Anaheim's ARTIC sees $2 million deficit

ANAHEIM – The city’s new transit center will run into a $2 million operating deficit by the end of June, and Anaheim officials will soon consider how to cover the shortfall.

Before it was built, the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center was expected to be a self-sustaining hub that would be primarily financed by revenue from advertising and a naming-rights sponsor.

More than four month have passed since ARTIC opened, and city officials said that they aren’t close to securing a company willing to pay to put its name on the 67,000-square-foot facility, while total advertising revenue during the six months of operation are projected to be $81,675.

By June’s end, city officials expect to earn $391,548 in total revenue for ARTIC, falling far below the anticipated $2.38 million cost to keep the facility’s doors open.

As a result, the City Council will soon decide whether to transfer the $2 million difference from Anaheim’s General Fund, which pays for police and fire services, parks, libraries, road repairs and other city necessities.

“I think there were all sorts of assumptions that were simply wrong about ARTIC, from ridership numbers to revenue projections,” said Mayor Tom Tait, who abstained from voting on ARTIC’s $185 million construction contract three years ago because his business, Tait & Associates, did business with the Orange County Transportation Authority.

“By definition, we’re being forced to reduce city services from what we could have otherwise spent,” Tait said. “The city needs to figure out how to cut ARTIC’s operating expenses as much as we possibly can. Fiscally, it hasn’t worked out so far.”

Anaheim’s coffers are on pace to have a surplus of at least $1.5 million above reserves, which will likely be used to cover ARTIC’s near-term operating shortfall, said city spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz. The City Council will soon consider whether to approve that allocation.

Ruiz said city officials are studying how to reduce ARTIC’s operating costs for the next fiscal year that begins July 1, but an initial estimate released last year projected a $5.2 million spending plan.

“We wouldn’t be dipping into reserves or city services to pay for ARTIC, we would be dipping into surplus revenue from the city,” Councilwoman Kris Murray said. “There are several avenues to explore to earn some revenue for ARTIC, and I want to see any money that goes toward these early operations to be repaid once the station becomes revenue-positive.”

Along with a potential naming-rights sponsor, future revenue could come from developing the city-owned property surrounding ARTIC for housing, retail or office space. Some additional revenue could come from ARTIC tenants.

The OCTA paid for the bulk of ARTIC’s construction costs through funds collected under Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax approved by voters to pay for transportation projects across the region. However, the responsibility for ARTIC’s day-to-day costs falls on the city, which owns the facility.

Along with funding problems, ARTIC is failing to meet an opening-day promise of 10,000 riders who either board or depart mass-transit. That figure was used to lure companies that might provide naming rights, advertising or other support for the station. The transit center is still boasted by city officials as eventually becoming a terminus for high-speed rail, but the bullet train won’t likely reach Orange County’s most populous city for another generation, if ever.

An average of 460 Metrolink and 300 Amtrak passengers boarded trains daily at the Anaheim station during the first month of operation in December, which is traditionally one of the slowest months of the year for public transit, said OCTA spokesman Eric Carpenter. First-quarter ridership numbers are still being calculated, and should be released within a few weeks.

(The city’s fiscal projections do not include the part of December the station was open.)

“We need to shore up the operations with funding intended for other purposes so that this transit station has a chance to reach its self-funding potential,” said Councilman James Vanderbilt, who arrived on the panel well after the vote approving ARTIC. “At this point, these cost figures are sobering and should give the City Council pause on other capital projects under consideration that rely on uncertain public-transit projections.”

Kris Murray

Kris Murray

OCTA Board VOTES to continue to waste taxpayer funds on DISNEY streetcar

From the Voice of OC: 

The Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors Monday allowed Anaheim access to more funding so city officials can complete an environmental study for a streetcar project, despite ongoing concerns from several directors about the project's high cost.

Directors are also increasingly asking why Disneyland isn't contributing toward the $319 million price tag given that the resort is a major beneficiary of the 3.2-mile streetcar system, which is to move riders between the resort and a planned train depot, among other stops.


The OCTA Board overwhelmingly voted in favor of advancing the project, with the only dissenters being Jeffrey Lalloway, Matthew Harper and John Moorlach. Directors postponed the vote at last month's meeting because they were uncomfortable with a proposed action to “concur” with the Anaheim City Council's choice to pursue a streetcar over a much cheaper enhanced bus alternative.

Read the full story here: 


Cynthia Ward addresses OCTA on Disney Streetcar

Disclaimer: this is a rough outline provided to Save Anaheim and is not verbatim what Mrs. Ward said. We will be posting the audio and transcript from the relevant speakers as soon as possible.

By Cynthia Ward: 

This streetcar seems to be focused on getting approval for Federal funding more than focused on whether or not it actually makes sense.

Making sense seems to have been Supervisor Moorlach’s focus when he asked, “What problem are we trying to solve?”

If this congestion along the corridor is such a problem that we are looking for $300 million from taxpayers to fix it, have the businesses on Katella already done all they could to address it on their own? Not one of the highly profitable businesses listed as destinations on the streetcar line-Honda Center, Convention Center, Angel Stadium or Disneyland, offer discounts or incentives for High Occupancy Vehicles or using Metrolink or Angel’s Express.

So when Director Spitzer asked what the private sector is putting on the table, I would have to say,  “Very Little.”

I appreciate that Supervisor Nelson respects Anaheim’s decision to build the streetcar. But I would like you to know that this was not Anaheim’s choice, this was the choice of three Anaheim elected leaders, not the people of Anaheim, who are largely still in the dark about this project. It was never presented to us.

Here is a clip of Shawn Nelson speaking to Los Amigos about the streetcar funding: 

The September 12, 2012 public meeting referred to in the staff reports where you believe residents were shown the Alternatives Analysis, did not reveal the final AA! Instead, this first public meeting in over 2 years told residents this was an update, with promises of a final Alternatives Analysis to come. The AA was then posted to the ARC website on October 3rd, without public notice, without public comment period, and 20 days later the Anaheim City Council-on the Consent Calendar, not a Public Hearing-was asked to make a decision.

The project was shoved through Anaheim like meat in a sausage factory. When Mayor Tait brought up the same questions this Board has asked, rather than continue for one meeting to address those concerns, he was overruled on a 3-2 vote, and a humiliating exchange between Natalie Meeks and Kris Murray essentially sent Tom Tait the message, “we have been studying this for years, we had meetings,  it was on the internet, where have you been? Try to keep up.”

Curt Pringle, Alexis Pringle, Kris Murray, and Steve Murray. 

Curt Pringle, Alexis Pringle, Kris Murray, and Steve Murray. 

I wondered where I had been as well, having followed the project since 2009 when I signed up repeatedly for notifications!  I filed a public records request in December, asking for public notice that the final AA doc was posted to the internet on October 3rd. It turns out I had not missed it, I was not notified of the release. NOBODY was, nor did public comments turn up to show anyone had seen it! In fact, if Natalie Meeks wants to tell you she engaged the public, I would love to hear her explanation for why there was no notice!

Does this make sense? Does it make sense to you that visitors, with only one option to get from the train station to the Resort or Convention Center will not get on a bus because it is not the streetcar they want? This is a captive audience! They will gladly accept any transportation offered.

Natalie Meeks

Natalie Meeks

 The Alternatives Analysis says the reason visitors don’t use the ART bus now is because of inconvenient stops and stations, but it seems like that might be a lot easier to fix than building a whole streetcar system. If ART does not want to service visitors effectively, perhaps we can turn the system over to OCTA, you manage to move over 13,000 people per weekday on the BRAVO system! Miguel Pulido is looking for systems with connectivity between Anaheim and Santa Ana. We have one now. It is called a bus.

Since the 90s when we talked of a people mover, we have blown through millions trying to find a public sector answer for what is ultimately a private sector problem-the mitigation of traffic impacts from the paying customers of very profitable corporate entities.  Kris Murray said at the last meeting that Disney cannot build their 3rd gate until we get those cars off the road, so let’s allow the most brilliant Imagineers in the world to do what they do best and create a solution for their own problems, because so far government has wasted a lot of money making a mess of the situation.

Let’s do something that makes sense, please.


ART shuttles Duplicate $319 Million Streetcar route

From The OC Politics Blog:

Once again, the OC Register’s failed its own Affliction Test and missed easily researched facts that the proposed end points of Anaheim’s $319 million streetcar debacle are already served by the 11 year-old Anaheim Resort Transit (ART) system, a public-private partnership operating shuttle buses between Disneyland’s Main Gate and dozens of hotels and other tourists stops throughout the Anaheim Resort District.  ART also serves attractions and shopping areas in Orange, Buena Park, Santa Ana and the Garden Grove hotels which focus on Disney guests and conventioneers.

Kris Murray

Register writer Marroquin might have discovered this for his 3/27 story via some simple research on this Blog or by sticking his head out a window.  ART operates 18 routes daily with over 60 buses of different capacities to match their varying passenger loads (they also operated small electric buses a few years ago, and still may).  ART’s been successful and grown rapidly, per this 2012 Register story, by adding stops at non-Disney attractions like Knott’s Berry Farm, Discovery Science Center, MainPlace and GardenWalk.

A simple shuttle bus system like ART does not operate on a “fixed guideway” like the steel rails embedded in the roadway a streetcar uses.   Buses don’t need a dedicated overhead high-voltage power supply infrastructure as discussed below.  This means buses are far less expensive to operate and much more flexible as they’re easily rerouted when new requirements emerge or usage patterns change (temporarily or permanently), AND there’s little infrastructure costs other than bus stops, signage, seating and perhaps shelters.  Buses are less expensive to buy than streetcars and far easier to maintain by ordinary mechanics.

Read the full story here:

Pringle's Folly

From The OC Politics Blog:


About five years ago when he was the Mayor of Anaheim, Curt Pringle dreamed of a regional transportation center for his city — a place they named ARTIC which would be the Orange County station for the equally dreamy California High-Speed Rail system which would be zipping through town on its way to San Diego, or charging northward to LA’s Union Station (over, under or through some of the densest urban residential housing in California) and onto San Francisco and Sacramento.

Curt Pringle

Curt Pringle

The Mayor-for-hire, as he was known at Friends for Fullerton Future, or Master of the Universe as he was tagged last year at the union-funded Voice of OC, didn’t stop with just a $184 million train stationthat would partly be paid for by OCTA’s Measure M where Board Member Pringle sat for years.  From concocted ridership projections, he fantasized that Disney patrons would be coming to ARTIC by the millions, but still needed to be transported to the Mouse’s cash registers, miles away from the bullet train, and on the wrong side of the 5 Freeway.  Since Walt Disney already had a world-famous one, Pringle announced in 2007 that he needed aMONORAIL for the Disney visitors.

Read the full story here:

Did Natalie Meeks & OCTA lie to the Federal Government?

From The Voice of OC:

Anaheim city officials are weighing whether to release a politically explosive email that raises troubling questions about whether local officials knowingly misrepresented facts to the federal government in order to obtain transportation grant funding.

The email has been requested by a local activist under the California Public Records Act. The issue comes just as council members abruptly fired their city attorney, who had advised them that the sensitive email is a public document.

City Hall sources who have seen the email, including Mayor Tom Tait, say that on its face the correspondence shows that Natalie Meeks, the city's public works director, and the deputy CEO of the Orange County Transportation Authority, may have colluded to misrepresent information on an application for Federal Transit Authority funds for the $319-million streetcar project that would connects Disneyland to the city’s planned public transit depot.

Natalie Meeks

Natalie Meeks

Johnson was recently appointed CEO of the billion-dollar OCTA, a position he will assume at the end of this month. OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnick said Johnson wouldn't comment on an email he hasn't seen. Meeks could not be immediately reached for comment.

Darrell Johnson OCTA

Darrell Johnson OCTA

Yet Tait is talking, and he said he's not happy about what he’s seen.

“I've asked [City Manager] Bob Wingenroth to look into it … because I'm disturbed by what it says on the face of it,” Tait said.

 The explanation he's been given so far is that the email could be interpreted in different ways, Tait said. Under one interpretation, it's a problem of semantics. Under another, it's a plan to misrepresent facts to a federal agency.

Officials planned to apply for a grant to finance an early phase of the project known as an alternatives analysis but then use the funds for preliminary engineering, according to sources who have seen the email.

“The initial explanation was it had to do with semantics on preliminary engineering,” said Tait, who voted against advancing the project in October 2012.  He said that among other reasons, he questioned whether alternatives to the project, such as buses or a monorail, had been fully explored.

The proposal is to have streetcars, essentially 10 fixed-track buses, transporting riders from the future Anaheim Intermodal Transportation Center westward to the Disneyland resort, with stops at the Platinum Triangle and Convention Center.

The email turned up after City Hall activist Cynthia Ward requested records from personal email accounts related to the streetcar project, according to City Hall sources.

The email in question came from a city official’s personal email account, and City Attorney Cristina Talley advised that such records had to be turned over for review.

Revelations about the email come on the heels of Talley's resignation this week, but sources have not indicated any connection between the two incidents.

The council majority told Talley at Tuesday night's council meeting to resign or face being fired.

Ward says she received a tip from a City Hall source that the email showed the supposed misrepresentation.

“I had a piece of information passed along to me from an anonymous source that indicated that,” Ward said. “But I was never given any proof I could go to anybody with to force the issue, so I've been forced to just sit and wait and see if that piece of information turns up when they finally released the documents.”

Ward requested on Dec. 13 a slew of records related to the streetcar project, including emails and other communications between OCTA and city officials from 2007 to 2012.

Ward has yet to receive the requested records because city officials are still processing the request, according to city correspondence to Ward.

Whether the email, which Voice of OC has also requested, will be made public remains unclear.

Anaheim officials have in the past ordered records purges.

In late 2011, Planning Department officials ordered employees to destroy "old" or "unnecessary" emails because they could be used to embarrass public officials. Employees were threatened with disciplinary action if they didn't comply with the directive.

Shortly after the records purge orders, a Planning Department manager reportedly went on a records shredding spree. City officials said that the destroyed records were business license forms, but other City Hall sources dispute that contention.