OCTA Should Just Say No to the Disney Trolley

From The Voice of OC: 

LETTER IN OPPOSITION TO “Anaheim Rapid Connection Locally Preferred Alternative” — AKA — The REALLY REALLY Expensive Taxpayer-Funded Trolley to Disneyland’s Front Door.

Dear OCTA Member:

Some of you on the OCTA Board of Directors know me, others do not. By way of introduction my name is Jon Fleischman. I am the publisher of theFlashReport.org website on California politics. I am a former Executive Director of the California Republican Party. Here in Orange County I am a long-time elected member of the Orange County GOP Central Committee, a member of the Lincoln Club, and am an activist for conservative candidates and causes.

I admit that most of my attention is spent focused on what is taking place in Sacramento. These days, with the pervasive control that the state’s public employee unions have in the State Capitol, it’s not pretty. I only reference my focus on State Capitol politics as an explanation for dropping you a last minute, brief note on an issue that frankly deserves much more attention.

Let me caveat my remarks below by saying that as a strong advocate for lower taxes, Measure M, and it’s renewal were two local taxes that I actually supported. All you need to do is look attentively as you cross the border between Orange County and any neighboring county to see what our own investment into transportation infrastructure has meant for the standard of living for all who live here.

Carrie Nocella - Disney's resident wicked witch who's goal is not get those Ruby slippers but taxpayer funds to build Disney a $319 million streetcar to shuttle guests to Disneyland.

Carrie Nocella - Disney's resident wicked witch who's goal is not get those Ruby slippers but taxpayer funds to build Disney a $319 million streetcar to shuttle guests to Disneyland.

That having been said, I have been reading for quite some time about a proposal to used well north of $100,000,000.00 in Measure M funds, paired up with an even larger chunk of federal transportation dollars, to contract an elaborate trolley system to run for a few miles through Anaheim, to basically end at the gates to Disneyland.


Since I mention Disneyland I will throw our a few quick points on DL — I am a financial supporter, as I pay retail for my family to all have Premium passes every year. I visited the park myself over 50 times last year. I have gotten to know many of the people that work for DL, and consider them friends. It upsets me to no end when that company, whose national and state corporate level bias is Democrat, pitches in big bucks to statewide stuff I don’t like (most recently in favor of passing last year’s Prop. 30 statewide sales tax increase). It’s my understanding, by the way, that this proposal calls for Disney Corporation’s contribution to this trolley system to be exactly – zero. Great deal for them!

That having been said, it was never envisioned by me that by voting for Measure M that I would be, in essence, subsidizing the Mouse (with all due respect). It seems like a lack of acknowledgment of entry into the 21st Century that anyone would sink vast sums of money into heavy-duty fixed, in the ground transportation systems. Especially here in California. I say this as I look at our state’s quixotic efforts to lay down a massive High Speed Rail System that I think will never see the light of day, and if it does, it doesn’t show up in Orange County in my lifetime (I am 45).

The way I read it, there is a goal of moving people from Anaheim’s train station to Disneyland (and whatever stops happen to be in-between) — and these I guess would be Metrolink and Amtrak users as I told you I am skeptical of HSR, which Congress now opposes funding. That’s’ great. Use buses. You can use more or less of them depending on demand. And the cost is vastly cheaper. And to those “studies” that show more people would ride a trolley than a bus — well, I’m not really interested in using my tax dollars to provide Cadillac transportation when a chevy will due. And I will withhold editorial comment about the type of people that would “scoff” at riding a bus.

Using buses would not only save a lot of federal money here (and let’s remember we are all citizens of the United States — it is not okay to put federal money to a wasteful use here in Orange County as pork spending). But more importantly, it would free up vast sums of money to do what we desperately need Measure M funds to do — widen and make more usable our freeway system. By my “back of the napkin” match, using buses for this project in Anaheim would free up enough Measure M dollars to add an entire extra non-toll lane both N/B and S/B on the 405 freeway! Or think about those funds used to widen that horrific bottleneck at the 91 going out to the Inland Empire.

In case you hadn’t noticed — traffic in Orange County SUCKS. We should be making sure that NO FUNDS that COULD be used to mitigate freeway traffic are spent elsewhere, where permissible under the guidelines of Measure M.

Look, at this late date you have all probably been woo’d and schmoozed by all of the lobbyists pushing this trolley boondoggle. And no doubt the OCTA staff is “in love” with this sort of “signature project” that allows them to play SimCity with other people’s money.

But you were all elected to the OCTA Board, with an understanding that you represent the interests of those Orange Countians who are funding transportation projects through their sales taxes.

I strongly encourage you to vote against this project. Or at a very minimum continue this proposal and bring in some other points of view both on the folly of spending huge money on trolley systems, and also inviting a broader discussion about best use of Measure M dollars.

If you are a local elected official, looking for GOP support in your next election, you should at least be cognizant that if I feel this strongly about this waste of taxpayer dollars, I’m not going to be the only one.

In closing, I want to reiterate that I am not trying to beat up on my friends at Disneyland. I am used to the idea that corporations in modern times are all about figuring out how to get as much public money spent in ways that benefit them as possible. But it is not their decision to make, it is YOURS.

Remember when you sit in your meeting and the lineup of folks is there to tell you what a great idea this is that there is a reason why taxpayers are not lined up to oppose it — because their representatives in the room, on whom they count, are YOU.


P.S. My favorite “spin” in a cursory review of the staff report is the minimizing of the VAST AND HUGE cost of this trolley project by somehow comparing it to the even more ginormous costs of some sort of Disneyesque above ground monorail system — when the comparison should be between a permanent trolley system versus amping up more buses, which has the advantage of being totally flexible based on ACTUAL usage (visions of half empty trolleys, with Goofy, Mickey and their friends waving from the back, enter my mind).


Disney Streetcar throws Taxpayers under the bus!

By Cynthia Ward: 

Last year, an Anaheim City Council majority approved a $318 million publicly-funded streetcar running about 3 miles from the ARTICtransportation center (train station) north of the 57 freeway through the Platinum Triangle to theResort, with funds from County Measure M2 gas taxes, TID (tourism improvement district) taxes(2% of the 17% bed tax), and anticipated Federal taxes through the FTA (Federal Transit Authority) New Starts program. 


“Taxes” means you and I, the public, pay for it. 

The rejected alternative to this over-$100-million-per-mile boondoggle? A $53 million enhanced bus proposal.   That’s still expensive, but over $250 million less than what they voted for.

Who benefits from this project?

The Disneyland Resort, of course, along with hotels, and other resort businesses. That’s because they can use the train station’s remote parking and get extra business that might be coming from the train. It also means Disney can potentially get their parking lot off the old strawberry field they bought and use it as the 3rdpark they have been planning for. 

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.


The Cato Institute on Streetcars

From The Cato Institute: 

America’s transportation system will continue to grind to a halt under President Obama’s pick for transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx. Currently mayor of Charlotte, N.C., Foxx strongly supports streetcars and other obsolete forms of transit.

It is a measure of the glacial pace of America’s political system that Obama had nearly 16 months’ notice that current Secretary Ray LaHood planned to step down at the end of Obama’s first term, yet the president required another three months before finding a replacement. If the administration has anything to say about it, American travelers will move at the same glacial pace: the streetcars that Obama, LaHood, and Foxx want to fund are slower than most people can walk.

Transit advocates often point to Charlotte as an example of a successful lightrail line (more accurately described as a “low-capacity-rail line”). With success like this, I’d hate to see failure: the line cost more than twice the original projection; generates just $3 million in annual fares against more than $20 million in annual operations and maintenance costs; and collects of an average of just 77 cents per ride compared with nearly a dollar for other light-rail lines. Now Charlotte wants to extend the line even though a traffic analysis report predicts that the extension will dramatically increase traffic congestion in the corridor (see pp. 54-56).

Foxx believes rail transit “drives economic development,” says George Washington University Professor Christopher Leinberger approvingly. “The goal of any transportation system, especially rail transit, is not to move people,” Leinberger argues. “The goal is economic development at the stations.”

Anthony Foxx certainly believes that. “If we didn’t do streetcar,” he asked the Charlotte city council during a debate, “does anybody have an idea how we’re going to revitalize” downtown Charlotte?

Rail advocates claim that Charlotte’s low-capacity-rail line helped revitalize neighborhoods along the line. However, a study by transportation expert David Hartgen concluded that most of the billions of dollars of development that was planned along the line was never built. Of the developments that were built, most would have taken place without the line, Hartgen found, though not necessarily in exactly the same locations.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: transportation spending generates true economic growth only if it results in lower-cost, faster, and/or more convenient movement of people and goods. Streetcars and low-capacity rail are more expensive, slower, and for all but a tiny number of people less convenient than the alternatives, whether buses or cars. Even if you reduce transit rider costs by subsidizing them to the hilt, someone has to pay the subsidies and that slows economic growth.

Foxx is blissfully unaware of this and we can expect him to continue LaHood’s policy of giving away as much money as possible for transit projects that are as expensive as possible and move few people while creating more congestion for everyone else.

Read the full article here: 


Disneyland Driving Up Costs of Anaheim Streetcar Project

From The Voice of OC:

While various stakeholders continue to disagree on the merits of Anaheim's proposed streetcar project, there is no debating that it is the most expensive project of its kind in recent memory.


An analysis by the Orange County Transportation Authority showed that on a per-mile basis, the estimated $319-million price tag on the Anaheim project is higher than any of the last 11 streetcar projects proposed nationwide.

There are a variety of reasons why such a project in Anaheim would be more expensive than in places like Cincinnati and Portland. Labor costs and environmental requirements among other factors make the cost of any construction project in California higher than in other places.

But it's also becoming increasingly clear that a significant reason for the high cost estimate, nearly $100 million per mile, -- is the demands placed upon it by Disneyland and the rest of the city's resort district.

Read the full story here:


Comments on the $319 million Disney Streetcar

Here are some comments folks left on an OC Register story that ran awhile back:

..and guess who got that contract? Hill international is the employer of Steven Albert Chavez Lodge, in fact lodge is the Hill staffer responsible for first coping this project, and therefore in line for the 1% finders fee written into his employment contract. I have the docs if anyone wants them.


That doesnt sound very transparent...my city gets 3 bids and lists them on the Council meeting agenda, and chooses the lowest bidder, that way everyone can see whats going on and make remarks at the city council meeting if they want.

The very expensive light rail system here in Phoenix has been a HUGE failure. Nobody pays to ride, as there is an "honor system" in place. The homeless occupy most seats. There have been many incidents of fights etc AND many, many accidents. Only a trackless system should be considered.

All the money is coming from federal and county funds so far. So even if you don't live in Anaheim, you're paying for this.

What dolts. Obviously, they have no memory of the streetcars in Los Angeles, and how they jammed up traffic. And that was on streets wider than Katella! It will be the height of stupidity if the council tries to suck up to the "resort district" in this manner.

319 million dollars for a 3.2 mile trip. One word. Ridiculous. Serves no purpose whatsoever. Add a few more ART buses, there's no need for that kind of expenditure.

Well they can't solve the gang problem so build a street car system so the gangs don't have to use the bike paths.....

Tom Tait- lone voice in the wilderness of fiscal sanity.


That man could be the future of the Republican Party. He certainly could be the best mayor we've ever had. The way he has handled crises in this city is admirable, to say the least. The GOP needs to turn its head back to OC and see what one of its own is doing.

Maybe the voters should have paid close attention to who was running for council and who was backing them before they voted this past November 6th. The City Council will still only have two sane voices looking out for the citizen-taxpayers after this election. This City is in BIG Financial trouble, folks. This is only the beginning

Once again the city council of anaheim has failed. where is all of the money going to come from? are those people arrogent enough to believe the citizens will pass a bond to pay for it? a lot of buses and other forms of transportation could be purchased for 9.6 mil. many of the city streets are still in dire need of repair and 9.6 mil has just been flushed.

No, you are missing the point, Jim- "...guess who got that contract? Hill international is the employer of Steven Albert Chavez Lodge, in fact lodge is the Hill staffer responsible for first coping this project, and therefore in line for the 1% finders fee written into his employment contract." This is taxpayer money and cronyism runs rampant with it. 

Read the full article here:


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:


Disney's the reason for $319 million Anaheim streetcar

From The Voice of OC:

During questioning by Orange County Transportation Authority directors Thursday morning, Anaheim City Councilwoman Kris Murray acknowledged what insiders have been saying for months about the city's planned streetcar project: A major reason for the transit line is to allow expansion of the Disneyland Resort. West Katella Avenue and West Ball Road Ball, which border the park, are “beyond capacity,” Kris Murray said. “If we're ever going to see a third gate at Disneyland,” she said, “we need to get cars off the road.”

See video below:

The streetcar project would no doubt accomplish that end, according to a city staff report. Once in the city, visitors could park and be taken via streetcar directly to Disneyland.

Kris Murray's comments, however, highlighted a question that critics of the project have raised: Should $319 million in taxpayer dollars be spent on a 3.2-mile project that serves primarily Disneyland's interests?

It was an issue looming behind many questions asked during a special OCTA board meeting and public workshop regarding proposed streetcar projects in Anaheim and Santa Ana. As expected, OCTA directors challenged the Anaheim project and its defenders, citing the cost of the project and wondering why city leaders didn't choose a much cheaper enhanced bus alternative.

Directors Jeffrey Lalloway and Todd Spitzer — the former an Irvine councilman and the latter a county supervisor — provided the most intense scrutiny. OCTA staff for the first time provided answers to some questions, including factors that contribute to the nearly $100-million per-mile cost of the proposed system.

“The problem is we're spending a lot of not only [Measure] M2 but federal money. I'm an American taxpayer too,” Lalloway said, referring to the countywide ballot measure that allowed a half-cent sales tax for transit improvements.

Read the full article here:


OCTA Directors Will Scrutinize Streetcar Project

Anaheim's proposed 3.2-mile streetcar system is in for a ton of scrutiny.

After Orange County Transportation Authority directors at the Jan. 28 board meeting raised a number of questions about the project — including the nearly $100-million per mile cost and whether a much cheaper enhanced bus service is a better idea — they decided to have an ad hoc committee in the coming weeks review the details.

There was also talk of having the board's transit committee meeting on Feb. 14 explore issues surrounding the streetcar.


And if those meetings aren't enough, Supervisor and OCTA Director Todd Spitzer has requested a public workshop this month to answer a host of questions after Voice of OC published an email chain that has Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and others at City Hall questioning whether local officials planned to misrepresent information about the project to a federal agency.

The scrutiny also comes after the Anaheim City Council last October approved advancing the project by a 3-2 vote, with Tait and Councilwoman Lorri Galloway voting no. Tait cited concerns about operating cost and whether alternatives had been sufficiently explored.

The project would connect the city's planned pubic transit depot with the Disneyland Resort and other high-profile destinations like the Platinum Triangle.

Critics for some time have questioned whether the project is necessary. Some argued that the taxpayer-funded project's only true purpose is to deliver visitors to Disneyland.

Editorial: Throw streetcars under the bus

As the city of Anaheim moves full speed ahead with plans to build a $318 million streetcar line, the City Council ought to take a hard look at Tampa, Fla., which built a similar system 10 years ago.


Tampa's 2.7-mile streetcar line has consistently operated in the red elected since welcoming its first riders in 2002. That's because passenger fares don't provide even half the light-rail line's annual operating budget.

Anaheim's propsed streetcar system would consist of 10 vehicles that would travel a 3.2-mile route in about 18 minutes. The streetcars would look similar to this European streetcar, according to city officials.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who voted against the streetcar when he was a councilman, would like to shut the money-loser down. But city officials fear if they scrapped the streetcars, the federal government almost certainly would expect to recoup at least part of the $55 million it has sunk into the system.

Anaheim is convinced it will succeed where Tampa has not. It believes that construction of its proposed 3.2-mile streetcar line will come in at or below projected cost; that ridership will meet or exceed projected estimates; and that the city ultimately will not have to rely upon general fund revenue to cover operating expenses.

The city could have hedged its bet by opting for "enhanced" bus service that would traverse the same 3.2 mile route as the proposed streetcar system but would only cost one-fifth as much as the streetcar.

However, a 3-2 council majority opted for the streetcar, reasoning that a fixed guideway system would be more visible to prospective riders, particularly to city visitors unfamiliar with the streetcar. "The visibility of tracks in the street and substantial stations are likely to attract greater ridership," said a report from Department of Public Works staff.

Even so, that would not justify laying out $318 million for a bright and shiny new streetcar system that is far less cost-effective than enhanced bus service, as borne out by an analysis recently authored by Randal O'Toole, a senior fellow with the libertarian Cato Institute.

Read the full story here:


The Great Streetcar

By Cynthia Ward

The Anaheim Resort’s millions of guests drive our local economy, but those visitors also create significant traffic congestion. Over the objections of Mayor Tom Tait, the Anaheim City Council approved a $318,000,000.00 publicly-funded streetcar system to transport Resort visitors and employees. Although Disney uses buses almost exclusively at their Florida property, and the price tag of $53,000,000.00 made buses comparatively more affordable, enhanced bus service was astonishingly dismissed as undesirable-read “not sexy enough.”

Natlie Meeks and Kris Murray

Natlie Meeks and Kris Murray

A recent study by transportation expert Randall O’Toole, debunks the arguments used by City Council, and a staff promoting their own obvious agenda.

Streetcars are more expensive to purchase and operate than buses. Their fixed track and power systems are costly and disruptive to existing traffic, and especially problematic for pedestrians. Buses offer greater flexibility, enabling the addition of vehicles for peak hours-critical to address the unique traffic patterns of Anaheim, with crunch time not driven by conventional issues like rush hour so much as variable influences like closing time at Disneyland, last innings at the Stadium, or events at the Honda Center. Buses are easily removed or replaced for service, while a disabled streetcar renders the system unusable, and leaving traffic clogged around a stalled streetcar.

City Council claims economic development follows streetcar projects, but Council’s cited examples in other cities show heavily subsidized projects designed by central planners trying to socially engineer us out of our vehicles. Perhaps the next step from Council is a proposal for subsidized projects similar to Portland, after all the Platinum Triangle has been an abject failure so far. Even if we wanted to underwrite the development of that area, where are we to find the money? With Redevelopment dead, bed taxes are the only remaining funding source for development subsidies. The last time we tapped into TOT for private development incentives was at the Gardenwalk, with an agreement so controversial that nearly a year later Councilmember Murray is still buying ads and working a massive PR program using campaign money to justify her decision to voters.

Meanwhile, traffic impacts, and funding sources for operating and maintenance costs have still not been determined, despite the Mayor’s requests, and a $6,000,000.00 report that taxpayers covered! While the money we have already spent failed to address traffic impacts and other vital questions, we are expected to trust those numbers in moving forward. Now $9,000,000 for yet another study has been awarded to Hill International, the employer of candidate Steve Lodge, who stands to pull in 1% of that contract as a finder’s fee. This “objective” decision to award the project to Hill was made by Public Works Director Natalie Meeks, who is understood to have close personal friendships with Lodge and his wife, who also works as an Executive at Hill. Council member Murray is also a member of the “powerful woman in government funded projects” club with Meeks and the new Mrs. Lodge. But I am sure it is all above board.

Anaheim’s contentious Council majority would have us believe that in demanding answers Mayor Tait is obstructing progress. But the Mayor’s caution in spending our tax money is a refreshing contrast to the irresponsible and reckless speed with which our leaders and City staff have forced this issue. It seems they cannot spend that “free” tax money fast enough.