT SURRENDERING ALL SPENDING CONTROL TO THE TID MEMBERS, the Council created shape-shifting handcuffs on themselves, (and the public) (Public ? Private? Who can tell ?) neither accountable or controllable. Is the “commitment” to complete the EIR a true contract from the City with the TID, or just an implication used as a bluff ? Were all funding from TOT, without the TID, the City, controlling all funding, could drop the effort unquestioningly. Legally, can it still ? (Except for the sure to follow Klepto 3 override vote !) The perpetual gray areas and unintended consequences that Anaheim discovers only by falling into them (Angels Naming Suit ?) have a frequency that surpasses chance.

    • David Zenger

      Oh, yeah, man the Klepto 3 love to cook up (barely) legal maneuvers to enrich their pals and their own campaign funding.

      The Convention Center expansion bond was a total scam – it was a violation of the City’s Charter, but just find a friendly judge, what ho! So a “Finance Authority” floats a bond – not secured by any Convention Center revenue – most likely because there isn’t any left over, but instead secured by THE CITY’S General Fund. Throw in a goody like a new fire station and some asphalt repair (completely incompetent borrowing) to keep the rubes quiet, and you have a general obligation bond masquerading as a revenue bond.

  • Kevin Hogan

    “ARCTIC was built for the future. We can’t build something today and expect for it to have thousands of riders,” said Kring.

    ARTIC was built for the future … EXCEPT THAT IT WASN’T. Presumably the “future” that Kring is talking about is high speed rail, but the city’s plan is to spend tens-if-not-hundreds of millions of dollars to build a *NEW* terminal and set of platforms in ARTIC’s long-term parking lot when/if HSR comes to Anaheim! Nice job of future-proofing there, guys. Combined with the fact that ARTIC is a crime against humanity when considered as a train station (put the tracks right underneath the ‘armadillo’, so they’re easily accessible? Ha! No, you’re gonna walk *through* the armadillo, go up two stories, walk across a bridge, go down again, and *then* get dumped out back in the shadeless outdoor expanse where the tracks actually are), anyone responsible for designing and enabling this monstrosity should be blocked from the civic sphere unto seven generations.

    • Kevin Hogan

      There is *one* area where ARTIC is more capable than the Metrolink station that preceded it — it’s got those bus bays to give Greyhound and the Tijuana buses someplace to land. I’m not sure that was worth $188 million, though.

    • David Zenger

      Yea, verily, the design is brutally comical. You almost get the idea that the “designer” was trying to punish people by making the tracks as difficult as possible to get to.

      I love it when ARTIC boosters brag about how it is LEED Platinum® certified – as if a completely useless structure had any business laying claim to environmental sensitivity.

  • Paul Lucas

    This council majority lead by Jordan Brandman is on a crime spree before the elections remove them from office.

  • John Claxton

    Who are the recipients of the first $10m? My guess is that they want this gravy train to continue and they got their puppet Murray and Co to keep it alive and well.

    • David Zenger

      Would you be shocked to discover that the front man for the company getting this upfront gravy is a carpetbagging candidate for the Anaheim City Council and has been endorsed by Disney/SOAR, the cops, our crooked and useless DA,. etc., etc.?

      No, that would be too incredible to fathom. Not in a nation of laws, not men.

  • astar2b

    Is Kris Murray running for Mayor or something…?

    • RyanCantor

      Sure, why not.

      Hey, look at me! I couldn’t pass remedial economics or high school logic. I want to be MAAAAAAAYOR!

      I bet she wins by 10pts.

      • LFOldTimer

        If Murray ran for Mayor I bet she’d be a real contender.

        Never underestimate the stupidity of the average California voter.

        This is the reason the quality of life in California has tanked for the average productive working man and woman and their families. The dumbed down masses are responsible. And they’re getting dumber by the day.

        Lousy schools. Unaffordable health care. Crime on the rise. Exorbitant housing costs. Congestion. Kids living at home until they’re 30-35. College grad debt slaves. Minimum wage jobs with no future. Homeless populations exploding.

        Hello?

        Is there an Angels game tonight? Let’s go spend our minimum wage leftovers to buy a $8 beers and $10 nachos to watch the millionaires throw and bat the balls!!!!

  • LFOldTimer

    We went to a concert event at the Grove and parked at ARCTIC for free. It probably saved me $12. I thank the taxpayers of Anaheim. I only wish you would’ve built it a little closer, although I needed the exercise. Based on my experience, I endorse ARCTIC. Unfortunately I don’t take trains, busses or whatever else you offer there. I’m sure you will find a way for ARCTIC to pay for itself over the next 100 years.

    • David Zenger

      “I’m sure you will find a way for ARCTIC to pay for itself over the next 100 years.”

      Scrap steel?

      • LFOldTimer

        How about holding swap meets there on the weekends?

        Or selling it to the Catholic Church for another Cathedral? Lots of new Catholics moving into the country who needs a convenient place to go to church.

        • David Zenger

          You know, you have made a remarkable analogy even though you were joking.

          In the Middle Ages communities invested enormous amounts of community resources building cathedrals that would reflect their faith. Nobody EVER questioned the propriety of the thing.

          ARTIC already IS a cathedral. A monument erected to the religion of manipulating and diverting public wealth by a handful of kleptocrats who have learned how to build private fortunes on the backs of dim, ignorant, bemused and befuddled taxpayers. And it’s all LEGAL.

          • LFOldTimer

            It’s only legal because the orchestrators concoct the laws in their own favor that are financed by the working peasants.

            Religion, good or bad, is the opium of the masses. Why do you think you see the pope hanging out with all the wealthiest political figures? To discuss the bible? It’s called the cross and the sword. Total control. The masses will learn to love their ARTICS and those who create them.

          • David Zenger

            Damnation!

            That HAS been the mantra of the kleptocrats: LEARN TO LOVE ARTIC!

            Just keep saying it over and over and over.

      • Philmore

        Homeless shelter and Halloween Parade Storage / Workshop ! Others have already suggested this at Council Comments !

        • David Zenger

          Seriously, I was thinking about something like renting it out for giant rave parties. It would be super easy to clean what with all that fancy terrazzo and stainless steel.

  • RyanCantor

    “To cancel funding at this point doesn’t save taxpayers any money but wastes what’s been spent at this point, because we wouldn’t have a completed [environmental impact report],” Murray said.

    Ah. The sunk cost fallacy. Someone didn’t pass her high school logic class.

    ARTIC is already losing millions, MILLIONS, of dollars each and every year. Now Anaheim is going to compound that problem because someone who literally used a fallacy easily dunked by a 15 year old can’t do math?

    Wow.

    Nicely done, Anaheim. Very nicely done.

  • David Zenger

    Okay. Two cartloads of horse manure:

    1) “To cancel funding at this point doesn’t save taxpayers any money but wastes what’s been spent at this point, because we wouldn’t have a completed [environmental impact report],” Murray said.

    100% dead wrong. Cancellation would save us from further waste on this idiotic boondoggle that only serves the interests of a multi-billion dollar corporation while making traffic worse and more dangerous for the rest of us.

    2) Kring pushed back against Tait’s argument that the city’s Metrolink station, known as ARCTIC, and the streetcar are doomed to fail.

    “ARCTIC was built for the future. We can’t build something today and expect for it to have thousands of riders,” said Kring.

    ARTIC was (and still is apparently) a $200,000,000 white elephant foisted on us and based on fraudulent ridership. It now operates at a $4-5MM annual deficit. Parking is STILL free nine months after pay-to-park was scheduled to begin. Why? because that would chase away the SAME few hundred commuters who usd the old, perfectly fine Anaheim Metrolink station. And the ARTIC buses? Mostly empty as predicted since almost no bus riders have any reason to go there.

    Most of the retail space that was leased two years ago remains unbuilt. Why is that Ms. Kring?

    Tait is wrong about one thing. ARTIC is not doomed to fail. It already has failed – spectacularly.

    • RyanCantor

      How is this horse crap so easily understood my you and me . . . yet goes over those three stooges like morning fog on a June morning?

      • Rivett

        Never attribute to stupidity what can also be explained by self-interest.

        • David Zenger

          Absolutely. Follow the money. The smartness or dumbness of ARTIC was never an issue to the people who foisted it on us. The utility of the mausoleum was of no concern to the kleptocracy.