The Anaheim Streetcar Project Is Officially Dead

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait on Tuesday evening finally got to do what he’s been wanted to do for years: kill the Anaheim Streetcar once and for all.

The Anaheim City Council passed a resolution opposing not only any plans to revive a controversial $300 million streetcar project between the city’s transit hub and the city’s resort district, but plans for any kind of streetcar down Harbor Boulevard.

Although the Orange County Transportation Authority stopped funding the project in June, the agency is currently conducting a study of transit options for Harbor Boulevard, which doesn’t rule out the option of a streetcar.

But the 6-1 council vote, with Councilwoman Kris Murray as the lone dissenter, sends a message to the Transportation Authority that another streetcar proposal will likely be dead on arrival.

“Anaheim does not want a streetcar going up and down Katella or Harbor. Those lanes are some of the most valuable real estate the city owns,” Tait said.

Tait has been the leading voice of opposition against the proposed 3.2 mile light rail project since its inception. But it took the November election, from which he emerged as the leader of a new council majority, for him to finally get his wish.

The previous council majority, led by Murray, sought to keep the project alive through an environmental review study, even after it was turned down for federal funding and the Transportation Authority made its decision.

Murray and other supporters of the project argue the streetcar would be a vital connection between the city’s new transit hub, known as ARTIC, and key destinations like Disneyland and the Anaheim Resort district.

They also point to OCTA’s progress on the OC Streetcar, a separate light rail project which would start in Santa Ana and terminate on Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove, and envision a potential linking of the two systems to create a regional transportation option.

Tait meanwhile has criticized the project – one of the most expensive streetcar projects in the country at $100 million per mile — as a boondoggle that would benefit Disneyland and resort businesses at the expense of taxpayers.

He cites low ridership to ARTIC and the existing network of buses run by the Transportation Authority and the Anaheim Transportation Network as among the reasons why the project is unnecessary.

Tait’s vision is for the Transportation Authority to pour money into improving service on the existing bus system that serves many of the county’s working poor.

The resolution drafted by Councilwoman Denise Barnes memorializes many of those points, and recommends the Transportation Authority pursue a “flexible transit solution that increases frequency of bus routes and provides this solution for a lower fare.”

Although Murray and Councilwoman Lucille Kring opposed a vote in December to agendize the resolution, neither spoke up at the meeting Tuesday evening.

Councilman Stephen Faessel said he would not back down on his belief that the city eventually needs to find a better way to move people around the Anaheim Resort.

“We have to come up with a very efficient, comprehensive method to move more than 20,000 visitors in the Resort District,” said Faessel. “I believe that answer is still out there…and it very well may be enhanced bus services.”

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