OCTA Votes Unanimously to End Anaheim Streetcar Project

The controversial Anaheim streetcar project is all but dead after the board of the Orange County Transportation Authority voted unanimously Monday to pull support for the 3.2 mile, $300 million transit project and explore other alternatives for the Harbor Boulevard corridor.

It’s a decision that the board has debated and delayed for months, after a highly politicized report by an ad hoc committee, comprised of four of the project’s opponents, recommended the city of Anaheim drop the streetcar project and hand it over to the Transportation Authority.

Monday’s 14-0 vote – with directors Jim Katapodis, Tim Shaw and Frank Ury absent – would end all planning processes for the streetcar with the city of Anaheim. Instead, the Transportation Authority will conduct a study of the entire Harbor Boulevard corridor, including the streetcar’s proposed route, and determine what transit solutions would make the most financial and logistical sense.

“Thank you for putting a stake in the heart of this bad project,” board director and Irvine City Councilman Jeff Lalloway said to his colleagues Monday. Lalloway was a part of the ad hoc committee.

Enthusiasm for the streetcar project has steadily deflated as discussions of the project’s cost and impacts has raised questions about whether there would ever be enough riders to pay off the expensive project.

The streetcar is estimated to cost nearly $100 million per mile – one of the most expensive projects in the country, according to a Transportation Authority study – and it is unlikely to secure the federal funding that local officials had planned to pay half the project’s construction costs.

The process of evaluating the project’s environmental impacts was also delayed after a family-owned hotel that would have been bulldozed to make way for the streetcar route publicly resisted the city’s efforts, prompting officials to consider alternative routes.

It’s a victory for opponents of the streetcar who have called the project a taxpayer boondoggle, including Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, also a member of the ad hoc committee.

Tait has cited low ridership at the city’s new transit hub, ARTIC, as among the reasons why he believes the streetcar, which would connect ARTIC to Disneyland and the Anaheim Resort, is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“Anyone who walks into ARTIC will know…there’s no demand. And the small demand is being met by existing systems and hoteliers,” Tait said Monday.

Supporters of the Anaheim streetcar have argued the project would increase connectivity in the area, reduce dependence on cars and spur investment along the route.

Growing support for another streetcar project connecting Santa Ana and Garden Grove, however, has prompted the Transportation Authority to pour its efforts into one project, rather than taking a piecemeal approach to regional planning, said program manager Kelly Hart.

Although the agency has stopped planning for the project, a streetcar is not necessarily off the table. Monday’s vote means the Transportation Authority will go back to the drawing board with a study of Harbor Boulevard and consider all the possible transportation options, which, if viable, could include a streetcar.

The study will be complete in January 2017, according to Transportation Authority staff.

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido said that although the board has taken the Anaheim streetcar off the table, it shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of another streetcar as technological advances could lower the cost of projects.

“I think any system that develops has to be coordinated and handled regionally,” said Pulido. “Let’s not be biased against a streetcar for Katella…if we’re going to be open, let’s be open.”

Director Al Murray said any future decisions about the corridor should be based on what makes the most sense.

“This should be a technical decision – what is actually best based on the study and  experts – not a political decision, which I think it was previously,” said Murray.

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

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  • relentlesscactus

    ARTIC shows there’s no demand, and the streetcar would therefore be a waste of taxpayer money, eh? Um . . . ARTIC was the waste of taxpayer money. It was a station, very poorly designed. Stations don’t create travel, rail systems do. Such as the streetcar. ARTIC is a late-term abortion of a project.

  • Vooch

    OC will continue being a cesspool of motor congestion as long as they cling to the happy motoring mythology of the 1950s.

    Cities that embrace walkability & smart mobility solutions will see their property values skyrocket.

    Meanwhile, those cities blighted by Motor sewers will stagnate and becomes the ghettos of tomorrow

  • Matt Korner

    This county is full of morons. As someone who used to take Metrolink to Anaheim every day in order to get to work, I hope you all choke on car exhaust while you remain stuck in traffic on the freeways.

    • Matt Korner

      Only Orange County could be so backwards. Walt Disney built this area on vision and on a belief in making places that are pedestrian-friendly and transit-oriented. He never lived long enough to see his Florida project completed as planned, but he would have wanted Anaheim, and the rest of the southern California, to fix itself in a similar way with rail and people movers.

      • Philmore

        Epcot and surroundings are built on land totally owned AND CONTROLLED by Disney, and have NO industrial or Non Disney owned residential property. Google “Reedy Creek Improvement District” to learn about Disney’s CONTROLLED GOVERNMENT. Anaheim (still) has private property, businesses and residents, who, it may surprise you, have rights and interests that need to be considered and accommodated, much as they conflict with YOUR dream of Walt’s “legacy”. The embedded effects of the 50 year triumph of greed over planning is a “legacy” throughout the entire Southern California metro area, and ignoring demographic, geographic and current ECONOMIC reality to favor single issue discipleship is no help whatsoever.

        • Phantom Commuter

          Don’t mind Matt. He lives in a Fantasyland called Los Angeles

    • Philmore

      From your thoughtful and mature response, so is this comment page. Certainly consistent with someone commenting with the luxury of being a spectator, and basking in ignorance of the area’s limited resources compared to the financial priorities it faces, and that’s NOT INCLUDING the rampant aggravating CRONY CAPITALISM that Disney and the tourism industry both encourage and receive. You can act that to the ignorance you display below about “needing to attract development”.

    • David Zenger

      I prefer that billion dollar multi-national corporations devise and pay for their own strategies for getting their customers to their product.

  • Paul Lucas

    excellent news

  • Cynthia Ward

    There is NO REASON for a public transportation project between ARTIC and Harbor Blvd. NOBODY is trying to get between those two points, so why would we put up public funds to create something with no demand? The ridership numbers were based on cooking the books. The City of Anaheim’s Public Works Director grabbed ridership off the High Speed Rail line, and not just their fictional projections of estimated riders when the system came to Anaheim, she grabbed ALL RIDERS on the ENTURE SYSTEM including those whose destinations put them nowhere near Anaheim. That is how ARTIC got built, that is how this streetcar kept moving forward. Remove those bogus numbers and there is no need for this project. So they can study all they want. It won’t produce anyone coming into ARTIC who is trying to get to the Resort.

    • RyanCantor

      You mean the high speed rail line that won’t fit under the freeway?

      Surely not. Surely.

    • Matt Korner

      Do you realize how idiotic the statement that nobody is trying to get to Disneyland and to the rest of the Anaheim Resort is?

      • Cynthia Ward

        Matt, nobody is trying to get there FROM ARTIC. The entire premise of the project was to transport people from the TRAIN system, either Amtrak/Metrolink or eventually HSR. That is where the funding came from, on the idea that people did not ride the train into Anaheim because they could not bridge the “last mile” from the station to the Resort once there. Even in the pre-UBER years of 2006-2008 when they were plotting this out with the renewed measure M funds set up by Derr Pringle himself, it was still a false premise, as any of the hotels would come get you to stay with them. If there were enough passengers coming in by train, Disney would/should arrange a shuttle. There was simply no NEED to get people at the train station headed for the Resort. Nor is the lack of ridership caused by an impediment to getting the “last mile” in this case. And that was the ONLY criteria permitted under the rules for the program funding.

        Now if you want to argue that a parking garage right off the 57 freeway might need a shuttle to get patrons from there to the Resort, sure we can talk, but while most of us believed that was the end game, it was not presented to us as such, and the funding source was not intended to accommodate passenger vehicles. That would be a remote parking tram for Disney, something that does NOT alleviate freeway traffic as intended by the purpose of the Go Local project this streetcar began as. Fortunately even the Feds could see it from there, and told OCTA they would not fund this, because “we don’t do corporate transportation.” and that is what this was. This was also a chance to take a bunch of infrastructure projects Disney has been planning (and documenting) since the 1990s, and put them onto the backs of taxpayers, Pedestrian Bridge over Harbor Blvd? Check. Full taking of the Odetics site for a parking garage east of Harbor along the 5 freeway to mirror Mickey and Friends? Check. The “takings” list and sub-projects supporting this “public works” project on the public dime read like the To Do list for Disney in the 1996 Finance Agreement, in which the public was suckered into building Mickey and Friends (listed as a “public parking facility”) So, forgive me for cheering at finally winning one for the taxpayers, for ONCE.

        DISNEY might very well have a need to transport their credit card wielding patrons along Katella from the 57 freeway, and they are welcome to devise such a program on their own dime, without complaint from me. But the taxpayers have no obligation, nor a NEED to transport train riders from ARTIC to the Resort, on the public dime, and THAT is what this project was SUPPOSED to be. The difference between the two comes to $318MM that will not come from the gas taxes of Americans. You’re welcome.

        • jojopuppyfish

          If you build a link people will use it. If there is no link, it wont be used.
          Either way Anaheim is a rat hole

  • RyanCantor

    Finally, FINALLY, some sanity in Anaheim.

    Let’s hope making reasonable and common-sense decisions that benefit everyone’s financial future in Anaheim becomes a trend.

    • David Zenger

      No, sanity at OCTA. Anaheim is still “wait and see.”

    • Matt Korner

      How do you propose to attract private investment to the area between Disneyland and the stadium without a high-quality transit system? This chunk of real estate in Anaheim’s jurisdiction embodies a significant part of the taxable land Anaheim, which is an almost entirely built-out city, has left.

      • RyanCantor

        With a bus.

        Seriously. It’s not the job of my gas tax dollars to take people from no where to Disneyland. If Disney wants to get the five customers it has at ARTIC to its gate, can it can get them an Uber.

      • Cynthia Ward

        Matt, I don’t recall encountering you before so I clicked over to your profile, and I get where you are coming from, and agree with many of your statements I see posted elsewhere. I am a huge fan of walkable communities and true pedestrian scale, and I see you understand the articulation of architecture to encourage pedestrians not by necessity but by choice, in making the streetscape a scale one wants to be in. I also agree with your position on the low wage labor that creates urban slums of a new generation in your objection to the Amazon hub. Anyone living with the low wage “economic engine” of tourism understands the misery of working poverty as a multi-generational trap. So perhaps we can take that common ground and apply it here in Anaheim.

        First of all, I am not clear on what you want to see developed through “private investment to the area?” Every parcel from Disneyland to the Stadium is in the hands of private developers. has plans filed, and DDA’s in place… yes, we still have too much green screen, but those parcels are spoken for. They may change hands again to find developers with the means to carry plans forward, but the City is not sitting on a bunch of empty dirt wondering how to offload this onto the private sector. Nothing in the area is lying fallow without a plan. So what exactly needs to be encouraged? We cannot even identify enough space to obtain parcels to back fill the park space NOT set aside by idiots who planned the area prior to our current administration, because every square inch is spoken for by the private sector. Where is the opportunity to incentivize development in a specific plan already built out on paper?

        Going back to the transit discussion that kicked this off, the “smart street” of Katella between the Stadium and the Resort is as far from “walkable” or “pedestrian scale” as it gets, The ratio of street width to comparable sidewalk makes it openly hostile to a pedestrian’s mental and emotional sense of “safety” and that could have been alleviated with paseo type side streets to draw traffic east to west BEHIND Katella where the pedestrian scale could be brought down to eye level and make it work. The brain trust at City Hall was not interested in best practices for a cohesive TOD. Instead they created super-blocks of Irvine-like architecture. and one by one they dropped the commercial ground floor components that would have provided the daily necessities for those urban pioneers looking to pick up a baguette, organic cheese and hummus, and their chemical-free dry cleaning on their walk home from the train, Paris style. Sadly they KEPT the underparked aspect of their “TOD” that stripped the “T” out of it, with lack of lifestyle infrastructure. I can’t fix that. I could only get up and complain about it, which I did. That said, the area will become Irvine North. People in their Prius capable of fitting in the tiny parking stalls will live in those lofts. Some sort of rubber tire trolley can pick up patrons trying to get to the train if they choose to use it, and/or it connections are made between jobs on the train line for those living in the lofts or jobs in the PT held by those who live elsewhere along the LOSSAN. A fixed rail streetcar is not the only answer to transport people if the need develops, and fixed rail on a “smart street” and multi-million dollar “super street” is a conflict of the worst kind. If there was a NEED (ie ridership on the train or even a study showing Disney patrons originate along LOSSAN and could be coaxed in on the train) then the place for that rail line would be the slower moving side streets tucked in behind Katella creating the pedestrian scale that would enjoy the quaint “clang” of a trolley bell rolling along where faux cobblestone or brick delineates crosswalks, in an idealized version of new urban America. But again, the planning structure of the Pringle era that created the PT and ARC did not plan for that vision. Developers were left to devise their own creations, and we got what we got.

        OK one last item.This is far from a zero-sum game. Anaheim taxpayers have been “investing” in this area for DECADES. I was born in Anaheim the same year the Stadium was built with bonds, meaning there is not memory of my childhood without the Stadium in the background (or Disney) and given the City’s penchant for refinancing debt there is no portion of my life in which some form of my existence is not committed to long term debt obligation, in an effort to “attract private investment” in Anaheim. Taxpayers own the Stadium and the Honda Center, where the Duck and Angels pull in huge money from patrons. In good years Anaheim breaks even on those agreements. No, patrons do not leave those facilities to spend money and unlike the midwest people don’t make a weekend of the game and stay in a hotel.

        Likewise our investment on the other end of Katella. Taxpayers funded the Convention Center, PLUS SEVEN “Betterments” with each kicking the debt can further down the road until like a sourdough starter you have traces of the original 1967 funding being paid down by great grandchildren. The most recent “betterment” sucked up over $200MM in additional debt, for a Convention Center that already loses $10MM a year before the new debt was layered on. Taxpayers were not asked to approve that investment by the way,

        And the great grandpappy of Public Private Investment…DISNEY itself. Walt’s dream was famously self-funded, and in his lifetime no public funds would be offered, nor accepted, But in 1996, taxpayers (again without asking our input) floated $500MM which will cost ONE AND A HALF BILLION to repay by 2037, for infrastructure to enable the last expansion, which DCA park, DTD District, and Grand Cal Resort. The Mickey and Friends parking structure where Mickey hoovers up $18 to $28 per vehicle is a PUBLIC PARKING FACILITY on paper. We own it, Le Mouse gets to pocket parking fees, and when we are done paying it off we sign it over to Disney. It feels like we are already doing more than our fair share to “attract private investment.” The tax rate from Disney property was frozen at 1995 levels, our General Fund sees Disney dollars only long enough to count them to defraud the public into believing our city is thriving thanks to tourism, and then the restricted funds wholly committed to paying the bond debt for the Disney expansion get quietly removed, taking 27% of our General Fund out the back door. The net balance leaves Anaheim BEHIND SANTA ANA for General Fund available to cover basic services.

        Now when we ask what is being done to attract private investment, I would love to see us begin investing in the NEIGHBORHOODS that even the Finance Director keeps saying are neglected. Renewing the civic upkeep end of the deal would encourage investment in areas other than the Resort, and diversify our economy so we could better weather the next downturn in Tourism, because we KNOW it is coming, it always has, it always will. But we CAN’T now. Our General Fund is at such rock bottom thanks to the INCREASING long term debt burden carried on behalf of the tourism industry that this year’s FY 2016/17 budget just approved by Council had NO Capital Improvements from the General Fund, for neighborhood improvements, Last year’s improvements were done only because Council borrowed an extra $20MM on top of the Convention Center bonds, and put $10MM of it back into neighborhoods (borrowing to fix sidewalks, we are screwed) the other $10MM was supposed to fund a fire station and a few other improvements, that seems to have evaporated and was not mentioned at all in the Budget Hearing last week.

        That is a long, long way of saying I get where you are coming from, Matt Korner, but taxpayers are doing ENOUGH to goose the goose that lays the golden egg and we have had it with bogus projects that siphon more from the pockets that are already so empty we no longer carry lint in them.

      • Philmore

        With what data can you show a lack of private investment in the area ?

      • David Zenger

        Right now the development along Katella is almost complete – after the massive upzone orchestrated by Pringle created instant wealth for the landowners and put a lot of people out of business and out of work. There is plenty of “investment” and no street car. So you are: Completely Wrong.

        Yours truly,

        One of the morons

  • David Zenger

    Does this mean Anaheim can quit wasting money on it, or can we expect more handouts to the Masters of the Universe?

    • John Claxton

      Oh they will still get their money – that I’m sure of. Pringle is all about the money. Never gave to sheets to the wind about the residents.