Anaheim’s ARTIC Wasteland

Adam Elmahrek/Voice of OC

A traveller walks across the "great hall" at Anaheim's new transit center known as ARTIC.

As part of their ongoing sales pitch for ARTIC, Anaheim’s $185 million transit center, city officials have said revenue from advertising, naming rights and restaurant leases inside the massive new terminal building would cover its annual operating costs, which run close to $4 million.

But what if no one wants to go inside?

Since ARTIC’s opening last December, ridership numbers have fallen far short of expectations. Yet officials have preached patience and continued to insist that more daily riders will come.

However, many of those who are riding the trains and busses that come in and out of the station each day say they make it a point to avoid entering the glittering structure that has already become one of the city’s more distinctive architectural landmarks.

One is Angels fan Tim Riley, who likes taking the “Angels Express” train down to games from his home in Los Angeles.

“What is the purpose of that building?” Riley said. “I don’t want to go there. I’m trying to keep an eye out for my train.”

Riley isn’t alone in his hesitation. A number of travelers told a Voice of OC reporter that the long walk through the shell – across ARTIC’s “great hall” up to the second level, onto a catwalk and back down two flights of stairs — is a journey not worth taking.

One ARTIC employee estimated that 95 percent of ARTIC’s daily commuters never set foot in the shell. The employee, who did not want her name published for fear of reprisals, said daily riders demanded the right to park their cars in a lot behind the building designated for overnight parking just so they could skip the shell and go straight to the train platform.

During his visit to ARTIC, the Voice of OC reporter watched dozens of commuters do just that. They stepped off their trains and walked straight to the back parking lot. And even some of the commuters who parked in the front lot chose to walk around the building rather than through it.

ARTIC graphic

(Click on the image to view a larger version.)

So if ridership is lower than expected, and a majority of those who do use the depot avoid the building, is it reasonable to expect that the city will make much money from advertising, restaurant leases, and naming rights?

Probably not, said Dominique Hanssens, professor of marketing at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. “If indeed most people would miss the naming… then that would indeed be a problem,” Hanssens said.

He suggested city officials count the number of people walking through the shell. The city did hire Santa Ana-based consulting firm DKS Associates to do a more thorough count of the ridership at ARTIC, but the firm isn’t counting how many are actually traveling through the building, according to city spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz.

If a large number of commuters continue to actively avoid the shell and the city can’t realize any significant revenue from leases, advertising and naming rights, the $4 million annual operating cost would likely come out of the city’s general fund, which is meant for core services like police and fire protection.

Currently, hoteliers covering ARTIC’s operating costs by offering revenue from a special 2 percent room tax. But that’s not expected to last forever.

Ruiz acknowledged that city officials had “heard from riders and seen how people are using ARTIC” and that they opened up the back lot to daily commuters to ensure “convenient and accessible service for those using the station on a daily basis.”

However, Ruiz insisted that while many daily commuters “want to quickly get to the platform and on their train, many other users utilize all that the station building has to offer.”

“They include bus riders, cyclists, leisure travelers, those attending sports and entertainment events, train enthusiasts on day trips and photographers who love to capture the station’s lights and architecture,” Ruiz wrote in an email to Voice of OC.

Some of the commuters interviewed by Voice of OC said they are impressed by ARTIC’s architectural beauty and enjoyed walking through the building. And even some who said they had no interest in walking through the building acknowledged that adding restaurants might motivate them to go inside.

But as of last week, nearly a year after the facility opened last December, the restaurant spaces were still bare and didn’t look close to coming online.

And the majority of the people interviewed complained that the center didn’t seem designed with them in mind. They said milling inside the building might be risky because if your train comes even a fast sprint won’t get you to the platform in time.

Kevn Cook, an MBA student at Cal State Fullerton who was taking a train from Anaheim to Irvine, said he parked in the front lot and made the journey through the shell in the morning. But on his return trip in the afternoon, he realized he could get to his car faster by walking around the shell.

“It’s quickest to walk this way,” Cook said. “It’s not like there’s any reason you have to go in there. There’s nothing to do… to basically walk up and then back down… it’s kind of like, why bother?”

A woman named Rose — who didn’t give her full name — said she takes the bus daily to ARTIC and then hops on a train for the ride home.

The problem for bus riders, Rose said, is the bus pick-up area is too far from the train platform, making it easy to miss your bus.

“They didn’t even think it through. It’s really stupid,” she said.

A man who was sitting next to her then chimed, “it’s dysfunctional!”

And according to a bicycle advocate, it’s not just busses and trains that are inconvenient at ARTIC.

Brenda Miller, founder of the non-motorized transportation group PEDal, said ARTIC is a “beautiful” building, but its bicycle racks over by the Santa Ana river are in a “creepy” location. She said a more modern bicycle friendly facility, like those in Europe, have their bicycle garages inside the center.

“It’s kind of a creepy environment out there,” Miller said. “For a cutting edge facility, it’s horribly disappointing.”

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

  • christophershakilafriditiboni

    What would have been a better, & WISER use of the money used on this POS. Would have been to build Pedestrian Bridges @ Katella, and Douglas for all the Hockey Fans to use every game.

  • buzzookaman

    Let the homeless sleep there

  • Matt Korner

    Several assumptions in this article are wrong. The first is that ARTIC is designed for motorists. It is not. The purpose is to create a destination that allows for rail and bus passengers to transfer from one mode to another. The parking lots are essentially placeholders for future development.

    That being said, the facility sprawls in a ridiculous Orange County way. To be walkable and interesting, the Concourse Bridge should be lined with some retail and passenger-seating areas or with a moving walkway because that piece of the site presents the biggest schlep.

    The bicycle facilities should certainly be placed inside the structure. And, the ARC streetcar should stop in front of the building. I can understand the reason few people feel the need to go inside right now because none of the restaurants are open and only one shop is. Still, each time I walk inside, the tables on the ground floor are full with passengers waiting for trains and buses and using the WiFi.

    ARTIC should also be configured to allow for airplane passengers at LAX, SNA, and LGB, as well as other area airports, to get easy transfers:

    An Anaheim version of Disney’s Magical Express in Orlando may also be in order.

    • Matt Korner

      Additionally, Metrolink’s Inland Empire/Orange County Line should be reconfigured to stop at ARTIC. And, the possibility of running express trains to and from Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and San Diego (or Oceanside) should also be investigated.

      Currently, Metrolink passengers are forced to transfer between the two major lines at the Orange Station, which is not nearly as well-equipped as ARTIC.

      • Thor Swenson

        The Inland Empire line can’t be “reconfigured” to stop at Anaheim.

        Metrolink’s Inland Empire route use the old Santa Fe mainline from the IE to Fullerton and on to LA; these are the same tracks the famed Santa Fe Super Chief used from the 1930’s to 1970’s to go from LA to Chicago.

        Metrolink’s OC line uses Santa Fe’s old San Diegan spur line from LA to San Diego, with the ‘Y’ junction in Orange. There’s no way to get a train from the Inland Empire mainline to the San Diego spur line to stop at Anaheim ARTIC, except by backing the train up south of the Orange depot, going backwards two miles to Anaheim, and then reversing the process to send it back to Orange and then east through the canyon.

        Unless you are proposing laying down new tracks through the City of Orange, Placentia and Anaheim, and taking many homes and businesses via eminent domain laws at insurmountable costs both financially and politically.

        If you want to get to the Inland Empire line, just board the train in Orange. The Santa Fe dictated that setup when they laid those tracks in the 1920’s.

    • Matt Korner

      I also believe installing special rails for bicycles to easily roll up and down the staircases would help. They are standard equipment in many European train stations.

      Currently, bicyclists have to use the elevators, which are a little too small.

    • Thor Swenson

      Matt, buddy, I think you should read the article again. ARTIC doesn’t work. It’s only getting a couple hundred train riders per day, and even with that tiny crowd it wasn’t set up to serve them very well. The OCTA bus grid wasn’t designed to converge on ARTIC, nor should it be since that’s not where the riders are or want to go. ARTIC is a bad design, and a station overbuilt by a factor of at least 10 for the daily traffic it will get for the next 25 years.

      I used the old Anaheim station several times per year for the last 18 years. It was perfectly proportioned, and parking there was close and fabulous. After wandering around an empty ARTIC a few times, and trying it once to catch a Surfliner, I no longer use it. It’s too big and inefficient, and parking is a pain. I catch the occasional Surfliner at the Fullerton depot now instead, even though its further from my house.

      ARTIC is now synonymous with bad government and bad design. It’s a horrible waste of energy and resources every minute it stays open. And those hipster restaurants promised a year ago will never open; they can’t even open the Lost Bean coffee kiosk on the ground floor. All the tenants have abandoned ARTIC, just like the passengers have.

      • David Zenger

        “The OCTA bus grid wasn’t designed to converge on ARTIC, nor should it be since that’s not where the riders are or want to go.”

        Absolutely right on. The only bus riders ARTIC gets are now the ones who have no choice but HAVE to go there. Even so the bus terminal/shelters are empty all day long – just like the big Armadillo. Bus service is now WORSE because of ARTIC.

        The restaurants haven’t even started their TI work yet – the word is that the slabs are so full of heating and cooling pipes that they can’t be penetrated – even though they are being forced bu the City to pay for common area costs.

        Wait ’til the City starts charging to park there.

        “ARTIC is now synonymous with bad government and bad design.”

        But no one with any sort of authority will come out and say it. Not even Lalloway – who seems pretty commonsensical. Every small-time politician in OC has their lips glued to PringleCorp’s backside.

        The best idea for ARTIC I can think of is to demolish it and recoup something on the scrap steel. It makes no sense to pay $4-5 million to keep the Anaheim Armadillo lit up and warm every year.

  • Cynthia Ward

    Ya know, we haven’t heard squat on the streetcar lately. Meeks just put in for over a million more to Hill to continue the EIR, so what have they been doing and billing for since November 2012? Time for a CPRA. After all it’s been days since I forked over money to the City Clerk.

  • astar2b

    Wonder how much $ to take down the shell and do a complete building/site makeover to get it people/rider friendly…

  • Conrad Conrad

    This is a hub that’s not really a hub. Only 1 Metrolink line runs through here. Fullerton and Orange have 2 lines each and thus, the ridership is higher. The 57 and 57X lines for OCTA do not run through here (these are heavily populated bus lines that run from Brea to Newport). The out of town commuter buses such as the 757 from Santa Ana to Pomona have a drop off and pickup on the other side of the 57 freeway, so then you have walk almost a half mile to the ARTIC. The 758 from Chino to Irvine Spectrum doesn’t stop there. The goal of this “shell” was to get people to go inside or through it, so they need to make sure the people along these routes even have the opportunity to do so. The bike storage is in a sketchy area, because it’s along the riverbed which is littered with drug using homeless people living in tents. Put the bike lockers inside the doors so people are more comfortable using them; that will get more people inside, too.

  • Bob Brock

    HSR ain’t never gonna happen. Hopefully a good use can be found for this in the future as more and more people use alternative forms of transportation (busses, trains, etc.), but it looks like this ham was somewhat half-baked during the planning process.

    • David Zenger

      Bob, the problem isn’t that the ham was half-baked. That would be an honest, if incompetent mistake. The problem was this was pitched as a ham when in reality it was non-USDA certified armadillo meat. And the people in the kitchen knew it, but they were desperate to get something to the table – and armadillo wasn’t on the menu.

  • Jeff Spurlock

    doesn’t matter who buys the naming rights, my wife and I will still refer to it as The Anaheim Armadillo.

    • The way things go in Anaheim, it’ll be the Anaheim Armadillo of Los Angeles.

      • David Zenger

        Or the Disney Armadillo®

        Maybe a tie-in with a Pixar effort?

    • David Zenger

      The Anaheim Armadillos. Sounds like a semi-pro football team.

  • Kathleen Tahilramani

    Global Warming Republican Style………….

  • Cynthia Ward

    OK before I get going on the rant of a lifetime (you knew it was coming) while we can rightfully be mad as all get-out at this monumental loss of funding and common sense in one not-so-convenient package, the fact is we are STUCK with this stupid boondoggle, and we better figure out how to use it for something quick before the hotels catch on to being sucker-punched and back out of funding the maintenance, sticking it back on the residents who didn’t want the station to begin with. I have heard “concert hall” proposed, but the sound quality SUCKS, the plastic shell lets rail and road noise through, and sound does not project, it bounces. Forget even having a conversation. That phone call you are trying to make between the train and bus? Go outside, your luck is better. So far “homeless shelter” is the best option I have heard. But we need to figure something out, simply bashing this thing over and over again is not going to pay the bills. WHAT DO WE USE IT FOR? QUICK!

    And now, cue the bitter woman who has been screaming out against these Pringle-pushed transportation projects since 2009. But I am just politically motivated and misinformed, so it was perfectly reasonable for the City of Anaheim to ignore warnings when I handed over (And Voice of OC published) emails between the head of Public Works and the head of OCTA colluding together to use cooked books and appropriated ridership from a project not scheduled to reach Anaheim for decades, not scheduled to reach ARTIC…well, EVER…and even borrowing riders who will only use the bullet train between northern stations and get nowhere NEAR the LOSSAN corridor. $4MM a year blown to maintain something that should not have been built at any cost, much less for hundreds of millions of dollars, all based on a LIE, a KNOWN LIE! How is this not committing fraud against the taxpayers of Anaheim and Orange County?! How are those associated with this nightmare still employed? Where is the accountability? Do Public Works engineers not carry bonds for professional performance? It is one thing for staff to be forced to design for the orders of the elected officials in charge, it is quite another to recommend a design that anyone can see won’t work, AND present lies as facts to get it approved and funded. Bitter? You have no idea.

    But-but-but Natalie Meeks got an AWARD for that project!

    If ever there was a sign of the Slide-Rule team circling the wagons to protect one of their own, it was that inane award for ARTIC, motivated by the certain fear-based knowledge that they too will be forced someday to build something useless and stupid to further the egos of their elected handlers, and they don’t want to be thrown under the bus. Or the train. Neither of them coming to ARTIC anyway. But it’s OK because Meeks got an award! And it must be OK, because the Council majority praises Public Works at every opportunity. You can hear Murray’s voice now (whether you want to or not)…droning on…and on….I would just like to thank staff for their hard work in so diligently coordinating collaboratively to facilitate the inane demands of our twisted egos while investing in our children’s futures….ok you can stop before you have that small stroke.

    Oh y’all missed the BEST of the boondoggle combos! Brian Chuchua and I went to the High Speed Rail cheer squad rally at ARTIC, about 2 weeks ago. Yep, sat there and listened to the so Cal region director-person get all steamy over being in…wait for it-“The first High Speed Rail station in California!” Uh…except ARTIC does not accommodate High Speed Rail. Wait! I KNOW…that is where we hijacked the funding for this beast, right? Measure Z, adapt Metrolink stations for High Speed Rail service?! Well, ya see…go out to the platform (green in Voice of OC pic) that sits above the blue parking lot, and look UP. What you see above you is the overpass for the 57 freeway. And I am not sure WHY, but I am told the bullet train won’t FIT under that overpass. If you push the right buttons on the highly paid, but not very well prepped, engineering types posted to the “information stations” at HSR “outreach events” they will reluctantly tell you, while shuffling their feet and looking over your shoulder desperately in search of a supervisor to bail them out, that no, HSR does not really come to ARTIC. And then the supervisors for the consultants cheerfully dismiss the additional cost for a whole other facility for HSR, as if it is the most natural thing in the world, and I am merely a nimby obstructionist for expecting the $200MM station funded for HSR to actually do the job it was funded for. Silly me.

    Yep, the bullet train that ARTIC was FUNDED for, but not DESIGNED for, stops on the OTHER SIDE of the freeway, in the Angels parking lot. Just as Pringle screamed (in email form) at Mehdi Morshed (thanks to Voice of OC for exposing that little soap opera) and…wait….isn’t the other side of the freeway where we keep the OLD station we just abandoned? Our tax dollars at work.

    • David Zenger


      Ice hockey practice ring? Circus performances? Cinco de Mayo festivals? Quinceaneras? Paint ball games?

      Got it: INDOOR SWAP MEET!!

      • First things first – turn it into the world’s first indoor drive-in movie. Then you can turn it into a swap meet.

        • David Zenger

          Lol. Yes, I was getting ahead of myself.

          Seriously (well, no) drive-in theater is a plausible option. We could knock out the front window and build the screen on the “grand staircase” to nowhere.

          We’ll call it the Anaheim PringlePlex.

  • calwatch

    It’s too far away from the tracks. Based on the diagram, the building is about a football field away from the southbound tracks. When the announcement is made that a train is coming, you’d have to dash up an escalator, run about 500 feet, and back down again. Plus you’re going up and down a 30 foot minimum elevation change (since the bridges have to accommodate railroad tracks). Who wants to do that? Even if you are parking in the north lot, it’s easier to walk around and to the ramp, especially if you are catching a northbound train, like most people do in the morning.

    There are stations elsewhere in the country with this kind of elevated concourse which are directly over the tracks, like Kansas City Union Station, but the distance between the tracks and the platforms are much shorter. Overall there was nothing wrong with the old Amtrak station. The waiting area inside was small but adequate for most instances, and additional shelter space could have been provided for the rare crowd.

  • Paul Lucas

    Those behind this disaster should be in jail. This is inexcusable.

  • kburgoyne

    Educational article, Adam. Thanks. I had been assuming the problem was one of ridership. Your article does a good job of showing that ridership is not the “primary” problem. The problem is riders don’t care about the venue.

    Setting aside whether it was a good idea at all, clearly one mistake was not making the venue the train platform itself. Airports don’t put their shopping mall sections in one building separate from the gates. If airports did that, nobody would visit the shopping mall section. Almost everyone using an airport will “shop” near enough to their gate to maintain a quick connection to their gate. The only time I don’t do that is if I know I’ve got two hours before boarding.

    Another problem is trains don’t have the pre-boarding wait times airlines have, so people using trains don’t have the same time to kill. Some might have a very short time to kill, so anything in the venue has to be aligned with that reality.

    The station is also primarily positioned for Angels, Ducks, and other events in those sports venues. (Concerts, etc.) Analysis should have been toward making it extremely easy for out-of-towners to use the station for accessing the two venues, and then to promote it in San Diego, LA, etc, on that basis. What is in the venue then gets aligned toward extracting revenue from those out-of-towners passing through it — which also means structuring it so they do pass through it. Which gets back to it should have been the station itself, and not a structure off to the side.

    If it was positioned so out-of-town visitors actually used it, then nibbles and event-related garbage could be sold through kiosks in the structure.
    But alas, this is all what might have actually worked — maybe. The disaster is already done, and no doubt the incompetent Anaheim city council will pursue throwing more money after bad.

    • David Zenger

      “I had been assuming the problem was one of ridership.”

      It was, is and always will be. The other problem is the utter uselessness of the building; no, worse than that: it’s a positive obstacle for train riders to negotiate. That’s why all the talk of “beauty” and Leeds Platinum Certification are so idiotic. The damn thing doesn’t do anything. It just squats there trying its gol’ darndest to look iconic, a permanent monument to local griftery, writ large.

      Louis Sullivan famously said “form follows function.” At ARTIC form follows fiasco.

  • Hunger Games fans are probably the only ones who appreciate the god-awful look of this thing. Now, they want to build another boondoggle, a streetcar to whisk passengers from the Armadillo (thanks Ryan) to Disneyland. Who gets the benefit? Certainly not the taxpayer. The city needs to stop kow-towing to business and pay attention to the residents who live there. They could stop all subsidies and business would remain because the main draw, Disney, isn’t going anywhere.

    • David Zenger

      Jeff, you are close, but not quite right.

      Yes, the Armadillo is being used to promote the streetcar (and also to revive the idiot HSR leg from LA to Anaheim). But the streetcar would never even make it to ARTIC. It would stop in the Angel Stadium parking lot. That’s why the streetcar proposal would inevitably be accompanied by massive parking structures paid for by the public, to accommodate the cars of Disney customers who would then be ferried, courtesy of monstrous public subsidy, to the Happiest Place on Earth.

      • That makes sense, David, but wouldn’t that interfere with Arte’s plans for the surplus land around his stadium? If course, that could be resolved when Arte moves the Angels to Tustin…..

        • David Zenger

          Tustin! Yes we haven’t heard a peep about that scam lately, have we?

          Arte has already burned through 26 of the 36 months that Brandman, Kring, Murray and Eastman gave him – for free. They can’t even pretend that Moreno has any options anymore. Well, they can, and maybe they will.

          Arte had no plans for anything. That was Pringle and Charlie Black’s little brainchild, and believe me, there would have been parking structures in that parking lot – built by the taxpayers for the benefit of Angels and Disney patrons, with revenues handed over by Moreno. A little cut to the lobbyist, please!

          Anaheim has a dismal record of building capital projects for the benefit of Disney and ignoring the requirements of the agreements.

        • Cynthia Ward

          Jeff, Arte didn’t have any plans for the land around the Stadium. He told us the land was OFFERED to him by the City, it was someone in a back room, deal running Anaheim from behind the scenes that had plans for that land and they look suspiciously like the plans for the streetcar…..also being pushed (still) by the same behind the scenes master manipulator. Time for someone to send a memo to Pringle that his administration is OVER and it is time to leave office. Of course then we have to get the memo to the department heads still answering to him.

  • David Zenger

    The tenant improvement work in those restaurants hasn’t even started yet, even tho’ the leases are a year old. How come, Ms. Ruiz? How about an honest answer for a change.

  • RyanCantor

    When will city officials realize that continuing to praise the rainbow armadillo as a success simply fails an intelligence test?

    Millions and millions for absolutely no reason. Anaheim can do better.

    • David Zenger

      Ryan, Anaheim is paying for the millions in maintenance cost, but the whole County got ripped off for that $200,000,000 rainbow armadillo. It was a heist of epic proportion, perpetrated in broad daylight as every elected official in Orange County looked on in awe.

      • Worse than that, they all wanted one in their city.

        • David Zenger

          Jeff, a little history:

          ARTIC was constructed under Program “T” of the 2006 Measure M Renewal (M2) referendum approved by the voters. Pringle was behind the language that determined this big mausoleum had to accommodate High Speed Rail AND be the extension of an existing station. Thus, only Anaheim and Fullerton were really in the running.

          Of course Pringle didn’t realize ARTIC was on THE WRONG SIDE of the 57 Freeway and wasn’t an extension of anything – but that’s why the new platforms go under the freeway and all the way down to the old platforms.

          By the time construction was started the City of Anaheim was saying that ARTIC didn’t need HSR – it was a stand alone project, regardless of what the people voted for and since they weren’t going to pay any of th bills (yet). It was all a gargantuan lie, but nobody had the guts to state the obvious: Emperor Pringle and his paid for minions had no cloths on.